Thursday, May 23, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. This article pointed out an important thing, that many kids are un or under vaccinated because health care is costly, especially if you might have moved and had to re-set up all the visits and everything and not thought to grab all the medical records to bring with you.  (I think these days we tend to assume everything is either online or faxable, but different health care systems are not designed to talk to each other well.) 
2. Doug Glanville's piece on the was it/wasn't it/isn't the result the same of being racially taunted with intentionally ambiguous gestures is thoughtful. 
3. If you needed a piece about Broadway's use of animatronic dicks, well, here you are

Monday, May 20, 2019

Abortion is Heath Care

CW: topics include rape and incest
I think my stance that safe and legal abortion should be available to the folks that need it is clear. (If not, hi!)
One of the things that concerns me about recent discussions around the excessive abortion laws recently passed in several states have focused a lot on the timing of when they allow abortion, and the lack of exceptions for rape and incest. I agree that victims of rape and incest deserve utmost sympathy, and we should always look to those who have experienced the most harm when trying to craft good laws. But the choice to terminate a pregnancy isn't just about pregnancies that cannot survive, pregnancies that risk the parent's life, or pregnancies that might risk continuing a previous harm. 
Abortion is a medical procedure, and that choice should be made by the patient with any appropriate advice from various medical and health professionals. 
The sex ed class I teach operates under rules of secrecy. So I can't tell you things students have said. I can tell you one of the exercises on parenthood asks the students to make the choice from six sets of parents to place a hypothetical baby. The idea behind the exercise is to look at lots of different configurations of parents - couples and singles, rich and working class, gay and straight, differing education levels, and differing ages. And then rank them and discuss and defend (politely) their choices. None of the answers are wrong answers. But the idea is to think about what might make the best scenario for parenthood and to imagine alternatives. 
Because the overall idea, as with so much of sex ed, is that there are lots of choices you can make. Figuring out what you want helps you better express it to others. But also things change. And the critical thinking you do about issues now will also prepare you any time you need to reassess. 
We also cover contraceptives in our class. But the other reality is this. Sex is fun. People engage in sex for lots of reasons and pregnancy is only one of the reasons. So the idea that people who are pregnant and don't want to be have - unless assaulted - earned this is based on a misunderstanding of sex. Humans, unlike many other animals, can and do engage in sex when pregnancy is not possible. Because sex is not just about pregnancy. 
Parenthood is a big huge thing that not everyone is ready or even able to undertake. Sure, some will rise to the challenge. And some won't. And the pregnant person is in the best situation to assess their options. 
And if their option is, oh no, I couldn't possibly, then I want them to have the care they need for that. Just as if they say, well, okay new (or continuing) adventure, I want them to have the care and support they need for that too. 

Friday, May 17, 2019

"Let's Go Steal a Podcast" - The Scheherazade Job

I was back on Let's Go Steal a Podcast talking about "The Scheherazade Job" - aka violins and violence.  
And because I forgot to send this link to Christina, for those who want to dive deeper on people faking their death on the internet

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. This post about reproductive choice in YA is two years old but has some great recommendations.  I have heard Brandy Colbert's Finding Yvonne and Elizabeth Acevedo's Fire on High (which I have sitting next to me) are both excellent.  I also have read Rachel Cohn's Gingerbread Girl.  
2. NPR's White Lies podcast is diving into the James Reeb case, and UUWorld has some supplemental documentation for those new to the case. 
3. Malindo Lo published some reflections and some charts and statistics as Ash reaches the ten year mark.  

Monday, May 13, 2019

What's in a Plan

My high school required us freshman year to map out what classes we were planning to take for all four years and review it with a faculty member. The plan was not set in stone, in fact mine changed all four years that I was there, but the idea was to have us look at the big picture so we didn't dig ourselves into a requirements hole we couldn't get out of. My senior year I ended up adding an independent study that I can no longer recall when I decided on, I took a physics class that I'm guessing had not been my original pick for my last science credit, and I took pre-calculus, which had originally been on the plan for junior year, even though I had already satisfied my math requirement. 
The excercise was worthwhile. And it reminded me that plans are, as they say, dreams written down, but the guide posts are still useful even if they change or get left behind when you move to a new path. 

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. This piece on looking ethnically ambiguous and having the presence of your less ambiguous looking parent act as a credential of sorts spoke to me. 
2. This conversation between Celeste Ng and Amy Tan about Asian American literature being American literature, and why sometimes bad husbands make for the best stories is great.  
3. This Reductress piece (and for those unaware, Reductress is a humor site) on how to get ignored as a woman by running for president was thought provoking. 

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

"Jubilee" at Arena Stage

Content warnings: recountings of slavery, onstage racial microagressions, and a racist mob attack. 
While the program says nineteenth century and the present, the show focuses primarily on the original members of the Fisk Jubilee singers. In an attempt to raise money for the aging building they had been given to form Fisk, and possibly some ego in the part of their choir master, they ended up travelling the country and parts of Europe as well, performing. 
Technically, "Jubilee" is a jukebox musical, the over 35 (per the program insert) songs performed are all songs that anyone familiar with hymns and spirituals has heard before and possibly even sung in church or school. The glimpses intro the lives of the singers are small. The singers are all fabulous. Most of the songs are performed a cappella with simple choreography that allows you to revel in the harmonies being created. A few of the cast members listed operatic training, which becomes clear when they reach a song where they are featured, yet when necessary, they blended their voices into the whole. 
It was a delight that left me humming. 
It was wonderful to see two cast members from DC, as well as Greg Watkins (who was in "Aida") and Jaysen Wright (who was in "Smart People").

Monday, May 06, 2019

Rain and Sheep and Wool

It rained on Sunday. It rained so much that the front half of the top of my pants was soaked before we even left DC. Boots and raincoat did their jobs, but walking requires moving. 
It did mean there were less people there. It did mean, that, plus the retirement of of of my favorite dyers meant I had less booths on my must visit list. It did mean the main barn was popping, since covers plus more vendors. 
But we came, we ran into most of the people I knew were there. Some I didn't. And then came back home and got dry clothes and snacks. It's interesting how the combination of social media, the DC area now having more yarn stores owned by a wider range of people, and the Internet has made such festivals both fun but also less necessary. Can you touch more yarn in one place there still? Oh of course. Can you eat fair food and see actual sheep and other animals? Yep. Will you normally see more people in their hand knits than other places? Yep. (Rain gear often covers hand knits. So some impact there.)
So it may have been a speedier trip, but still fun. 

Friday, May 03, 2019

7 Things About "Longshot"

My book club got invited to see "Longshot" back in  March. I have enjoyed some Seth Rogan things, and was willing to try. Because Charlize Theron's character is Secretary of State for much of it, parts of it take place in DC. Before I get to my seven things, I will say overall I enjoyed it. The trailer makes it of course look both more actiony and more haha funny than I found it in execution. 
1. Rogan's character is a New Yorker for reasons that are not explained. He works for what looks like a small alt-weekly and has a friend who appears to be in finance (this is a half hearted guess. Friend could be in widgets for all the movie cares.) He grew up next door to Theron's character one assumes in New York but none of them have any other connections to anyone that isn't a co-worker.
2. Who cares where he lives? Well, because he lives in New York he keeps getting in cars that end up in DC. I know you can do this. I have done this. I know movies skip over travel time. It still just seemed like he hopped in a car and it was still like fifteen minutes later he was at this building or in her apartment or whatever. 
3. At one point there is a joke made while Theron's character is on a date in DC about going to Minibar, that took an extra line for some of us from DC to catch on to since there is a fancy place here actually called Minibar. (Dude in question meant let's go to my hotel which has a minibar, which is a pretty dated joke TBH.)
4. Because she is Secretary of State they go many places. I felt those other scene changes were better marked. YMMV. They avoid any haha's at the expense of locals, there is one time where Rogan's character is dressed in local historical stuff, but it is a joke on him and not the culture, I felt. 
5. If your primary concern is this is schlubby dude bags extra hot lady because he's funny, I think the movie uses their pre-existing relationship (even if they haven't talked since they were kids) to explain why she would select him for this job and then of course running for President is clearly a situation where there isn't a lot of dating. But yes, that is the arc they are going for here. I find Rogan's interview chit chat about realizing that he will be standing next to wonderfully styled Theron at these opening events and not to show up in sweats funny, because that "growth" is a character note in the movie. 
6. And now I will try to be vague, but am going to get at two plot points for these last two points. At one point Theron's characters' Chief of Staff shows poll results from secret polls about theoretical relationships. Every example they used was odd. If Kate Middleton or Princess Diana dated so-and-so it would not be the same because Kate Middleton is married and Princess Diana is dead. Yes, I got the point they were making. It would not have been that hard to come up with single alive people. And if they were trying to keep it time non-specific, Diana has been dead for years, this is already super outdated. 
7. I will try to be vague again. But well, there is a point where Theron's character is threatened and Rogan's character is like, it's fine, let them say it. And it takes a beat, but he does eventually understand that things aren't going to only be about him. They will fall harder on her, because she's female, and the risk to her is so much greater. 

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. It turns out allergies are due in part to botanical sexism.  And climate change. Dislike.  And achoo. 
2. There is a ton of news about Caster Semenya and others affected by the recent and in case my thoughts aren't clear wrong decision.  It is not lost on me that gender testing appears to be performed only on athletes of color.  And while I agree that being an Olympic level athlete does mean consenting to an incredible loss of medical privacy, the decision to regulate the amount of testosterone that females are allowed to have, is based on crap science.  It just is.  This piece from one of her competitors is thoughtful and looks at how she has come to adjust her thinking as she learned more about intersex (sometimes called DSD for disorders of sex development, a term I personally am not a fan of.) 
3. And I finally caught up to this interview with Blair Braverman about her Iditarod experience

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

"The Who's Tommy" at the Kennedy Center

I saw the final performance of "The Who's Tommy" as part of the Kennedy Center's Broadway Center Stage program, minimally staged short run productions. 
Content warnings for the show include onstage gunshots, murder, references to child sexual situations, bullying, and a sex worker named G*psy.*
I had seen the movie at some point in my childhood so went in with a vague recollection that that Tommy didn't speak but played pinball. 
The Broadway version dates from the 1990's, but the concept album, and the movie predate that. It is of a piece with something like "Jesus Christ Superstar" in that the songs move forward, expecting the audience to fill in gaps. 
The Broadway Show begins just before World War II when Tommy's parents meet and fall in love. Informed her husband had died in the war, Tommy's mom starts a new relationship. When Tommy's dad discovers this on his arrival home he fights with and then kills Tommy's almost stepdad. Deciding to tell the police it was the almost stepdad with the gun, the parents realize Tommy witnessed everything and tell him to say nothing, that he heard and saw nothing. As a result Tommy stops speaking or responding. Tests are able to determine no cause, and Tommy's essentially non-responsive state leaves him open to much abuse. And then they discover he does respond to pinball. 
The cast of this show was wonderful. This show asks an incredible amount of its ensemble and they were up to it. The choreography was fabulous and energetic. Tommy is played by three actors, and in the first act the younger two's inner dreams and monologue are expressed by the adult Tommy, and then they appear as echoes once adult Tommy is in place. 
The show moves quickly and as such the ideas of justice, or why Tommy chooses and then rejects a public life get short shrift. But Tommy does seem happier at the end and the music is rocking. 
It is always interesting to revisit things one saw as a child, although certainly this is a different form in many ways. As an adult I found this much harder to watch, and yet it's still a good time. 
I always read all the cast bios, and so it was fun to see two locals in the cast, including one who had been in Signature's "Billy Elliot".

*It is my understanding that this character was originally called the Acid Queen. Wow, that change is an interesting choice. 

Monday, April 29, 2019

Writing in Venice

I started writing this post in the Venice airport, after a flight delay left me with a bit more time than planned in the airport. It remains to be seen if I will regret not having taken the earlier flight to Germany originally offered since I am now thinking good thoughts for a swift passport control line. 
But there was something delicious about one last breakfast in the hotel, getting to chat with writing friends old and new, drinking one more hot chocolate (ciocolatta calda) before taking the somewhat leisurely boat to the airport. (And oops, I got in the wrong boarding line and they had to page me. I swear I would have noticed eventually.)
I did the Venice Writer's Retreat with Rachael Herron two years ago and returning was lovely. I explored the city less this year but in a delightful, look I get to go back to this place and that place kind of way. Although I did find a new to me gelato place that was wonderful. I am still figuring out Euros, and there were times I either confused the coins or misunderstood how best to make it easier for them to give me change. 
I wrote pages of words, both from writing prompts and on a fiction piece. I got to recconnect with old friends, make new ones, eat possibly more cheese than was healthy. 
(Also it turns out when you are the last one on the plane and someone has taken your seat they are like, shrug, how about that row.)
I opted in for almost all the group excursions, so did a walking tour where I learned about a cursed house, a boat tour of some of the other islands, rowing with wine and snacks (I was declared an okay rowing student, my boatmates did much better), and screen printing. At the end I was happy sad to leave. There had been so many people, so many food delights, so many writing delights, I was so ready to get back to my computer and to work, and also so sad that the next breakfast would not involve writer friends and hot chocolate. That I would no longer hear Italian seagulls cawing. Of course this means it it likely the exact right amount of time. When you are still happy sad and not yet really over everyone. But like the ciocolatta calda, it is a little bittersweet.
(And I made it through the Munich airport in enough time to get my connecting flight, even with passport control and specialized screening. And back in the US when the passport guy asked if I met up with friends while travelling, my smile was very big.)

Friday, April 26, 2019

7 Posts: Bonus Bonus Bonus Post - The Top Twenty Songs

It's been popular to rank the songs season by season, but I decided to wait for the whole thing and try to come up with a list.  I ranked this on a combination of could I still remember the song, did the song offer some sort of useful commentary and surprise, as well as being fun to couch dance too.  Okay, some of these are not couch dancers.  Some of them are super weird and that's what makes them great. 
-A Boy Band Made Up of Four Joshes - This song is just pure joy in it's 
-A Diagnosis - It's a great song, and a song that survives outside the context of the show, and yet is more meaningful if you've been on this journey with Rebecca. 
- Don't Be A Lawyer - This one falls into the mostly fun side.  It's also the culmination of a journey for Rebecca as we've been watching her struggle to like this job she clearly hates.  
- Dream Ghost - Dream Ghost hits on multiple levels.  It's a fun tune, it pokes fun at a common method of change for fictional characters, and the dream ghost also has great advice.  
-Face Your Fears - This song remains the moment I went from cautiously interested in the show to fully on board.  Much like the "Sexy Getting Ready Song" it makes use of challenging the text within the song to make sure you understand that the metaphor is terrible, but also involves a back up children's choir because why wouldn't it.  
-First Penis I Saw - It's a catchy tune about a moment we all come to recognize has special significance and yet also maybe shouldn't. 
-Friendtopia - It's hard for me to choose between "Friendtopia" and "Let's Generalize About Men" but to me both fall into girl group bonding stuff, and yet, this one is just a little more of a bop.  
-Gettin' Bi - This was a delightful song, and also did a thing that is sadly unexpected it network TV right now.  Darryl realized he was attracted to someone of the same gender and didn't decide he was gay, he decided he was bisexual.  Obviously, all paths are valid, but it was so nice to see a show represent bisexuality as even an option.  Plus it is fun to couch dance too. 
-The Group Mind Has Decided You're in Love - Again I think this works on many levels, although I have some friends who disagree with me.  I think the send up of shipping along with the typical declaration of group peer pressure towards a specific coupling in musicals, the we won't be falling in love (followed of course by the couple always falling in love).
-How to Clean Up - Cracked me up in it's brief simplicity. 
-I Hate Everything But You - It is a delightful song.  Yes, I love snarky dude, as established, but this song is great.  
-I've Always Never Believed in You - I do love a Paula song, but also, I love a song about how you might not really have known if your kid was going to be great, but are glad they kind of did. 
-JAP Battle and the JAP Battle Reprise - Both delightful.  The songs both thread a very careful line of acknowledging and yet not playing into stereotypes.  Besides we all need a good frenemy song. 
-One Indescribable Instant - I swear it's not the Lea Salonga of it all.  Okay, it's totally the Lea Salonga of it, but still, this song again captures these songs that outlast the movies they are from such that you can still hum the song even when your memory of the characters is muddled.  
- Remember That We Suffered - I know there's a lot of love for "Where's the Bathroom?" but for me "Remember That We Suffered"  manged to be both funny and poignant in equal measure. 
-Settle for Me - This song was an early entry, demonstrating character notes, as well as a willingness to use multiple styles.  
-Sex With a Stranger - This song demonstrated some wonderful sex positivity as well as nice balance of concern and excitement, in other ways it felt very real. 
-The Buzzing From the Bathroom - This is one of those things where if I told you there was a "Les Miserables" style song about realizing your spouse has not been getting orgasms from sex with you, but this worked and managed to be funny and tragic.  Well, tragic for Tim.  And his wife.  
-The Moment is Me - Heather hated all of this, but the song rolled on regardless of her feeling about songs about realizing she had everything she needed to move on. 
-The Sexy Getting Ready Song - It's just amazing.  It showed the layered, knowing, and quirky vibe the show was going for.  And captured a very real thing. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

7 Posts: Bonus Plus Post - I Had a Theory

The show creators have always been pretty transparent that "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" was a show about someone raised on the rom-coms who tried to take them literally.  Which is to say it's a look at what it would mean if you watched some of the crazy stalkery manipulation that gets passed off as adorable when in pursuit of love.  I listened to a podcast once where two dudes said, unironically, the only difference between a rom-com and a stalker movie is that it's positively received behavior.  And here's the thing, they are not wrong.  But it sounded to me that they were sort of saying if she likes it, then you're cool.  And if she doesn't and you don't back down, then you're wrong.  Not, hey, we shouldn't engage in this behavior ever.  
Over four seasons, Rebecca has upended her life, engaged in terrible behavior, been the victim of terrible behavior, dated three different men for long enough for them to be considered contenders, made new friends, changed her career, gotten into therapy, and worked on her mental health.  In many ways the trajectory of the show had already been a lot and enough.  
I confess, I am often the person who tries not to pick sides, pick ships, especially in a show that had a whole song about shipping people who don't want to be shipped.  It's not because I can't decide, it's that I have often seen shows do things I would not have predicted and they made me believe.  So I kept an open mind as they brought in Greg 2.0, revisited Josh, and Nathan.  I watched people do polls about which she should choose.  But as I mentioned in the post about the rom-com episode, by the end of that episode they almost had me convinced that Nathan should be with Maya, so I try to enjoy the ride.  
But I also wondered.  Early on, Dr. Akopian had said true love doesn't have to be a person.  And I wondered if that was the message.  Not that Rachel doesn't deserve love, but that that love doesn't have to reside in a person.  People often say to me, oh but you read and write romance, you want the happy ending. I do. But I am also well aware that ending a story with characters smooching doesn't always feel like the happiest choice.  
So, yeah, my theory was what if the back and forth between Josh, Greg, and Nathan wasn't the typical final season stuff about drawing out the decision.  What if the point was that this wasn't really the thing that was going to make her happy.  This was the distraction.  
And after going "The Bachelor" style with dates, and choices, Rebecca realized that her true love was the songs.  The thing that had always been there for her.  And that's who she ended up with.  

Monday, April 22, 2019

7 Posts: Bonus Post - The Community Around You

By titling the show "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" it focused on how Rebecca upended her life in pursuit of Josh.  But, of course, the Josh pursuit, was a metaphor. (Sorry, Josh.  You deserve love too!)  Because what Rebecca, and anyone who watched the panic attack caused by success in her prior life, knew, was that her life back in New York had sucked.  And yes, moving across the country to reconnect with your camp boyfriend is not a great choice.  And it won't always work out.  But it is very true, much like that are you emotionally stable enough to get bangs quiz, there are moments when you know something isn't working and you reach out to change something to make it better.  
Regardless of how Rebecca's relationship with Josh did or didn't work out, her life got better in West Covina less because of Josh, but because Rebecca found community (and also, therapy, a diagnosis, and some medication).  Early on it looked like they were quickly wrapping up the folks around Rebecca, much the way that shows often do to get some resolutions out of the way to clear space for the finale.  But they weren't done.  Heather and Hector got married and moved into their own place and figured out how to negotiate life as adults.  Kind of.  Valencia and Beth move to New York, but struggled with being ready for commitment on the same timeline.  (Valencia's joy at realizing she could propose was a thing to behold.) Nathaniel decided to be nice, a thing he told many people, because that's exactly how that works.  Paula passed the bar and sent her kid off to the non-Peace Corps thing.  Greg figured out that West Covina and his dad's restaurant were actually kind of great, and a lot of his negativity had to do with his dad having been a drunk who mishandled the business.  Darryl and white Josh figured out that they were leaning on each other for emotional support too much, and white Josh got back in the dating game and Darryl found April in the hospital waiting room.  
There were further developments in finale episode, but in many ways, despite the decision that Rebecca revealed, the thing she really found by going after the wrong thing in the wrong ways, was a really great community.  (Well, white Josh still isn't sold on her, but really who could blame him.)  

Friday, April 19, 2019

7 Posts: Everything is Under Control

The show makes this point so beautifully, that it almost seems repetitive to discuss it, but I still loved the parallels created in the episode in which both Rebecca and Paula tried to power and/or positive outlook their way through their differing health needs.  In many ways this season, and even the series has looked at the circumstances that allowed Rebecca to get to this part of her life, with plenty of success and sure some failures behind her and not have fully recognized her brain and her were at odds. Paula got married young ended up adjacent to the life she truly wanted and is so, so close to getting it.  In the way of many of us of a certain age, it won't be everything she dreamed, but it's a dream about to be realized, and having had to give up so many dreams she is not willing to listen to people who tell her she looks bad, and she might need to take a rest, and she could take the bar next time.  Paula has seen success come to her when she powers through, so she keeps powering through the sweat, through the fatigue, through the pain, until finally she admits she might need a teeny tiny bit of help and goes to her gynecologist assuming she's experiencing menopause, to discover she is actually having a heart attack.  
Similarly, Rebecca has been doing all the work - going to therapy, having changed her job, and now having done a new thing, entered into a relationship with someone who already knows all the worst things she has done.  So, yes, romance has been a crutch for her before, but not this time, because she has done the work.  And she doesn't need medication because she has done the work.  And yes, also, because she let her mom drug her and it ended badly, so medication is wrapped up in some really bad baggage for her.  And so she gets Greg to go to a water park.  And while Greg looks like a totally different person, he is still Greg.  Water parks and Greg are not going to be a happy joint outing.  And so it doesn't go the way Rebecca had envisioned and so she reverts to alcohol and bad behavior and in a way that was super real to life but less so to TV, the folks she tries to throw her self into realize this is Rebecca in pain not Rebecca in love with them again and they send her on her way.  
Both Rebecca and Paula are forced to realize that sometimes pushing your body and your brain and trying to power through your illness doesn't work.  Sometimes you have to stop, or let the drugs get your brain chemistry closer to where it needs to be, and that's not cheating or slacking, it's just what you need at the moment.  
And I think it's a lesson we all need sometimes.  

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1.  With Chelsea Manning tangentially related to some of last week's news, there were some folks confused about how to refer to her.  Media Matters has a comprehensive guide with examples.  
2. Silvana has some great hockey romance recommendations if playoff season has you jonesing for more hockey
3. I grew up in DC and have always thought water was boring at best.  I went to a retreat with church where the water was so coppery it tasted like someone had stuck pennies in the glass.  Living in a tall building I now get to see the cloudy water phenomenon up close. And the use of chloramine makes me itchy every year. But this "Shark Tank" contestant explained how different city water treatment systems, including DC's require different filtration, aka that's why the one siz fits all filter doesn't change things dramatically. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

7 Posts: That Rom-Com Episode

It's not uncommon for shows to to an episode where they dive into a side character.  Within the world of "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" we've known who Nathan is since he showed up, and we know who Maya is too.  But this Nathan realizes that Rebecca loves romantic comedies and that perhaps by watching some he could learn something works on a number of levels.  First, learning about something the woman you profess to love has loved and tried to share with you all along well after the fact is in itself rom-commy.  As is dreaming about the thing.  Obviously totally happy and functional couples have interests the other doesn't (see also, water parks, but I digress).  But Nathan wasn't checking out rom-coms to see if by dismissing an entire genre of film, he had missed out on something he might enjoy.  Nathan was looking for research he could use to hijack his way back into Rebecca's life, much the way he had thought about using the diary that her half brother had used.  He was, in fact, using season 1 (and yeah, okay, the other seasons too) Rebecca behavior.  In prior seasons, Trent had been the mirror for how over the top Rebecca's behavior was.  But Nathan also had a lot to learn about being appropriate.  
So, dream Nathan and dream Maya fake dated in order to make both their exes jealous and in a testament to the wonderful writing and acting in the show, by the time they got to the building karaoke scene, even though I knew this was a rom-com set up, and I still knew there were lots of reasons Maya and Nathan were not the appropriate choices for each other, I was kinda ready to buy into it.  
It was a dream, so we don't have to worry about if Nathan is still technically Maya's boss, or the other various power differentials that make this a bad choice.  Instead, we got a dream rom-com.  But that episode also served as a reminder to both the viewers and to Nathan, that it's easy to get swept up in the moment, it's easy to feel like all the forces of the universe must be behind you. It's easy to justify a long line of terrible choices in service of one good ending.  Nothing is ever perfect, but that doesn't mean that bad behavior should be rewarded, even when people sing delightfully about it.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

7 Posts: The Sex Ed Chat

"Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" from "The Sexy Getting Ready Song" to "Sex With a Stranger" has always been sex positive and sex informative at the same time.  (See, it is possible!)  So, I particularly enjoyed the balance, or "Cats" episode.  To distract herself from what would later be referred to as the love quadrangle of Josh, Greg, and Nathaniel, Rebecca decided to up her exercise and get back on the dating apps.  Valencia warns her about cheap leggings, but Rebecca continues on, only to end up with a yeast infection.  She reschedules her date, but then attempts to overtreat it, and ends up with bacterial vaginosis. 
In an odd parallel Greg and Nathaniel meet at the gym and become buddies, putting white Josh in the uncomfortable position of knowing a thing that would affect their bonding, but not wanting to have his day job infected (pun intended) with Rebecca stuff.  
So Rebecca tries to not tell her date why they can't meet, and white Josh tries to not see what's happening with Greg and Nathaniel, and in the end neither of these strategies work.  Rebecca ends up confessing the infection to Jason, who turns out to be the kid of a gynecologist who would have preferred honesty anyway.  Greg and Nathaniel both decide to declare themselves to Rebecca, and meeting outside her apartment realize they have her in common.  They also run into mostly naked Josh who has also decided to declare himself and the noise outside means Jason discovers the love quadrangle and opts out.  
The show has done a lot of great things to normalize some really common and hopefully uncommon things.  (I wouldn't wish a love quadrangle or a Trent on an enemy.)  But the idea that hiding the truth instead of owning it, while not uncommon in TV shows as a message, is applied here to things like yeast infections in a really lovely way.  

Monday, April 15, 2019

WRW Retreat 2019

The WRW Retreat, aka In the Company of Writers, was this past weekend. Alexis Daria gave the Friday Keynote, talking about writing and also working for and with a writing organization, and moving it to serve everyone. And how slowing down, instead of being reactive can help us focus better on the big goals. 
We had two tracks so I missed some great stuff. (Best of problems to have, right?) I did a critique exchange with folks. Alexis Daria talked building a brand. I went to Cheryl Etchison's workshop on connected series. We had an awards luncheon. Cheryl Etchison also talked pacing. I tried to keep time with the agent/editor pitch sessions (people were very chatty). American Author was fun. Alisha Rai talked about how watching her mother face racism as a doctor helped make her more determined to speak up and speak out. We had our first ever costume contest which was super fun. There was dancing. 
And Angelina Lopez talked highs and lows, and how having been a long term member of WRW meant she knew the bumps in the writing career were par for the course, which didn't make it easier but helped her know to keep looking ahead. 
And we ended with the raffle which was fun. Whether calendars or wine, it's always fun to see what ends up beeping the hot item. 
I raced away from the retreat to head to my book club since we had a special guest, Mia Sosa, who I had also seen Thursday at East City Books with Tracey Livesay and Sally Thorne which was also an amazing (and well attended) event. It is a great problem to have when all the cool things stack up. 

Saturday, April 13, 2019

7 Posts: That Casting Change

"Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" did a thing that used to be more common. They brought back a character with a different actor.  Obviously, as adults we know that people have to take jobs and opportunities on the table, and if your show would like you back in a future season, but you book, say a Broadway show, well, we all get it.  But of course, just as a show makes side notes about the new guy this season, season meaning the quarterly one because of course anything else would be a weird way to talk about you life, they weren't going to do it and not talk about it.  
It was time for a high school reunion.  And of course that meant Josh had assigned extra importance to his role as prom king.  And it meant Rebecca pondered - as her friends all made big life changes, if maybe she had overanalyzed and missed out on a true love.  Heather and Valencia both said of course it was Greg, which seemed, maybe not entirely in keeping with Heather and Valencia.  Rebecca said well, except for how they were toxic and brought out the worst in each other, so basically only if he was like an entirely different person.  And then an entirely different person walked through the door.  
It is a credit to many things, casting, writing, and the acting skills of Skylar Astin that by the end of the season (and by this I mean TV season) I had to keep reminding myself that Santino Fontana originated this role.  It isn't that I will ever forget "Settle For Me" or let's get drunk and make fun of people, because I will not. But the show made me believe that sober, getting his life back together Greg looked like Skylar Astin.  

Friday, April 12, 2019

7 Posts: Singing to the Darkness

Early on in "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend", the show made it clear that the songs are in Rebecca's head, that she's not even that good at singing in real life.  Nevertheless the songs are a delight.  Even when things are hard, or sad, or everything in between.  The "Sexy Getting Ready Song" was weird and strange, and I've told people over time that it took until "Face Your Fears" to see the vibe that the show was going for, but it was all there from the beginning.  The songs are a sign that Rebecca doesn't see the world clearly, not because they are songs per se, but because the songs contain an awareness, both of realities Rebecca isn't ready to see, but also clues to the larger pop culture landscape.  
"Crazy -Ex-Girlfriend" isn't blaming pop culture per se, but it is taking a look at the behavior that gets held up as romantic, at how these things look different when done by people of different genders or different sexualities.  Whether it's the idea that a woman who truly wants love would of course mold and wax and pluck herself into a better, skinnier, hotter version of herself, that shipping people who have told you they can't make a relationship work, or that folks who are sarcastic and mean might actually need deep therapeutic work and possibly addiction counseling before they are ready for a relationship, and all sorts of things in between, "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" has addressed both the deep dark scary stuff and the oh my gosh excitement of bonding with friends through song.  
Certainly many of Rebecca's various coping mechanisms have been shown to be unhealthy, but the singing, real or imagined has helped this show seem wonderful and often bright as it addressed a range of things, many of them dark.  
It's possible you could argue the songs are another mask, but I think the songs provide a useful balance.  Musicals often go places that would be fairly unbearable in pure play form, whether it's failed revolutions or mental health struggles, or more successful revolutions.  I always talk about telling someone I was seeing "Fun Home" and "Hamilton" the same week and they thought "Fun Home" sounded dark, and I was like, but you know lots of people, like lots more people die in "Hamilton" right?  "Fun Home" had songs too, which is honestly part of why I added it to the list.  (In fact it has a very sparkly song, and love song, and a longing song.)  
So, the songs in "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" helped keep the darkness away, even when the songs were about the darkness. 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. I waited until after I had watched the first "Fosse/Verdon" episode to read this, and while I enjoyed the show, it's tilt towards misunderstood genius and the woman who brings out the best in him, is at least so far, hard to ignore.  The review of the episodes made available to critics talks about how the source material might have made some of this unavoidable. 
2. This interview with LaQuette took another look at racism and being and writing Black characters in romance. 
3. YA author Megan Shepherd's dog woke her up, which is how she realized her son was having a seizure.  

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

"Junk" at Arena Stage

I'm going to dive right into the content warnings first, and then get to discussion of the play. "Junk" has an onstage suicide (no gore).  It contains a Chinese American character, a Cuban American character, and a few Jewish characters. Each of them is subjected to microaggressions. As far as I recall, only the white non-Jewish male and Black characters escape. There is also a lot of what we might call period appropriate misogyny. And if journalists who sleep with one of their sources is a thing for you, this has that too. At one point the music resembles a high pitched hum. 
All listed up like that it makes the play seem a little harsher than it is. However it is a play about capitalism, specifically capitalism and Wall Street type stuff throughout the 1980's, the after effects we are still dealing with today. If you like plays where there is someone to root for, this play doesn't really give you that. If you like watching people fall deeper into traps, greed traps of their own making, then this is ninety minutes of fun. 
The focus is on a money maker who revolutionized the use of junk bonds to finance takeovers, the other money maker who scoffed at the newfangled way and the company caught in the middle of their fight. 
This is staged in the round. Some of the directorial transitions were wonderful, one causing a full audience chuckle. I did feel, from my vantage point at least, the action angled diagonally just enough that I noticed, but this was a small quibble. 
The cast was wonderful.  The lack of intermission worked well to keep you immersed in the action.  It creates an interesting parallel to "Sweat" which I also saw at Arena, which looked at the death of a steel factory from the point of view of various factory workers, since the company that is the center of this is also in part a Pennsylvania steel company.  It is the kind of play that leaves you thinking about how embedded money is, even as you pass by all the corporate sponsorship logos.  

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

7 Posts: The Mom Resolution

Since it was the final season of "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" they had a lot of things to resolve.  One of them was Rebecca's relationship with her mom, a relationship that had often times fed into and exacerbated some of Rebecca's behavior.  The last time Rebecca had seen her mom had ended with Rebecca in the hospital, so, this was a test in many ways of how well Rebecca's therapy and work on herself had been successful.  Mental illness or no, I think we can all sympathize with the idea that this time we are so sure we are grown enough to handle being with our parents, around other adults who still think of us as kids, and who still want to view our lives through a specific marker of success or no. 
So Rebecca has a job she loves, but doesn't sound cool, she's unmarried, she's childless, and yet, for most people having a job and friends and being able to pay rent would be plenty.  But of course, Rebecca's mom is getting an award but it's about who will give it to her, and she has made a huge promise she kind of hasn't been able to live up to and had been hoping that will just come true.  Fortunately for all of them, Valencia is now on the East Coast and makes it happen for them.  So in the end Rebecca's mom gets the night of pretending she had always dreamed of, and Rebecca gets to see her mom happy and sometimes that's the best you can get from family.  

Monday, April 08, 2019

7 Posts: Car Trips

The fourth and final season of "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" wrapped last week, so it's time again for 7 Posts.  For those not quite caught up, I'll alert you when I get into finale spoilers.  
I found the car trip episode, well, honestly a little like a car trip with someone you generally haven't been alone in a confined space with for a long stretch in a while.  It was partially an excuse to create usual character pairings.  Paula and Josh have known each other a while.  For a while Paula was so team Josh it was, well it was definitely not healthy.  And in the way of friends, Rebecca and Josh have figured things out and come to a good place, and Paula, the dedicated friend who had fought for him, had felt just as invested in him, but of course got none of the apology directly, was still meh on Josh. 
Rebecca of course hangs out with Darryl all the time.  Her concern here is that Darryl is the best friend to have when you want to dive deep into your feelings and therefore, as she warned him, not the best friend when you want to have a day where you pretend everything is okay.  And of course it was fair for Rebecca to state boundaries, but also endemic of these weird parameters we try to establish to maintain social norms.  Saying let's go on a trip but please don't be yourself is not super fair.  Rebecca is entirely within her rights to establish topics about herself that are off limits.  But they were both asking too much of each other in the end and probably would have both been better off not trying to piece together a trip that was never going to live up to their imagined version of it.  
Nathan and Heather obviously know each other and have mutual friends, but of course, Heather is a straight shooter to say the least, and Nathan is a pretty shallow well most days, so his interest in knowing who Heather was was pretty minimal.  I felt the Nathan turns out to have a deep connection to the nanny the weakest part of this.  It's a challenge because most of the time in this show goes to Rebecca, so Nathan's daddy issues had been clear and he certainly didn't have a good relationship with his mom, and it makes sense given what we know about his family that there would be a nanny. I just found the jerk has a squishy underside not as powerful as I felt like it was supposed to be.  However, it's very possible that this was the point.  Tons of shows have a character who seems mean, or shallow, or whatever suddenly reveal secret pain. ("Grey's Anatomy" even riffed on that, having Alex ask in an early season if he should reveal his secret pain to make everything okay.) 
Nathan then spent several episodes telling people he was nice now.  And the other characters reacted to that with a healthy amount of skepticism. Knowing he had secret depths of emotion for this one person in his life helped, but it didn't address or undo all the other behavior he had engaged in.  And it shouldn't.  
So much like a real car trip, there was good, there was bad, and we learned some things. 

Friday, April 05, 2019

This Wasn't About My Chapter, But It Could Have Been

This Guardian article about racism in the romance industry focused on a different chapter. I meant it when I said I was pushing for change in my local chapter, and we do have some signs of progress. But of course the tests won't stop. As this article notes, the chapter in question had a prior president that was Black. So does mine. So does RWA. So has this country. Each of those was surely a sign of progress but not a sign that the work was done. 
It's easy to talk about how the whole world is racist so the problem is so huge that we can't just fix this chapter or this organization. And I agree, but that's really true about everything in an organization. Members cycle in and out, their needs will change, the industry changes. But we can keep pushing for the change we want. And yes my personal goal is to make it a really uncomfortable place for racists and bigots to be. And that only happens through constant work. I have days where it is discouraging to explain to yet one more person that no, people of all shades and across the gender and sexuality spectrum write romance. They have and still do. Good stuff. 
And look YA isn't off the hook here. Knitting isn't off the hook. Corporate America isn't off the hook. Pushing in as many places as we can will help us all. 

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. This Ijeoma Oluo piece about how hard it is to center those most harmed by white supremacy in discussions of white supremacy is an important point about why some of our forward progress seems to stall. 
2. Fenty pulled a highlighter with an insensitive name.  I mention this because yes, it made it through layers at the company to get announced as an upcoming product - but the company responded switfly, listening to the criticism, apologizing for their error, and getting all their promo updated to not include it, which is the kind of immediate response I find admirable.  (Warning, at some point that link started autoplaying an ad.) 
3. And booksellers are going to have an Annual Romance Bookstore Day!  I confess, it has been a journey.  In the DC area, Borders was the first actual bookstore I could regularly and reliably buy romance.  Then Barnes and Noble.  And now Borders is gone, Barnes and Noble has just a few locations, the romance in Target is dwindling, but we have six romance friendly independent bookstores.  None of them have huge selections, but the romance audience is a tough target because they tend to read at a higher rate which changes how you buy for them.  But I am excited for this current evolution. 

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Books - A First Quarter Round Up

So, I decided to try doing quarterly round ups of favorite books, the idea being that then when I do my annual round up, I will be able to select from those.  I'm sure this will make doing an annual roundup up of ten (or fifteenish) much easier and not turn my annual round up into a list of forty.  We shall see.  
Angie Thomas' On the Come Up - I started out reading this and then switched to audio (thanks, library!) and found I really liked listening to it.  All respect to the reader, I'm not sure she has a career ahead in rap, but it helped to animate those sections.  The story is about Bri, who feels like the least helpful member of her struggling family, and is focused on making it big as a rapper so she can change that.  Angie Thomas writes some of the best, layered sibling relationships.  It was also a really modern look at the choices we make about living up to or defying stereotypes.  
Rachel Spangler's Edge of Glory - This is the story of two winter Olympians, a skiier and a snowboarder.  It is a slow burn, but also just a really great look at two athletes who do not have time to be distracted, unless of course, they just are.  
Balli Kaur Jaswal's Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows - This is an enjoyable book, a story about a woman trying to find her real career, and stumbling into this class full of widows who turn out to really want to write sexy stories.  As a romance reader, I would say, the sexy stories are often shown in snippets or they cut away for laughs.  The overall story about the challenge of finding your space as an immigrant, or first gen, even years later, and how freeing having the chance to speak freely can be, was great.  
Anand Giridharadas' Winners Take All - I do read non-fiction. I also did this one in audio.  It is a sobering look at how our current capitalistic construction is basically set up to perpetuate the status quo.  
Talia Hibbert's Mating the Huntress - This was a fun werewolf hunter meets werewolf novella that is especially enjoyable if you wondered about some of the issues of fated mates stuff.  
Sara Rees Brennan's In Other Lands - Speaking of riffing off other fantasy tropes, this book made me exceedingly happy as it poked fun at literally every thing I have ever whined about in fantasy.  The main character is super snarky and barges into everything, so you have to be willing to go with that, but I snickered and texted someone halfway through that they had to read it.  
Kris Ripper's Gays of Our Lives - This is the first in a series about a small California town that has an active and social LGBTQ community.  This story features the classic grumpy hero and the ball of sunshine hero, and I just adored it to pieces.  And immediately bought the next one.  
Alyssa Cole's Once Ghosted Twice Shy - This novella has math banter.  And normally I try not to keep recommending books in the same series, but, oh, hello, I literally finished A Princess in Theory and did a Twitter search because I was sure someone had already asked about Likotsi, and they had and I was so, so ready. 
Becky Albertalli's Leah on the Offbeat - This might be my favorite of the series, which probably says something about me.  Perhaps that snarky gloom and doom heroines are my catnip.  Or something.  But I enjoyed Leah and was glad to spend a book with her.  
Mia Garcia's The Resolutions - I read this in one day, specifically New Year's Day.  This book is a wonderful story about four friends who decide to make each other's resolutions.  And one of the characters is so clearly struggling with the burden of living up to this, all while smiling and telling everyone that everything is fine, that I do not think I could have read this over a few days and not really been mad at everyone.  So, for me, the one day read was the way to go.  It does all get resolved and the journey was well worth it.  

Monday, April 01, 2019

NoVa Teen Bookfest 2019

The NoVa Teen Bookfest moved to a new location this year, but was otherwise as fun as before.  The Stand Up and Stand Out panel, has Sara Biren, Olivia Hinebaugh, Ben Philippe, Mark Oshiro, and Emily X. R. Pan talking about writing about pushing back, when there are adults who are good and adults who are not, and how having a good one - fictionally or otherwise - can help you understand the bad ones.  
The Lean on Me panel had Mia Garcia, Kevin Panetta, Carmen Rodrigues, and Jeff Zentner talking about writing friendships and relationships, along with a sidebar into "Titanic".  Mia also said she wrote her book chronologically, even though it hops from person to person.  
There was a lunch break Taboo, with quite a few authors, and some teen volunteers.  
On the Journey to the Past panel, Libba Bray, Katherine Locke, and Robin Talley talked about historical research - how it can help and help you procrastinate,  ways to do it even if you didn't love history in school, and also how history helps illuminate the present.  Robin also talked about how having a dual timeline in "Pulp" meant she was able to specifically ground the contemporary timeline instead of having it try to be out there, some vague time like now, and that that allowed for specific references in the way that you typically wouldn't do in contemporary. 
The Revolution panel had Tracy Bangart, Cinda Williams China, Dhonielle Clayton, Heidi Heilig, and Alex London talking about worldbuilding and figuring out what kind of fantasy world your character might need to fight back or burn down. 
I went to the mini-panel about "Toil and Trouble" with Jessica Spotswood, Robin Talley, and Lindsay Smith.  They talked about the stories they had written for the anthology. Jessica had been chatting on Twitter about how she didn't have time to edit another anthology but would love to see one about witches.  And Tess Sharpe had said she'd love to do one, but didn't know how to curate an anthology.  And their mutual agent had basically been like, yeah team up folks, I can sell this thing.  Both Lindsay and Robin enjoyed working with Jessica, and all three liked writing something that only needed a small amount of plot (compared to novel length).  
The Girls Run the World panel had Jennifer L. Armentrout, E.K. Johnston, L.L. McKinney, and Kristen Simmons talking about writing female protagonists, and how nice it was that there was space that strong female characters didn't always mean has all the weapons.  They also talked about female friendships and how they felt like a lot of media they'd seen growing up portrayed women as rivals, when they had friends they could count on.  Also they talked about how sometimes it's not your character fighting because they've been attacked, but because their loved ones have been.  
Libba Bray was the keynote speaker.  She had a list of twelve things, and I did not take notes but I remember one was "Let's go get pizza" is almost always the right answer.  But she also talked about how in the end the one thing you are surely really good at, is being you, so work on being the best one you can.  
It was a fun event, even with the new location.  

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. Kharma Kelley wrote an excellent primer on what allyship should look like (spoiler, it involves listening). It was in response to some of the ways the discussion around the RWA awards has been derailed, but applies to a lot of communities.  Her earlier piece about how a diversity, equity, and inclusion person views the RITAs is also helpful. As many have said, RWA isn't the only group grappling with this, but that doesn't mean RWA can afford to sit back and hope the rest of society gets fixed first. See also yarn folk.  Etc. 
2. This story of local high school girls who came up with a plan for addressing the misogynistic list rating their looks is both wonderful and sad.  I'm so proud of the students that worked with the administration after the initial response was tepid, but sad that they needed to.  
3. Full disclosure, the author of this piece and I attend the same congregation.  Ryden talks about teaching proper conflict resolution in the age of school shootings. 
4. And I'm sneaking in a fourth this week, since I was introduced to the concept of the suck fairy (and siblings including the racism fairy and homophobia fairy) to describe re-reading an old fave and finding it lacking. 

Monday, March 25, 2019

RITAs and Golden Hearts

I end up wary of some online discussion of RWA's RITAs and Golden Hearts, partly because so much of it cycles through people who don' know how the awards work, and folks, who suggest fixes that are either impractical or equally problematic.  I am sending a letter to the board with a list of suggestions.  I do believe the board wants to fix this.  I also believe that aircraft carrier sized organization or not, change needs to come swiftly.  
But, I also understand that having some of this discussion visible and transparent will help us move forward.  
It is still an honor to be nominated even in a flawed process.  I am still thrilled for the books I loved (or will love, since I haven't read them all) that are on this list. 
Any other organization that produced a list that focused this heavily on white, straight, characters and purported to represent the body of work in romance for 2018, I would yell about it's failure to represent the true breadth of the genre. 
Race is not the only underrepresented group in the RITAs.  My hope is that the changes we make to fix this, will also lift up other authors and characters we are failing to support. 
The Ripped Bodice's State of Diversity in Romance Publishing report relies somewhat on self-reporting and some educated guesswork, and focuses on traditional publishing.  Indie publishing obviously also includes both white authors and authors of color, and so it is not a full picture, but it is something we have numbers for.  Of the 2867 romances published in 2018 by these publishers, overall it averages out to about 6% of these books being by authors of color, which is about 176 books.  
The RITA is capped at 2000 entries.  There are obviously way more than 2000 romances published every year, so there is no way for it to fully capture everything, but that doesn't mean this current process couldn't be fixed to do a better job of representing the genre and the membership.  
This year there are about 3 authors of color nominated.  (The about is because yeah, not every author puts their data out there.  We could have a conversation about why they would need to hide their ethnicity.)
Based on my back of the envelope math, 6% of the 80 finalists, would be 5.  So, we're super close, right folks?  No.  Because we know that authors of color are represented at higher percentages in self-publishing.  (In fact two of the nominated authors of color are self published.) There isn't really a good way to calculate what percentage, to say nothing of how many of these folks participate in RWA.  Any way to try to arrive at these numbers is flawed. I could give you US demographic statistics, but I know there are Canadian, British, South African, and Australian members, to name a few places. 
There is no way to argue that this is just happenstance. The numbers should consistently not be lower than average for all authors of color. If I include Lifetime Achievement awards, the number of winners of color is incredibly low, even when I count folks that won twice, I still barely break double digits.  (Bronwen crunched the numbers of non-Lifetime Achievement awards. And is working to expand it further.)
So, the process as is currently exists, rewards authors of color at about the same rate that traditional publishing does.  The Ripped Bodice said fairly explicitly, that their hope with producing the report was for it to essentially track improvement.  Instead they have seen little to no shift in the overall numbers.  So the RITA's reflecting that means we are reflecting other flawed, systemically biased systems.  

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. The audio ad I heard on a bus recently surprised me, apparently it's a thing now
2. This op ed about New Zealand's response to the attacks was lovely. 
3. This piece looks at how infrastructure changes focused on cyclists, ultimately benefit the whole community. 

Monday, March 18, 2019

Dog Watching

I am on the Internet enough that I knew about Blair Braverman. Dog pictures make it far and wide, as do dog stories. I have mixed feelings about sports that reply on animals, even dogs who always seem happy. But I admire (from my couch) people who wish to undertake long endurance tasks. And I usually tune into the last hour or so and move on. 
And then I subscribed to the Iditapod and well, learned a lot of things. Always fascinated by the people that keep going for the honor of 30th place. It is easy to remember that fastest is just one metric. Past winners this year came in in the double digits or had to scratch all together. One team crossed the line only to have the finish discounted when a dog fell ill and died. 
Stories floated about teams where the lead dogs quit wanting to lead and no dog stepping into the gap, so everyone was happy but unfocused. A team that got so worried about the human while crossing the river that they kept trying to turn back to the closest shore. Teams traditionally plan to drop dogs along the way, either illness, or team dynamics, or other issues.  Such that there's an extensive process for having folks along the route ready to help care for non-racing dogs. 
And of course like lots of project teams we have all been on they all started the same day and at the same time and they all had different experiences. Timing of rests and regroups affected everything from stamina to where you were when the snow hit. One racer was able to lend his sled after he scratched to a team that had been patching the sled together. 
Much like reality show teams, much of what filters out to the public is snippets, and of course one-sided since we never get the dogs' perspective. Fans helped schools fundraise while waiting. 
The last two teams are still out there, as I write this.  But the 2019 Iditarod has turned out to be an interesting experience to witness through the internet. 
 

Friday, March 15, 2019

I Remain Mad

I am mad that New Zealand and Brazil both experienced mass shootings this week. 
I am mad that toxic masculinity, anti-Muslim hatred, and a couple of other from the mixed bag of bigotry led to death again. 
I am mad that mass shootings are frequent enough that commenting on each one seems like a lot of work. 
I'm mad when I think how the NRA worked against DC statehood, because they were worried that giving DC residents the full enfranchisement most other American citizens enjoy might lead to less guns. 
I mad that once again a place of worship was shown to not be a safe space. I mad that I can already point you to other times I have talked about this
I mad because I am reminded that my friend who was murdered at work had taken active shooter training at her church. (She is credited with creating a distraction that saved several of her co-workers lives.)
We just hit the ten year anniversary of Geneva County shooting
We just hit the anniversary of the Dunblane shooting
You know what the UK did after Dunblane? They passed even stricter gun laws. I hope New Zealanders and Brazilians feel empowered to take the steps to keep their fellow citizens safe. 
I wish I had any hope that enough of the US government cared about safety more than they cared about gun manufacturing money. 
I am so sorry. The speed of news travel means we can all join together more quickly in triumph and in tragedy. 
I will continue to not just be mad, but to fight to change what I can in my own disenfranchised city. 
I am so sorry more people are learning the pain of having loved ones ripped away in such tragedy. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. The House voted in support of DC statehood. Which is a step forward.
2. I get why women footballers think a WNFL is the best best to league success, I just wish, well, I still have mixed feeling about the NFL despite their recent settlements with players they mistreated.  But women footballers are a thing I am interested in, so I wish the local team (who has a much better name than their male counerpart) success. 
3. It had not occurred to me that brie butter could be a thing, and now I need some immediately. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

"JQA" at Arena Stage

The writer/director's note in the program warns you that while the writer Aaron Posner did extensive research into the life of John Quincy Adams, the play is not historically accurate. It is reinforced by the characters wearing modernish clothes, with more period like jackets or dresses overtop. When the ensemble members wear aviators when they are in a Secret Service stance, and at one point two characters drink coffee from cardboard to go cups, with heat sleeves. 
Any modern play is speaking to a modern audience regardless of the time period it is set in. This play goes a step further, making no attempt to be a bio-pic or a highlight reel, but instead using characters and settings from John Quincy Adams life - his parents, George Washington, Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, his wife Louisa, Frederick Douglass, and Abraham Lincoln, to talk about topics ranging from honestly, legacy, sacrifice, work/life balance, parental styles, slavery, and in the end commitment to doing good. There are four main cast members, and each of them takes a turn being the titular character. The transitions are done through the handing on of one of the jackets displayed at the start of the play. 
The play is in some ways fan fic, a thought exercise about what a man who heavily journaled throughout his life might have handled some conversations we do not have access to. 
Doing such is interesting, I do think the passing reference to "the Jews" and "the rust colored" native Americans are particularly interesting because - while expressed by Clay and likely well in line with his thoughts on such people, its an interesting choice to include in a play that claims to not be historically accurate. Certainly not all characters are good, but that's the only reference to either Jews or native Americans. Their concerns are never revisited. 
I saw Jacqueline Correa in "Native Gardens". It was a delight to see her again. I think this play is an interesting look at a man who served our country far longer in other roles than he ever did as President. 

Friday, March 08, 2019

Let's Go Steal a Podcast

I and the lovely Sally Kilpatrick were back on "Let's Go Steal a Podcast" together with Christina to discuss the two episodes that end season two. Mayoral corruption ahoy! 

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. UU World published an article that made me mad enough to write a letter to the editor.  They have apologized and produced an action plan.  As I said elsewhere I am optimistic but watchful.  The apology links to this thoughtful piece from CB Beal about the harms this piece caused. I think it's great reading for how folks who mean well can cause harm to the very folks they are trying to be allies to and how we can all do better. 
2. This piece talks about how wonderful it has been to see Selma Blair be open about the challenges of showing up to red carpet events, and working with, through, and around her illness. 
3. Naima Cochrane's piece on "Leaving Neverland" talks about how, while different in approach to "Surviving R Kelly", the documentary looks at the long term effects of grooming behavior, and how death does not truly erase some harms.  For survivors who need assistance, RAINN has some support options here. And 1 in 6, which focuses on male survivors, has a chatline also. 

Monday, March 04, 2019

Two Book Events - One Weekend

Friday I went down to One More Page (apparently narrowly missing the Orange Line hubbub) for the romance panel.  Zoey Castile, Adriana Herrera, and Alexis Daria were there.  Zoey asked questions primarily of Adriana, since her book (now out today) is the newest one, although the second in Zoey's series had just come out that week.  Adriana felt strongly that working in Manhattan she saw Dominican and Afro-Dominican people every day, and wanted to see them represented in books. She also said sometimes when you read a book set somewhere in the middle of the country and they will have one Latinx character and she would read and think, hang on, tell me that one's story, how did they get there. Zoey (who also writes as Zoraida Cordova) has a story set in Montana, and she said she picked Montana because she had been there.  And she had gone there herself because it was somewhere that seemed far away from her family.  That was also how she found romance, because she had been reading a lot of literary stuff, but searched out books about Montana and found Nora Roberts' Montana Sky.  
Alexis loves paranormal and sci-fi and space stuff - she'd love to write a Star Trek, btw world - but hadn't found a lot of traction with that, so ended up combining some of her other loves and trying contemporary dance reality series.  She also said that because she'd given the hero in book 1 all these brothers, some folks had expected her to do more stories about the brothers.  (Sidebar here, it's funny to me that this had not occurred to me until she said this, even though I know brothers are often sequel bait.  It probably helps that I was attracted to the dance reality show folks, and it made sense to me that the series would follow the reality show folks.)  
It was a really fun night, and there was wine, which didn't hurt.  
Sunday I was back out there - just regular weekend single tracking this time - for Lenore Appelhans chat about her forthcoming book, Manic Pixie Dream Boy.  Lenore has lived in the area a bit, so there were quite a few writers in the audience.  They did mad libs, and acted out a group therapy scene from the book.  This book started as a project while Lenore was doing an MFA at VCFA, and part of what they wanted her to do was write something a little different than her normal, so she was trying not to kill people this time.  She said it mostly worked.  The book sounds like ti works nicely on a number of levels, so it will be fun even if you haven't read all the YA's or seen all the tropes.  But she did say there were things she had planned at the start that others reading it were like, yeah, I didn't buy that, so she had to figure out how to make those changes.  
So much fun, and now I have to figure out when I will read all these books. 

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. This is a fairly decent piece on the start of the current discussions about racism in the knitting community.  The stuff has gone over to plenty of spaces where folks think the discussion knitting does or does not need to have are the same as other places, and, as reflected in the piece, for some folks, they are in the stop talking about it and it will go away part still.  
2. Emma Thompson has written a letter to Skydance to explain why she had to leave a contracted project after their decision to hire a known sexual harasser.  I think we do need to make space for people to learn and improve, but much like the racism discussion above, hoping the behavior of decades has just abated because now he knows that misusing his power is bad would not seem like much consolation to me as an employee.  I appreciate her taking a stand and using her platform to speak out. 
3. This tale of several bookstores in San Diego teaming up to keep the store open during the owner and employee's illness is lovely. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Everything is Politics

A few weeks ago, I thought whew, I need a break from everything, let me settle in and watch a few episodes of "Chopped".
One chef was on the show because his wife was pregnant and the prize money would cover her unpaid maternity leave. Another chef was there because the medical costs for his special needs grandkids were high. And another chef said, with what read to me like a tight smile, she wanted to put the money back into the restaurant she had started after her town had a hurricane. So really, everything is politics. Sure I could fast forward through this part, ignore the reasons these folks have shown up to compete in a food competition. But it's all there. Baked in, if you will. 
So the conversations we've been having about sports, about books, about knitting, we aren't more divided, these things aren't new. And maybe you've never had to wonder if they will think it's weird you're in a yarn shop, maybe you've never had to wonder will this book argue against the existence of people like me, maybe you've never had to worry that going home from the sporting event you'll be pulled over for being out of place, but that's your privilege. Those worries and concerns have always existed for plenty of folks whether they wanted it to or not. So you asking they pack that away is like asking me to just hide one of my hands at knitting group. I could do it. But it would be asking me to doing something hard for me to make things easier for you.  
We all have things we've never had to think about.  One person I follow on Twitter was saying he carries his ID to walk the dog, as he's been asked to show it to get back into the apartment building where he lives. I have been known to go days without mine.  (Being a pedestrian/public transit leaning person admittedly makes this much easier.)  It's really disheartening when you learn that the things you do to relax can hurt people.  But the problem isn't knowing or hearing that they can hurt people.  So we all need to listen better.  

Friday, February 22, 2019

PBA: Going Soon

Public Book Announcement: The Cocky Cockers Anthology is going to be pulled from sites at the end of the month, and appropriate monies donated to the RWA perseverance fund. So, if you've been meaning to purchase it, you have about a week.   It's collection of romance shorts, each involving a cocker spaniel. My short – Cocker on the Porch involves a woman who teams up with her cute next door neighbor to look after an abandoned dog. The book is available on Amazon and Kobo and Apple.  
I will make the story available individually eventually, but the anthology is going to be the better deal.  
Easiest way to be reminded when I have something new or newly available is to join the newsletter.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. The point of social media is generally interaction, and yet some people are basically out there replying for the sake of replying.  This article stratifies the reply guy phenomenon.  I do find that the Ravelry agree/disagree/educational/etc buttons really help.  Sometimes all you have to say is some variation of uh-huh, but people who are used to being heard don't always no how to do that in their head silently. 
2. Smart Bitches has a really good recap of the unfortunate plagiarism scandal recently uncovered in romance.  It involved, at current count bits of 34 books being lifted, which one has to say is an impressive amount of plagiarism.  Their recap includes the books this bestselling author stole from, if you were looking for some great new reads.  
3. Mental Floss has a list of impressive yarnbombing projects

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Some YA Fantasy to Add to Your Lists

One of the things I found doing podcast chats with authors and having seen panels, is that what have you been reading and enjoying lately can be the thing that trips people up.  I have encouraged folks to write down a list, and have it ready.  One of the things you can do creating the list outside of the time pressure to answer is make sure the list is as inclusive as you with.  My friend Adria Quinones posted a list to Twitter that someone projected onto the wall in a workshop at SCBWI.  (The whole thread is worth reading.) The list skewed old, especially on the middle grade side.  Now of course, books don't expire, good books remain good books. It skewed super white.  And being familiar with a number of the settings I can tell you it skewed very Europe or faux Europe.  And so my friend raised her hand and asked the person, are you aware of some great examples by authors that are Indigenous or otherwise of color?  The person was not able to come up with any examples in the moment.  
Now, I am going to tell you, I am a contemporary wonk.  So, I read less fantasy by huge margins.  But consulting my own have read, and to be read pile, and/or having seen an NYT bestseller list or two, I came up with the following: 
A Blade so Black by L. L. McKinney
*Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Warcross by Marie Lu
*Love is a Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson (Yes, I put this on almost all of my lists.  You can't stop me.)  
*Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyumi
Rebel Soul by Axie Oh
Prophecy by Ellen Oh
Toxic by Lydia Kang
*Forget Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn
Joseph Bruchac's Killer of Enemies
And oh look at that - that's ten.  Now I'm not saying your lists need to be entirely native Americans and/or people of color.  I'm not even saying that this is the only type of inclusion we should strive for.  (The list did contain at least one main character that was disabled as an example. My list contains at least two bisexual characters.)  
But when you keep saying you are all for a wider variety of stories, but put up a list like this, it looks like what you mean is stories just like this, but with darker skinned protagonists.  And I am not casting aspersions on this person, they probably genuinely didn't think about this.  But that's actually why this journey is taking so long, because there are a lot of people not thinking too deeply about their comfort zones.  And I also think if this is a genre you love enough to present on, you should be more widely read in the new stuff. 
Also, yeah, I am really no help with middle grade.  But consulting this list from Book Riot I found these options: 
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
Archer's Quest by Linda Sue Park
Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Furthermore by Taherah Mafi
Hoodoo by Ronald L. Smith
Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh
Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin
The Crystal Ribbon by Celeste Lim
The Gauntlet by Karuna Razi
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

*Books I've actually finished.  The rest I am working on.  Swearsies.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

"The Heiress" at Arena Stage

I have a rocky relationship with Henry James. I too had an interest in Freudian theories and so went into "Turn of the Screw" in high school so excited. And well, great premise, he and I will continue to disagree about some of the execution. (Also, yeah, I love Jennifer Crusie's Maybe This Time although I think that one has a different problem in the execution. I love it, but we can email if you have questions about concerns).
"The Heiress" is a different story and yet there are echoes. It is based on James' short story "Washington Square".  James' work is often described as feminist in that it is often very interested in bringing to light how the times and circumstances suppress women. 
In "The Heiress" Catherine is painfully shy and well generally average in the ways that matter on the marriage mart except that she has money, and should come into more as the titular heiress to her father. So when her very bubbly, very pretty cousin brings along her fiance's friend to a family visit, Marcus, is taken with her. Or her house. Or both. (Kudos to the acting and direction here, Marcus is obviously stricken by the sight of Catherine, a thing one wonders about later.)
He visits frequently and, in ways that those trained to recognize grooming suggests that they should love each other forever even if someone, anyone, were to speak ill of them. 
Catherine's widowed aunt supports the relationship, being all for love or companionship. Catherine's father is less certain. Catherine has never been quite as - well - anything as her mother was so he leaps to Marcus being a gold digger quickly. 
James' spark in this story was what if a woman realized her father didn't really love her. How might that affect the choices she made, her swiftness, her eagerness to fall in love. I am not enough of a student to tell you how unique a plot line this was in the 1800's but it is the kind of thing that is fairly familiar now. 
I hesitate to talk spoilers since I always like to go in cold, but if you want to see Catherine realize she is being taken in, and that very few people in her life - for different reasons - have her happiness in mind, you will.  If you want to see much more than that, you will not.  
This version is done in the round. In the round is tough to do in talkie plays, folks pop up like they are nervous. In the case of this play everyone is nervous or anxious most of the play so it worked. The direction allowed for the characters in the party scenes to continue chatting quietly amongst themselves in moments which always seems a bit more natural. I often end up feeling terribly sad for the servant characters in these things who are always running back and forth, dealing with shifting character needs, although I know it adds to the realism and allows for less set management between scenes. 
The set had windows that descended before the show and pulled up out of the way during the action which I found a nice touch. 
The cast was good. It was especially nice to see Lorene Chesley again from "Smart People".

Friday, February 15, 2019

I Still Believe Survivors

CW: Discussion of new pertaining to sexual assault and racism
I try - sometimes  - to stay out of other people's local politics, as a result of living in a city where so many people (looking at you Missouri Congressman) think they get to butt in and tell us how to run the city.  So, I am watching the mess of Virginia's top three politicians, who appear to be at this point: 
Governor I was not that blackface, I was the other blackface
Lt. Governor I do not recall her being unhappy when I shoved my penis in her face
Attorney General Oh, yeah, I have also been photographed in blackface. 
Now sure, we could have a whole discussion about could people have learned more about their internalized racism and misogyny since these various incidents.  Really smart people are doing that already, but I wanted to make one thing clear.  
I believe Dr. Vanessa Tyson.  I don't care that Justin Fairfax doesn't remember her crying or thinks it's weird that she didn't follow up and ask him why he chose to force himself on her.  Lots of us have had harmful encounters of all kinds with folks, and then realizing that they were going to continue to act like everything was fine and that our choice was to go along with that fiction or enter into the painful choice of trying to get them to admit that what they did sucked when the behavior they engaged in was so obviously wrong, no one should have to explain to them why it was wrong. 
In my life, I have been lucky enough that none of the folks who mistreated me have ended up running for office, or up for the Supreme Court. Yes, today we are calling that lucky.  
I also believe Meredith Watson.  
And here's the thing, someone somewhere is saying, oh but you shouldn't take away a man's livelihood on the basis of one person's say so.  First, there is no magic number of accusers.  I am well aware that the power is all on the side of assaulters, we have proven that over and over again.  I'm not going to list the various things that make these two credible to me.  But let's pretend I was in charge.  So, if I was in charge, such an accusation would result in the following - the accused being put on administrative leave while an investigation occurred.  But right now Mr. Fairfax gets to sit and keep doing his job.  His job that oversees tons of women.  He has done nothing to demonstrate that he has grown or learned how better to treat women. 
And yes, I understand that this country has a not great record regarding accusations of sexual assault against Black men.  But, I also think we commonly confuse evidence for a law prosecution, with evidence for unfitness for your job.  If there were multiple sexual assault accusations against my local hot drink purveyor, I would not go there.  I would not wait.  My safety and my solidarity with survivors are both more important to me.  If I cannot trust a politician to treat me like a rights having person, then I think that politician has failed in their job.  If it were up to me, he would be gone.  
I recognize that Virginia voters and lawmakers may make a different decision. I hope they do it with an eye to keeping Virginians safe.  

RAINN provides support to survivors who might need assistance in both English - online.rainn.org and Spanish rainn.org/es

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. This story about a mango pie is fascinating, and makes me hungry.  
2. Chocolate helps build muscles, should you need that data this week. 
3. (Warning this link, autoplays.)  A man found film his dad had taken during World War II on Oahu. He has posted the pictures online, so that folks can check if their family members might be in there.  Link direct to site

Monday, February 11, 2019

"Top Chef" and the Overuse of Terms

So, I usually have little to say about "Top Chef" until we get to Restaurant Wars and therefore, the seasonal examination of team failures.  But they did Restaurant Wars early, which basically meant it was especially prone to failure because the contestants knew each other less well, and also someone made the mistake of thinking they could make ice cream in a busy kitchen that was barely finished.  
But that's okay, they have had tons of team challenges this season, and there's been some expected tossing off of negging statements along the lines of well, that team went for the more party pleasing atmosphere, which I guess, is a choice, and so on. 
Last week's challenge involved a basketball game and two chefs decided to go for chicken and waffles, and one of the chefs grabbed boxed waffle mix* - which when you're all shopping in the same aisles of the same store, I don't know why you felt like there was any anonymity, and they all went off and cooked.  There were fryer issues, so the two sets of chicken and waffles did not end up going head to head with each other.  And when Chef Boxed Waffle had her turn, it had of course made it's way to the judges that someone had used waffle mix.  Now, Sara - Chef Boxed Waffle - is from Kentucky, is apparently a big basketball fan, and had named her dish in a clear nod to the fans witnessing this showdown in the basketball stadium.  I also understand that this is episode ten, they have now all been in this pressure cooker environment for long enough to be a little ragged.  So Sara thought it was totally fair to name her dish in a way guaranteed to get the crowd cheering.  And when asked by the judges if she had used boxed waffle mix, and then one of the other team's chefs started the crowd in on a chant about from scratch, she got her feelings hurt. 
She, in a way that clearly indicated she thought she was the wronged party who was being super nice to even give them a chance to apologize, said, both to the camera, and to the chefs, that she was so hurt, that she didn't think they were playing "like that", and that she couldn't believe she might go home because someone "threw her under the bus".  
Now, for some reason Adrienne seemed to be the focus of a lot of this hurt.  I don't know if that's because Sara felt closer to Adrienne, or Adrienne (Chef From Scratch) was willing to engage (I suspect the chant starter may have just mostly ignored her which is less interesting TV). But as Adrienne ably pointed out, the ingredients you buy are not secret, no one should think there's a cone of silence around a filmed trip to the grocery store.  Did knowing she used the box mix as a starting point affect the judge's decision, who knows?  But let's face it, if they had been the most bomb waffles it would not have mattered.  Also, it was a team challenge, and, after all that drama Sara didn't go home, her teammate did, so I hope she feels bad that she took up all that emotional energy and they all still have to hang out for another day.  
I don't mean to imply you can't have hurt feelings, you can't ever be tired, or sad, because you can.  But it is helpful to remember that sometimes you are not right about who owes you an apology.  So, I hope, whether on or off camera, Sara has now apologized to those she accused of unfairness when by unfairness she meant truth telling.  Yes, there are times when people telling the truth doesn't help anyone.  People being honest about ingredients is not one of them. 

*Here is where I remind you I used another chef getting frozen waffles as a whole metaphor for stereotypes