Monday, November 11, 2019

"Newsies" at Arena Stage

Content warning: Cartoon level on stage violence including police brutality, historically accurate ableist terminology 

I confess I had never seen "Newsies" all the way through before. I know. Not even the Jeremy Jordan version. It was a gap in my pop culture knowledge.
For those with similar gaps, "Newsies" is based on the strike of the newsboys in 1899 a price raise of the cost charged the the newsboys who sold the papers. De facto leader of the newsboys Jack takes new kid Davey and his cute brother under his wing as they take up newselling after their dad is injured at work. When the paper raises the price, the newsboys, who are making pennies as it is, decide to strike. They are encouraged by a reporter one can only describe as plucky who has been writing soft news, and wants real stuff.
This story was originally a Disney movie directed by Kenny Ortega, then turned into a stage production with a book by Harvey Fierstein, and it shows. What I mean is these are deep issues about child labor, the power of million and billionaires over their employees, and it is mostly an excuse for singing and dancing. I am not complaining, a night of Alan Menken songs is not a bad night.
The cast was wonderful, Arena regulars will recognize many of the adult characters. The newsies include female newsies, and there is an actual small child (pleyed by Josiah Smothers the night I saw it) and an actual high school senior which did the work of making those two look younger. 
The choerographer and director made excellent use of the full theater. Action moves into the aisles and even the seats at one point. You know it's a DC crowd when leaflets drop from the ceiling and one audience member in the front row visibly pauses to read it.
There is a tap number and some references to Santa Fe that had me checking who decided Santa Fe first Newsies or "Rent". All in all, a fun night of song and dance.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. Overdrive crunched the numbers on the life of a metered book in a library's e or audio catalog and what that means about what Macmillan is trying to suggest is the reasoning for their new policy. 
2. Bright Wall/Dark Room has temporarily taken down their paywall, and just in time for you to read this thoughtful piece about "Veronica Mars" and what it means to genderbend the noir detective.  It's look at the first and most recent season, and what all this means is just amazing. 
3. Over on the NaNo blog, Alexis Daria has some suggestions for the care and feeding of your writing and yourself. 

Monday, November 04, 2019


I have a complex relationship with Fall. My birthday falls in fall so I feel I should love it. The trees turning colors is gorgeous. Breaking out a different set of clothes is fun. But in fourth grade I got pneumonia in fall. In fifth grade my allergies had gotten so bad my parents had me tested and my leaf mold allergy took leaf playing off the table. I spent one fall unable to walk more than a few blocks without my inhaler, as an excessive amount of rain followed by mild weather meant the leaf mold was everywhere. I hate all the darkness, and the sleeping better and warmer and cozier doesn't make up for it.
Fall is NaNo. Fall is a busy period with my day job stuff. Fall is the lead up to the holiday season where there are so many expectations.
I went to an event for the Capital Area Food Bank and was reminded that the cold and the weather and the where will I get food is even more fraught for others. 
I always hesitate to do the other people have it worse stuff, because yes, they do,but you can also have feelings about your own stuff.
So this year I am trying to come to better terms with Fall. In what I expect of it and myself during this time.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. Alexander Chee talked eloquently about how he now responds to the what should I do if I want to write about some not like me question that writers of color are pretty much constantly asked. 
2. In a story that fascinated me for learning about how things may work, an armed shoplifter broke into these people's house to evade police.  Their house was ruined.  The city and police argued that insurance should cover the damage the armed standoff caused to their house and not them because they were just doing their jobs.  I have mixed feelings about the utility of armed standoffs, since blasting rockets at a house seems like the risk to others outweighs the reward of catching a dude who shoplifted stuff from a big box store. But mostly, it had not occurred to me the collateral damage of aggressive policing if police destroy your property in pursuit of someone unrelated to you.  
3. Oh, and you may have heard, Washington has added another championship team.  (And belated kudos to both the Mystics and the Valor. The hockey team* knows I love them.)

*Sports superstitions must be observed.  Wait, does mentioning them cause problems?  Forget I said anything. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Seven Things Twice - A NaNoWrimo Season Approacheth Guide

Seven reasons NaNoWrimo is great fun! 

1.       Lots of writers writing all across the world.  If you are a person who works better with groups or with the social pressure of knowing other people are out there writing, NaNo provides that. 

2.       50000 words is a lot of words.  Depending on your genre, it may not be a whole book.  It may be half a book or a third of a book.  But it's 50000 more words than you started the month with. 

3.       There are charts!  Do you love charts and graphs of progress?  NaNo has these.  It recalculates based on your progress. 

4.       There are write ins and parties and other gatherings of writers.  If you've never done a write in before, I suggest trying one.  Often, once you've dragged your butt to the coffee shop or library or wherever, I feel motivated to have words written before I leave.  If it doesn't work, now you know more about your process. 

5.       There are sprints!  There's a sprinting tool on the website, and also sprints running on Twitter throughout the month. 

6.       You are encouraged to write without editing.  This means you can do silly things like bracket things you already know you're going to delete later, but still count them towards your total.

7.       NaNo attracts writers throughout the spectrum.  There are folks who literally decided yesterday they were going to do this, all the way up to published writers.  Remember the bright eyed enthusiasm you had when you first thought, "I'm going to write a book!"  NaNo can help you get back in touch with that. 


Seven reasons NaNoWrimo may not be for you:

1.       It's a really fast pace.  It is not everyone's ideal pace.  I will tell you, I almost always have one day where I get nothing done, and a few where I don't hit the target.  But aiming for that goal is helpful.  I once tried doubling the pace, and the book I wrote was a mess, and not in a good way.  If you've never tried this pace, I recommend giving it a shot. 

2.       If you are used to editing as you go, it may be really hard for you to not edit.  Again, I recommend trying. But there is also a thing called NaNo rebelling, and you can do whatever makes the most sense for your process.  Be open to not editing.  But if it's holding you back, then be a rebel.  They still let you come to the write ins. 

3.       November may be a crap month for you work wise, home wise, family wise.  NaNo also runs a Camp NaNo in April and July if those are better for you.  I do November even though it's a short month and there's a holiday stuck in the middle.  I usually find I do almost nothing writing wise in December, but Januaryish when things start to get back to normal, having a story ready for my fresh eyes is good.  Also, if you get say 25000 words in the first half, then that's still progress.

4.       You're a pantser who digs yourself into big plot holes.  I'm a pantser and I do often find I run out of plot in week two.  And the pressure of NaNo makes me invent something new to get me out of the hole and keep going.  But, you may be a writer who writes yourself into a hole and needs a week of TV to get yourself back out.  And then the pressure of the ticking clock may not be useful to you.  I've been told plotters don't have this problem.  Is this true plotters?

5.       You became a writer so you didn't have to talk to people.  And I keep talking about meetups and write ins and talking to strangers on the internet. If all these extra people sound like too much, you can avoid them, I promise.  I like people.  But you can do NaNo and tell no one. You can do NaNo, sign up and never go to a thing, never check the Twitter.  It's up to you. 

6.       You are a real writer who does not need a stated event to write books.  Cool!  Good for you.  I also like writing books in months other than November.  But – and I use this example a lot, runners can run on their own and they can enter marathons.  Both are valid ways to be runners.  You can still be a writer if you never NaNo.  You can also be a writer who NaNos. 

7.       You hate arbitrary numbers.  Look, I don't know why they picked 50000 words either.  But make your own goal.  Or write 50000 knowing you will need more or less to do it.  

Monday, October 28, 2019

A Suggested Playlist of Sorts

In light of a tweet by @NoTalentAC suggesting playing Disney music when recording sex tapes, to insure any leaked footage will be taken down, I present this list.
First, you do you, but long time readers know I've been banging (heh) the internet is not secret drum for some time now. Pictures on phones can't be relied on to stay there. Even snapchat can be screenshotted. So basically, regardless of the safeguards you think you have in place, assume anything can get out into the wider world. 
1. Poor Unfortunate Souls.
2. (I Won't Say) I'm in Love
3. Go the Distance
4. How Far I'll Go
5. A Whole New World
6. You're Welcome.
7. I'll Make a Man Out of You
8. Love is an Open Door
9. For The First Time in Forever
10. I See the Light.
11. Almost There
12. Can You Feel the Love Tonight
13. It's Going Down
14. Be Prepared

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. The story about post-menopausal whales is not only an interesting look at whale culture, but a basic biological premise.  The article states that theoretically after the reproductive years are over, these mammals no longer have a purpose, and then goes on to show how whales use the post-menopausal elders.  So maybe reproduction isn't everyone's only purpose? 
2. Users of Ravelry may have a more duh reaction to this, but this post looks at how having only a like button on parts of the internet encourages people to be quiet when in agreement and extremely verbal when in disagreement.  
3. DCist crunched the numbers on Datelab.  
Bonus:  My co-writer Sabrina Sol wrote a post about our love of second chance stories.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

"Let's Go Steal a Podcast"

I was back on "Let's Go Steal a Podcast" to chat about "The Ho Ho Ho Job", with Christina and Robin.  Parker believes in Santa and snow, and also, some delightful guest stars.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Books and Theater: The Right to Be Forgotten

These entries are me pairing books that match some of the themes from the plays I have seen.  
Ruby Lang's Clean Breaks looks at figuring out who you are, the the ripple effect of childhood revelations and reputation. It's also a argh, why is that guy hot now type romance.  
Sara Zarr's Story of a Girl is about how everyone treats you, including your family, when everyone decides they know who you are already.  
Tiffany D. Jackson's Allegedly is about a teen trying to change the record of what happened when she was convicted of murder at the age of nine.  

Monday, October 21, 2019

"The Right to Be Forgotten" at Arena Stage

Content warnings: parental death (off stage), an ableist joke, a joke about suicide, and a number of jokes about stalking. Also there is a huge lawyer breach that even my non-lawyer self caught.

As a wonderfully acted thought provoking piece of theater, "The Right to Be Forgotten" entirely succeeds. I'm not sure the case it chooses to focus on is the best choice, and given much of the show is about whether it should go forward, that ends up being a bit of a fundamental flaw.
When he was seventeen, Derril went to a fellow classmate's house because she was sick to check on her. Three times. On the same day. She went from touched to concerned. A blog post about this, and some subsequent lurking in hallways behavior was posted online and developed a large following. Posters began using Derril's name as code for their own stalkers. So now 28, he finds it hard to find jobs or teach or date when this info is out there. He wants the blog delisted, something Europeans have already fought for and won. He finds a lawyer who has been dying to go up against big tech and win. There's an attorney general with a tricky election who also cpnsoders taking this on. And of course the lobbyist for big tech who has her own reasons for thinking free speech is more important than forgetfulness. 
The plot is tightly woven, but oh gosh there were some buttons in there for me. Derril doesn't want to change his name because that's the name his parents called him, that's the name he used when he did all the good things. And I wanted to say, oh hi, imagine being a woman where the default expectation is still that you change your name partway through your life.
I certainly agree that seventeen year-olds make mistakes. But the AG says he will only take on the case if his victim agrees. So she has to relive the thing that happened to her. She has to grant forgiveness. She has to be willing to publicly relive being a victim so that her harasser can move on. 
I am in favor of restorative justice. I certainly think as a country and as a culture we have to better consider how people can move on from the mistakes that they make. But it is not asking for public forgiveness just to make the harassers life better. 
If you are a person who likes to go to plays and have a spirited discussion about the ins and outs of it with your friends, I think this play does that. I sat there wondering what if it had been reversed? What if the person trying to be forgotten was a girl who had been stalked or slut shamed or otherwise slandered on the internet. Or even if it was someone who had already apologized and made amends to the person harmed instead of waiting ten years? People even fictional people aren't perfect. But I feel our rush for closure often skips past the restoration part. And this play did too.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Book and Theater: Footloose

Alexis Daria's Dance with Me - Set on a dancing reality show, dancing and city life are both present, but the story is told with such a love and appreciation for dancing, that I think it has crossover appeal for folks who like "Footloose". 
Jaye Robin Brown's Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit - This book covers trying to fit in in a smaller more religious town than the big city you used to be in, and the good and bad of all that. 
Beverly Jenkins' Rebel - This recommendation may have a few of you scratching your head since it's a historical set in Louisiana, but the heroine has arrived in the hopes of establishing a life away from her strict father and finds herself tempted to do even more things her dad would definitely not approve of.  

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. Daniel Feinberg is often thoughtful about TV, and this roundup about the trends shown in Fall TV, particularly the dead ladies one, is just that. (I also agree about "Sunnyside" which I want to like more due to it's cast and subject matter.) 
2. Winning a book award should be a joyful moment, and gosh, there is a subtle but clear difference between people being proud of you for being the first pserson of your race/gender/ethnicity/combination therein to win it and people being proud of you for "checking boxes". Chitra Ramaswamy's piece covers this.
3. I was recently pointed to this colection of theories about the Denver airport that are odd and strange and yet not much odder than my limited experience with the airport. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Release Day for the Do It Again Anthology

When we first started chatting about the Do It Again Anthology, we had the idea to do an anthology where the books centered on a second chance or bouncing back theme.  I love second chance stories.  But as I thought about what to write, I thought about Raven.  Raven had shown up in Aloha to You as Adriana's fellow small business owner and purveyor of excellent brownies.  (And tea. Let's not forget that tea.)  I have plans for quite a few characters in the City Complications Series, but I didn't previously have a plan for Raven.  And then I thought about Marcus, who shows up in a story that isn't out yet, and suddenly I had an idea.   
And so Repeated Burn was born.  The idea of Raven, having been dumped by her boyfriend right as her business was starting and having to revisit all of that when said ex moves on again.  That his newest ex shows up because she doesn't know what to do.  That Raven would deliver the new ex to her brother Marcus and that she and Marcus would find themselves drawn together. Except, of course, when you've become used to people doubting your dreams, well, it's hard to trust that you can date someone who won't be a problem.  And on Marcus' side, when you've fallen into the role of helping your sister clean up her messes, it gets hard to step out of that role.
It was also important to me that there wasn't really rivalry between the ex's.  Sometimes that's warranted.  But just as often, no one understands the specific foibles you had been dealing with like your ex's other exes.  
My TL:DR promo: 
*Coffee shop and bakery owner
*Meets corporate hotel dude
*The older brother of her ex's new ex might be the hotness
*Contains brownies and so much coffee
Buy links

Monday, October 14, 2019

"Footloose" at the Kennedy Center

Content warning: physical abuse
I've written before about the inherent contradictions in "High School Musical 2"s "I Don't Dance" number. A musical obviously asks for some suspension of disbelief. But a musical in which you watch everyone on stage dance at regular intervals and yet most of the characters are theoretically requesting permission to dance as the signature plot point, well you have to keep thinking about how you're suspending your disbelief. But of course dancing is a metaphor.
The cast was wonderful. For fans on the movie (either version) the basic plot and music you loved are there with some additions. It is a testament to how carefully each song for the original movie was selected that they work so well when performed by the characters. It is a jukebox musical that doesn't feel like one.
The "Somebody's Eyes" number did some choreography with flashlights that worked so well for me.
J. Quinton Johnson and Judy Kuhn are both such talents that I could understand why anyone would cast them as mother and son given the chance. I will note that colorblind casting can sometimes lead to additional dynamics the show doesn't have space to explore. In this case, for me, having Ren be Black made his trouble fitting in almost make more sense, but your mileage may vary on that.
Minimal staging and short rehearsal time meant one gym period number had folks literally dropping balls. The ensemble handled it well, and it was funny to watch even if that hadn't been what the director or choreographer intended.
I continue to enjoy this Center Stage series.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. I deleted some of my initial Twitter thoughts about this, but found this response from fans regarding the NBA's handling of recent discussions about Hong Kong fascinating.  I've seen all sorts of signs at games, although admittedly I am usually there for hockey games.  I recognize that the arena has a no politics in signs rule, and of course the always present at the discretion of management stuff, which I have seen used against things like knitting.  Given there was a time when a water bottle cap was a precious commodity in the arena, I recognize sports arenas are one more place where varying rules are randomly applied.  No politics is the kind of vague rule that can be applied to anything.  Union contracts are politics after all.  And all the teams that play at that arena are unionized.  
2. There's been some talk about how some of the requests we see from folks for police to intervene where people are just being people is a result of folks from small towns or suburbs moving into places where we all live closer together, where you get to see, hear, and even smell neighbors, it changes how you operate.  Or, it doesn't.  This reflection on the now deceased Joshua Brown by Stacia L. Brown is not an easy read, but looks at what it means to consider your neighbors community.  
3. I've been fascinated with the interst in this DCist story about the proposed Disney America park.  Sure, I lived here then.  Sure, my dad had been a real estate consultant who had been involved in the site proposals for Disney France.  (No we did not get Disney tickets out of this.  I know.)  But I guess the combo of better faster social media means we rediscover such things all the time now.  

Monday, October 07, 2019

Books - a Third Quarter Round Up

Therese Beharrie's One Day to Fall - I loved this story of two somewhat cranky people who run into each other at the hospital and have to deal with altered family relationships and figuring out their new place and if they even have time to think smoochie thoughts at each other.  
Caitlin Crews' A Baby to Bind His Bride - For those familiar with the Presents line, this is bonkers in the way of Presents in that a woman shows up at a commune to discover her husband who was presumed dead in the hopes of being like, cool, cool, please take your awful family back and I'll be on my way.  And then of course she ends up pregnant and they have to figure basically everything out.  There is some imprisonment, because Presents dudes are terribly controlling.  I felt the groveling balance made up for it, but YMMV.  
Olivia Dade's Teach Me  - We read this for romance book group, and it was everything I had hoped for.  Full disclosure, I am friends with Dade.  This book about two teachers of a certain age navigating a shifting school year, divorce (more recent for him), and what it might mean if they fell in love was just delightful.  My angst meter is very broken.  But to me this felt low angst, there were career concerns, and of course, can I trust happy concerns, but this demonstration of mature people falling in love was a delight.  
Claire Kann's If it Makes You Happy - I loved this Gilmore Girls-esque story of a young Black woman going to visit her grandmother for the summer, and ending up in a summer royalty situation where her ungirlfriend and her possible crush compete for her attention.  Warning: Her grandmother and others do participate in some fatphobic behavior.  She handles it well, but it is tough.  
Aminah Mae Safi's Tell Me How You Really Feel - Breaking the alphabet because to me this paired so well with the Claire Kann book.  Also Gilmore Girls-esque, but if what you really wanted was Rory and Paris to be a enemies to girlfriends style couple.  Sana keeps firing the lead in her movie, so her film club advisor forces her to cast Rachel.  
Justin A. Reynolds' The Opposite of Always - I listened to this book on audio so it took me perhaps longer than it should've to figure out what was happening.  But it is essentially a longer term Groundhog Day, so he has longer to figure out if the tweaks to this run through have been more or less successful.  
Ruby Lang's Playing House - I adored this story of two New York urban planners finding each other at various open houses and then discovering that maybe there is something there.  Sure, come for the real estate nerdery, but stay for the moment where a mom tells her kid in front of the siblings that they were right.  
Tara Pammi's An Innocent to Tame the Italian - This is also a Presents, and also bonkers.  She hacks his system, he locates her and basically is like so now I need you to both patch my security and be my fake fiancee.  And off they go.  
Daniel H. Pink's When - A number of people recommended Pink to me.  This one looked at the way we've designed timing and how that does and doesn't work for many people.  I did the audio and found some useful tidbits.  
Becca Syme's Dear Writer You Need to Quit - Syme and I met when we both worked on a contest together, and I've admired her posts on how knowing yourself can lead you to better sort through the conflicting productivity advice out there.  She in this book, and in the Quitcast podcast focus on writers, but I think a lot of this advice works for other folks to.  
Olivia Waite's The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics - This book did everything I had hoped for when Waite first announced a story with an embroiderer and an astonomer.  The ideas about who gets to be at the table, why it always looks like the women there are just listening, and what it means to face publicity.  

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1.  My mom is having some health issues so coming across this poem by Ada Limon entitled The Raincoat was especially moving. 
2. I've talked before about the congregation (haha) of places of worship on 16th Street.  DCist/WAMU has the scoop.  
3. And I was this year year's old when I was pointed to the Snopes on tainted Halloween candy which basically says nope, never happened.  A few cases of murder that were blamed on Halloween candy at first, but that's it. 

Monday, September 30, 2019

Local Book Groups

Because I spend some time each month checking the visitors and such at each bookstore in the area, I have noticed that there are a growing amount of book groups that read both YA and romance. As someone who loves reading but resisted book groups because they always wanted to read the things that I did not (or told me I didn't have to read, which seemed not the point) this excites me.  
I stuck a roundup of the ones that I am aware of - heck some of them I even participate in - over here.  

Friday, September 27, 2019

Cover Reveal Link

A few of us have an anthology coming next month arranged around a second chance type theme, so as such it's called Do It Again. Jackie, who is participating via her alter ego, revealed the cover yesterday over on her blog, hop on over to see:

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. This is from a while back, but in case, you, like me, thought that blinking meme gif guy was maybe Cary Elwes or something, here's the story behind it
2. Mariame Kaba in conversation with Eve Ewing about her organizing work, and what convinced her to stop removing herself from the narrative. 
3. It is Banned Book Week of Banned Books month, and Alex Gino is here to talk about why your book getting censored sucks

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Books and Theater: Jitney

Interestingly enough, the three books that came to mind for pairings with "Jitney" were kid books and none of them take place in Pennsylvania.  So, sorry Pennsylvania, my recommendations fall short in that arena.  
Renee Watson's This Side of Home looks at changing neighborhoods through the eyes of two twins who feel differently about what this means.  
Jennifer Dugan's Hot Dog Girl - is a let's fake date so I can be closer to my crush without him noticing story.  But it pairs well with "Jitney" in looking at what the loss of a childhood icon and summer job might mean, along with planning surprises for people who may not be prepared to accept such a surprise.  
Rita Williams Garcia's P.S. Be Eleven is the second in the Gaither Sisters trilogy, is set in the 1960's, so a decade earlier but includes a war veteran adjusting to life back home, substance abuse, and adjusting to a life that changed while you were away.  

Monday, September 23, 2019

"Jitney" at Arena Stage

Content warning: Alcoholism, gun pointed at a character threateningly, discussion of false rape accusation and murder , use of the n word (in period appropriate manner, all done by Black characters)
"Jitney' is at its heart about what we will and won't forgive. The play takes place in a shop in the 1970's used as a hub for a team of jitney drivers in Pittsburgh. It is part of August Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle.
The program was careful to note the parallels between jitney drivers and rideshares today. The shop is going to be condemned, there are personality differences between some of the drivers. The shop leader is also facing his son being released from jail, and one character is trying to plan a surprise for his girl and their kid.

But at its heart it is about forgiveness. Can you forgive yourself for your failures? Can you forgive others for not conducting themselves they way you would have? For not taking advantage of opportunities you yourself wished you'd had? And what do you do when the ways the city around you claims its improving mean it wants to tear down your place of business. At one point one character says essentially, I have changed but you keep thinking of me like I was.

The cast is stellar. The set was amazing. And while there is still only one woman character in this one, the treatment of her by both the play and the characters was much improved compared to "Two Trains Running". 

I realize I've made this play sound tough. It is. But there are moments of laughter. You get to know these characters so well that as the one keeps saying he doesn't butt into anyone's business, you laugh because we all know that person. One actor also cried on stage and I had already been feeling it, but those tears sent me over the edge. It was an excellent production that after it's DC run, will be moving to several other cities.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Three Intersting Things

1. Today is a hearing on DC statehood and voting representation.  DCist is here with the handy wrap up of what DC is today and what some of us hope for it to be.  Including the handy factoid that the reason some of the Virginian parts of DC were "returned" to Virginia so slavery could be banned in DC without messing up the good slave ports in the area.  
2. This story of a woman thought to have helped over 600 women poison their husbands in the 1600s is fascinating. 
3. Did you know the antaomy of the clitoris was not included in most anatomical textbooks for years.  Want to guess what year it was added? Did you guess 2019? 

Monday, September 16, 2019

Four Weddings and a Funeral Wrap Up

Obviously spoilers ahoy.  
So the show made me happy and mad and everything in between. I'm going to tell you I watched the finale episode and didn't realize it was the finale. I had to recount weddings. 
Let's do the characters alphabetically. 
Ainsley. Here's the thing that seemed very only happens in sitcoms to me. Sure, after a break up, friends often demand that their friends take sides. But Ainsley knew Kash because of Craig. I realized that for me part of the problem was that the show did so much work to show why Maya and Kash were great together, it didn't really do any work to show me Ainsley and Kash were great. So I only felt a little bad for Ainsley about the failed wedding because I never believed it was going to happen. So having Ainsley take literal years to get over it, to say nothing of the length of the entire show seemed to much. Her friends gathered up and told her she was being a brat whem she wasn't sure she wanted to date an older American man. But apparently they were all like, well, whatever and stopped talking to both Kash and Maya because Ainsley said so.
Duffy ended up with Gemma. I would claim brilliance for predicting this but it was so heavily telegraphed by the show. He got the family he wanted. Even though he is apparently a terrible techer with awful boundaries, they seem to like him. And his ex who read his his whole manuscript found love.
Gemma would never was the note I wrote to myself. She would Duffy of course. And yes, when Duffy had to go back to the US to look after his mom, Gemma and her son would follow. And then of course decide to get married. However, New Jersey is a large state with a number of options even for weddings with short turnaround times. There is no way Gemma would go for a DIY wedding. Nope. With crimped hair? Nope. Do not believe it. But she's happy and that's the important part. 
Kash tried to go traditional and found his best friend a wife. (Basheer, I love you!) And then found success as an actor. And then, well we'll get to that.
I just want to point out that Maya got ping ponged the most by this show. She started in the US dating a married dude. Dumped him. Flirted with a dude who turned out to be her bestie's guy, Kash. (Oops.) Moved to the UK. Got a job with an MP who harassed her. Got a job with a different MP with generally awful politics. Dated her longtime friend Duffy. Broke up with him. Longed more for Kash. Had her friends try to set her up with her co-worker with no thoughts on how telling someone's coworker your friend is in love with them might create a hostile work environment. Decided to go for it with Kash. And get a job in the US. Kash said he'd go with. Then Kash decided to stay back. Then he was going with. Then Ainsley found out and was mad so Maya broke up with Kash but still moved to the US. Then she decided to run for office and hired her British co-worker because obviously politics everywhere are the same. And then finally Ainsley's boyfriend, who by the way met Maya once, was like hey maybe think about listening to your friend Maya who has been writing you letters for years. And so Ainsley forgave Maya and engineered for Kash to show up to declare himself to Maya. And Maya finally got some happiness. I still feel her happiness ratio was unfair.
Tony 2 never got to be just Tony but he did get to be a person, an actual gay Black person who turned out to be an immigrant with a thing for an MP who turned out to have plans to make a political deal to keep undocumented folks like himself out of the country. So he dumped his dude, but then dude proposed. And he said hi it's about more than me, so nope. And his MP made a speech. (In the hallway and not from the benches, have these people ever seen Parliament?) And he got citizenship and the MP of his heart. And yes, there did turn out to be gay people in the show. (Yay!)
And yes, I saved Zara for last. Zara, who seemed flighty and maybe not right for Craig. So he let her go. And then he crashed her dating reality show to show her he had realized the error of his ways. And then she hired a brand manager to figure out her legacy. And then decided her baby could be her legacy. And when her pregnancy reminded Craig he'd given up rights to his kid, she went to Julia herself. I honestly could have watched much, much, more of Julia, Craig, and Zara hanging out together and figuring out this co-parenting gig. They were such great examples of characters the show treated thoughtfully even when they made unexpected decisions.
Four weddings. One funeral. Technically no idea how Maya and Kash will work their London theater actor, US state rep life but let's pretend they worked that out. And that Ainsley got forgiven by everyone for engineering a scene in the middle of Gemma and Duffy's wedding.
Yep, that must be what happened.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. If you've ever wondered why women's restrooms often have lounges, here is the historical answer.  
2. You may have heard the internet was talking about chicken sandwiches a lot of late.  One woman tweeted that DC area folks had an excellent local option.  The tweet went viral.  They have granted her free chicken for life in thanks.  
3. The local cat cafe was a crossword clue.  

Monday, September 09, 2019

In Which I Handsold a Book to a Stranger

Or, alt title, 7 Things About Book Recommendations.
1. In some places on the web, I refer to myself as a book evangelist. I take this role somewhat seriously and nothing irritates me more than seeing someone ask for something fluffy and seeing people suggest Gone Girl. Thrillers and mysteries may be your happy place and there is nothing wrong with that. But unless someone says tell me the last thing you read and loved, book recommendations are not a free for all.
2. To expand further on the point, some people are proving they read, rather than providing a recommendation. I get it. We lead busy lives and the average reader reads five books a year. One of those five may not be the thing the person said they are looking for. You may not have great recall for things you read prior years. Ansd you may never have read the thing they are looking for. But you want to prove you read.You love reading.
3. Here's what you can do. You can reply and say, nothing like this comes to mind, but I'll keep an eye on this thread to see the recommendations. See, now you've contributed without muddying the recommendation list.
4. But this book I read is so good, you say. Cool. There are a million places designed for people to share things they love. You can start your own thread, write a review, compose a song
5. If you think you have something close, you can ask follow ups. Would you be open to this? 
6. So now we get back to the original premise. I was in the bookstore and my friend and I, who were both there for the romance book group, were looking at the romance display from Read a Romance Month. A lady heard us and said she'd recently read a romance, liked it and wanted suggestions. 
7. I started with a novella, figuring low commitment. She felt it was too short. She told me she the author she had read. They didn't have that author there but we went to the romance section and I suggested another. She was lukewarm. My friend picked up a recent read of hers and I said oh yes, these are characters of a similar age to what you had read, this should work. She stuck it right into her basket. 
Now I will possibly never see this lady again. But in many cases this is a friend or someone you interact with regularly. The idea is not to prove you read. The idea is to prove yourself a person who provides good recommendations. You don't want them to read a thing that wasn't what they signed on for. Nothing deflates happy book sharing joy faster.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1.  I have been mostly attempting to not give more air time to certain op ed columnists, but Feinberg at Slate took a look at multiple the times they used the op-ed column in to rail against what turned out to be a tiny slight experienced on the internet.  
2. This hyperlocal story of two men in my adjacent neighborhood who provide music for all of us to share was wonderful.  
3. Julie Murphy talked about how "The Little Mermaid"s Ursula loved herself, and what that meant.  

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

National Book Fest

I was at National Book Fest on Saturday for the first session, since Ellen Hagan and Renee Watson were there to read from and talk about Watch Us Rise. I went to see Victoria Schwab (it's possible, I knew her interviewer and cared half as much about that). She talked about revisiting a story you had written several stories ago and how you and what comes next had changed. 
Misa Suguira and Mitali Perkins talking about cultural representation and cultural stereotypes and writing about the effect of those on characters (and real people too). 
Ngozi Utaku talked about researching hockey and her interest, after creating a romantic pairing in showing how they carried on together. 
After that I snuck off for some book chat and some writing in an alcove before making my way back up for the poetry slam. Elizabeth Acevedo hosted this year, and this year they revealed the group's each pet was from ahead of time so that I could demonstrate hometown favoritism. As always, the first round was good, the second round was amazing. The women next to me burst into tears listening to one poem. 
I am always grateful I stayed for the poetry slam. 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

7 Things About Aloha to You

Hey, so, in case you haven't heard, my novella Aloha to You is now available at an etailer near you:
1. Seth is an aspiring journalist stuck in a job he doesn't like.  So he accepts the chance to do a fluffy interview with a woman who had a decent social media following.  Adriana is a DC-based lei maker who has crafted a life both on and off social media.  They have very different appoarches to life.  And they can't stop thinking about each other.  
2. The novella kicks off my City Complications series, but each story will feature it's own couple, so while their may be easter eggs that are more amusing to those who have read everything, feel free to start anywhere.  (Once the others are out.  Right now there's just one, so easy peasy.)
3. Content note:  This story contains a character dealing on page with anxiety and somewhat controlled panic attacks.  As always, it will not be the best story for everyone to read right now.  Also this one does contain on page sex.  
4. I have been accused of being contrary, which seems unfair and incorrect.  But the germ of an idea for this story did come to me as I was thinking how I would probably never write a royalty story because I'm not that interested in contemporary monarchies and then I realized I could write about someone who was self-declared princess on social media.  
5.  Another thing that will not surprise long time readers is that I really thing the world needs more stories about the people who live in DC who are not politicians.  So here you are, two folks, living in DC, making plans based on metro, and neither one of them is a politician.  
6.  I have a love/hate relationship with instagram myself.  But in thinking about what kind of people would really love Instagram or similar sites, and why they would find it a great and useful tool, I won't tell you I learned to love Instagram, but I appreciated why it's so popular with so many. 
7.  Also, if your brain is subject to hearing titles in song, and you hear Aloha to You to the tune of Michelle Branch's "Goodbye to You", well you are not alone.  If you don't, well, that's fine too.
Also, some of the folks I followed on Instagram for flower inspiration include @hakumaui, @helemelehi, @hawaiianleicompany, and @floraforager


Monday, August 26, 2019

Ripped Bodice Bingo - 2019

I participated in the Ripped Bodice's Summer Bingo again.  I tried to stick to books already in my TBR, but a few extra snuck in.  As always, some books counted for multiple categories (although obviously I picked only one when I submitted.)  No reviews here, although I've talked about one or two before and some may show up in my quarterly roundup.  It's alwasy a fun way to reorder the TBR, which is why I like doing this.  
Also warning, eloping is in quite a few cases a spoiler.  
Beach on the Cover - Hawaii Magic by Beverly Jenkins 
Next Door Neighbor - I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest, Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
Atheist - Somewhere Only We Know by Maureen Goo [technically Buddhist, but most Buddhists are atheists], One Life to Lose by Kris Ripper, As La Vista Turns by Kris Ripper 
Show Business - Crashed Into Her by Mia Sosa, Syncopation by Anna Zabo, Somewhere Only We Know by Maureen Goo, The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker 
Queer Paranormal - We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Assasins - (Had planned to finish Robin Lafevers Mortal Heart, did not quite complete it.) 
Eloping - Rebel by Beverly Jenkins, The One You Can't Forget by Roni Loren, Repeat by Kylie Scott
Takes Place in Multiple Countries - Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole, Red White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, Fly With Me by Hudson Lin, With the Fire on High, An Innocent to Tame the Italian by Caitlin Crews
Sassy Grandparent - With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo, Rebel by Beverly Jenkins, Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin, If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann
Heroine Smells Like a Flower - The Way to Game the Walk of Shame by Jenn P. Nguyen, The One You Can't Forget by Roni Loren, Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
Both Leads Over 50 - Fly With Me by Hudson Lin [their ages are not mentioned, I made an assumption that they could be]. 
Title Includes Character's Name - There's Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon, Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
Dragons - (Meredith Katz's Smoke Signals would have been great, had I not already read it.)
Kilts - Her Royal Higness by Rachel Hawkins
YA Historical (The Robin Lafevers also would have worked here. As would Robin Talley's Pulp, since it has a dual timeline.) 
Wine and Spirits - Crashing Into Her by Mia Sosa, As La Vista Turns by Kris Ripper 
Cowboys (Brenda Jackson and Mia Hopkins have some great cowboys.) 
Roadtrip - Polaris Rising by Jesse Mihalik, I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest
Epistolary - Red White and Royal Blue by Casey Mcquiston, The One You Can't Forget by Roni Loren
Royalty - Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole, Red White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Tarot - Hired by Zoey Castile
Someone Wears a Costume - Polaris Rising by Jesse Mihalik, Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
Prom - With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo, I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest
F/F Contemporary - Off Limits by Vanessa North, Her Royal Higness by Rachel Hawkins, As La Vista Turns by Kris Ripper

Tara Kennedy

~Memory feeds imagination. – Amy Tan

Friday, August 23, 2019

Book News: Aloha to You

Hey, Folks, I have a novella releasing next week!  It is the first in the City Complications series. 
Blurb and preorder links below, and also over in the books tab.  

Aloha to You -

Seth is an aspiring journalist stuck in a day job he hates. When he interviews a DC-based lei maker he finds himself drawn to Adriana's non-traditional approach to following her dreams. But will his doubts about her approach ultimately be their undoing?
Adriana's already learned the dangers of living a life partially on line. She has set up boundaries and routines to keep herself safe. But it turns out routine can get a little, well, routine. Will Seth be the perfect addition to her life, or further proof that trusting others always ends in tears?
Some people have to find their dreams, Some people make them.

Out 8/29/19.  Available for preorder at various etailers


Universal Link:

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. This overview of some of the actions Jewish people and their allies have been taking across the country to protest the concentration camps was interesting. If this, or the continuting TMT protests in Hawaii have not made it onto your news, consider diversifyng your news sources. 
2. It isn't quite Banned Books month, but this piece looked at how some authors are finding themselves uninvited, because their books might depict people. (These are middle grade books, so it's not racy actions of a character, just the presence of people.) 
3. DCist took a look at why two newish hotels in DC have radio stations

Monday, August 19, 2019


Saturday was Bookstore Romance Day. I went to both One More Page and East City Books before going on to my normal Saturday plans. One More Page had a scavenger hunt, mimosas, a prize wheel, scones, cotton candy, and snocones. It was some good stuff. 
East City had some events planned for later but I enjoyed stopping by and seeing romance displays. 
As someone said, indie bookstores have begun embracing romance, such that there were six local stores participating (and honestly there are three more that carry romance, not everyone participates in all the things). It was great to see displays, and fun, and bookstores bragging about their romance. I hope it becomes a regular thing. 

Friday, August 16, 2019

How Four Weddings and a Funeral Made Me Mad

I was intrigued at Hulu's "Four Weddings and a Funeral" mini-series and added it to the watchlist. The main group of friends is all American now, having landed in London (for the most part) after attending school there. 
It is clearly more reboot than remake, some of these characters are brown, non-Christian. It does appear so far, that they are all straight though. (There are some very secondary characters who might not be straight.) There is also no one who has a nickname that makes fun of their looks, which is nice.
Given the longer stretch of time, more time occurs between the weddings, which is interesting although is does somewhat take away from some of the fun of figuring out what happened to people between these stretches of time. 
The first episode Maya meets Kash at the airport only to later discover he is dating her friend Ainsley. Obviously that's a tough line, but one assumes fast forwards of time, other relationships this all gets worked out. 
We also have Duffy who's apparently been silently in love with Maya forever, Gemma - Ainsley's British best friend, and Craig who is dating a girl he doesn't treat very well, and has a secret. 
My anger came from the Maya storyline so I will focus there. 
It doesn't seem much of a spoiler - since it happens in the first episode - to tell you it takes until the wedding between Kash and Ainsley for Kash to realize that he's not on the track he wants to be so he bails (sadly mid-wedding). The show by then had worked hard to show Maya and Kash still having chemistry and likes in common. Here's where I will get more spoilery as we move into the third episode and on. 

Meanwhile Duffy decided to date someone who was great and listened to him and then decided life was short and dumped her and declared himself to Maya. Which sure. But where I went what now, was when Maya responded positively. Because the show had worked to demonstrate Maya's things in common and interest with Kash and had shown Duffy to pay particular attention to Maya but it had done nothing to make me believe Maya liked Duffy. Nothing. So it seemed like a fake speed bump so that when she and Kash saw each other again he couldn't ditch his girlfriend for Maya. 
Yes, we first met Maya involded in a relationship with a married man.  Yes, the show is telling us (and showing us) she has made bad decisions about men.  But somehow Duffy thinks he deserves her.  I'm not saying she's too good for him, she's not.  But the show seems to be treating Duffy's decision to toss aside the fellow teacher who read his 1400 page manuscript because she was nice but no spark as Duffy chasing his dream.  Whereas Maya dating Duffy and then ultimately deciding that it was nice but no spark because she realized she wasn't over Kash even though obviously he wasn't available to her, seems to be Maya continues to make bad decisions about men.  Even though she is actually trying very hard to make good decisions. 
I'm going to confess some of my anger about this - besides the idea that I honestly think you should shower jewels upon anyone who loves you enough to read your 1400 page manuscript.  (For those less clear on this, 1400 pages is about the size of three novels.  It is too long for one, even if it was an epic fantasy with a glossary in back which this is not.)  But, putting that to the side, I actually can tell that the show is planning to hook Duffy up with Gemma. So basically, I can already see who everyone is going to end up with, which is again a sign that the show knows how to signal these things to me when they want to and there was still no sign that Maya was going to respond to Duffy.  Not even a post-first hook up comment that for once she was dating a good guy.  
And Duffy has also gotten short shrift here, he is the character who longs, who notices that Maya hadn't attended a funeral since her mom's, that Ainsley was going to regret missing Craig's wedding, but he's also the guy who dumped a nice fellow teacher for lack of spark.  He made his students open his publishing letters. He decided a non-specific letter Maya wrote and then left in his jacket was to him even though it specifically said that things were complicated and that she knew wanting him was bad for her.  And look, I get it.  We'd all love to be a moment away from getting what we want.  But if that letter had been about him, then that would be him realizing that she thinks they should not be together but he should override her wishes.  And that's also gross.  
And in the end. I still feel this storyline gives Maya the shortest shrift.  Because Maya's the one who now can't make a choice that allows for her own happiness without having to hurt not one but two cast members who actually have only a limited say in her life choices.  Meanwhile another cast member got to handwave away a whole child.  (So far.)
So yeah, in the end everyone got what they wanted and needed.  But the framing of one character's journey made her look like more of a bad person than it needed to.  
I am still watching but the show is going to have to do some heavy lifting on both the Maya and Duffy fronts to redeem this for me. 

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. Apartment Therapy had a look into cultural appropriation in the world of home decor
2. Yeah, much like that xkcd comic, someone got "NULL" for their license plate, and well, messing with databases never ends well.  
3. Yelp and Grubhub, who I had not realized were under similar ownership, have added a service that appears to charge restaurants for phone calls.  

Monday, August 12, 2019

Books and Theater: Moulin Rouge

And finally, the book pairings I think share some thematic resonance with Moulin Rouge.  A particular caveat.  I do not read a whole lot from this particular time period, so I'm focusing on other aspects. 
Heidi Helig's For a Muse of Fire has theater, and performance, and trying to survive.  The story also includes ephemera including scripts of things that are happening. 
Lucy Parker's Act Like It has characters finding lines blurred between their stage relationship, their staged relationship, and their actual relationship. 
Rebekah Weatherspoon's Treasure remains a delight I continually recommend for the story of a stripper and the woman who can't keep her eyes off her, for it's discussion of artistic expression, class difference, and depression and what that means for your love life. 

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1.  R.O. Kwan talked about why she decided it was important to be visible as a bisexual
2. This story of the changing DC as seen through long time liquor stores is fascinating.  
3. This poem by Sarah Kay about how we reach out when there are tragedies, is haunting. 

Monday, August 05, 2019

No New Words

One of the more mundane things about having become the nation of mass shootings is running out if words. Technically I am never out of words, words are my jam. But having written multiple times about mass shootings, having expressed sadness that we as a nation have prioritized the rights of guns over the right to live, having talked about how there is no place, not work, not school, not places of worship, not places of shopping, not concerts, not picnics safe from guns, what else is there to say? I can say that I will continue to work to change this, that I remember life before the assault weapon ban lapsed and I can see the difference, count the friends I have lost, and the friends I have had to wait to hear they were okay. But I said that before. It's still true but it's of little comfort when we are still gathering the list of names from the last shooting as news of the next comes in. I used to be able to tell overseas friends that you could go your whole life without being touched by gun violence here. It required some privilege and some luck, but we have made it ever less possible, chipped away at both the privilege and the odds. The only tiny solace I have is knowing the list of people who are mad grows daily. The only comfort I can offer these latest loved ones is that I am still mad, I am still motivated, and I will keep working. 

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. I don't just like this primer on self-care at conferences because I'm in it, although it doesn't hurt.  But yeah, you can do all the things, or very few of the things, finding your best amount is key.  Along with some semblances of routine.  
2. Wendy the Superlibrarian has some thoughts on the recent Macmillan announcement about library lending restrictions. As someone who currently has six books out from the library in either e or audio right now, my library lending supplements my extensive bought books.  As I've said before, libraries kept me in books when my book budget was minimal, and now that it's less minimal, the books I borrow often turn into books I buy and recommend.  Less library books won't make me buy more, it will make me buy less because I won't have the lower risk option.  As book prices creep up, I can't buy as many as I could before.  Any libraries build and sustain readers.
3. 70 songs is the answer to how many songs and song snippets appear in "Moulin Rouge" the Broadway version.  This article takes a look at the clearance process. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

"Moulin Rouge" at the Al Hirschfeld Theater

Content warnings: gun use, suicidal ideation, terminal illness

"Moulin Rouge" is a show about an idealistic but penniless Bohemian sent to convince a courtesan to support a play who falls in love with her. The courtesan initially thinks he is the rich duke who is her latest client. When she is discovered with the artist, she convinces the duke they were practicing to demonstrate a show she wants him to patronize. Needless to say heartbreak and such follow as they try to not fall in love and put on this play that is starting to reflect the triangle they are engaged in. It is a jukebox musical turned up to eleven with songs remixed, re-jiggered and cut together. 
There is nothing subtle about this show, not the elephant, the windmill, the multitude of chandeliers, the lights or the sound. The pace is frenetic for most of it. And it is a great party for much of it. 
The cast is wonderful. It is a Broadway show where ear protection might not go amiss. There is great choreography and I personally think whoever had to work however many song clearances this show requires deserves special mention.
I saw a review quote outside the theater that mentioned the pace and thought, well that is a quote that tells me little. The pace is notable, it is not a relaxing show, it is a fun show to watch, even when things don't go well for everyone. 

Now, those who haven't seen the movie should stop reading now. And anyone who wants to be surprised. 

I don't usually post spoilers in reviews, however the changes are notable and it's hard to talk about them without being specific. In general if you liked the movie I think the musical just goes a little further. But if there are concerns, some changes have hopefully addressed those. If you hated the movie, hate mashup songs more than jukebox musicals, that's still what this is, so this show is still not for you. 

The basics of the movie remain the same. Latrec is not digitally shortened here, but the actor (who does not appear disabled, though I admit Latrec's specific injuries are hopefully much rarer these days) uses a cane and is referred to as short. 
The stakes are amplified. And Satine does sleep with the duke (which does mean the loss of one particular song from the movie - overall, there are more songs and song snippets added than lost though). The duke is not only supporting the show, but buying the club, and his opinion, all the employees. Satine is aware she is dying, and also made aware that the duke has been known to take specific revenge when his jealousy is roused. Instead of the Orpheus and Eurydice inspired breakup, Christian threatens his own life on stage, forcing Satine to break out their love song to make him stop. But she still dies in his arms. 

Monday, July 29, 2019

RWA 2019

It was a historic year. It was a step towards the progress of who we want to be. RWA went back to New York this year. New York is a fun, if expensive locale. 
Being there as a steering committee member, a chapter board member, and a chapter contest chair, meant I felt like many people. There were storms on Monday so Day of YA had a more leisurely start as one of our guests had their flight cancelled. Lisa Cron and Jennifer E. Smith spoke. There was an agent panel and a debut author panel. And we have out awards. 
Wednesday I went to the RWA AGM and a lot of people had concerns about chapter requirements. I also went to marketing things and the Diversity Listening session. Some great points were made about things RWA could work on, direction that chapters could use, and additions that could be made. Obviously sessions like that are self selecting, no one not interested in fixing things was there, but it is helpful. 
Thursday we had the PRO retreat and with the help of my committee (seriously, you guys, you don't want to know what I would have named our theme) we had a great list of topics and guests. We had the luncheon for the final Golden Heart crew. 
In addition to the chance to see some friends at new signings, or their first signings, and a few more workshops, and a lot of hanging in the bar, I also went to see "Moulin Rouge" which I will talk about separately. 
I spent a lot of time internally debating going to the RITAs. It's a flawed system, but since a few folks had gotten nominated, it was also potentially the year we might see history. And so I decided to go. They brought in trailblazers like Sandra Kitt and Radclyffe to talk. And we got to see two Black winners, and a South Asian winner. It was progress. We still have work to do. I still wouldn't point anyone to the list of finalists as representative of the past year in fiction and that means there is more to do. 
On the final day I helped at the registration desk, which I knew would mostly be answering questions. I heard the new plan for the Literacy signing meant it didn't feel like a madhouse, which thank goodness. 
Of course, now that I am back home, I can only think of all the people I didn't quite get a chance to chat with. But as I often try to remind myself, it is the best problem to have not getting to hang with all your faves. 
I ran into one friend right by the bathrooms on the final day and she kindly diverted right to a couch so we could chat. 
I want this for everyone. I want RWA to be a place where we all find more people than we can reasonably cram into a week. So that's what I'll keep working towards. 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. Some YA dystopian authors reflect on the current concentration camp situation
2. I confess, I am not over "Old Town Road" yet, (which fiven I lived through the endless weeks of "Everything I Do (I Do It For You)" dominating the charts to the point where it was years before I could hear the song again is interesting, but this look at all the things that led us to this moment is fascinating. Also, Lil Nas X does have other songs, and so far I find them similarly catchy and crossovery in different ways. 
3. This look into H&M and the family of the model involved in the sweatshirt controversy is fascinating as it looks at how even companies that think they are pretty far down the line on diversity can still have issues, and ways they can try to see and solve them sooner, and also how the models and such involved are often in tight spot.  

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

"The Farewell"

"The Farewell" is a movie about a Chinese American family that returns to China for a quickly planned wedding that is actually an excuse to gather the family as the matriarch has a terminal cancer diagnosis. The family has decided not to tell Nai Nai (as most of them call her) so she thinks they are all just there for the wedding. 
The movie looks at families, at lies, and at how when your family lives apart it feels like so much has changed every time you come back. I found it wonderful even if there were things I wish I had answers to, it is a love letter to families and the lies we tell to keep our loved ones from worrying. 
I saw a snippet of one review that called it an absurd premise, and I want to address that specifically. Personally, my family called me to tell me my grandfather died after his funeral. I was off in college, they figured it would be tough for me to get home, so just easier to let me focus on college and let me know later. 
I watched the Lorraine Hansberry documentary and yes, I was upset when I got to the part where her estranged husband and her doctor decided that telling her about her stomach cancer would only upset her, so they just didn't. (Also, it's a great documentary. If you prefer your non-fiction in book, Imani Perry, who also appears in the documentary, has Looking for Lorraine.)
So, there's these real life examples. Second, the movie addresses this. They tell the old story about the wife who tells her husband to soften the blow when telling her the cat died while she was away. They show lots of the little lies we routinely tell family because arguing long distance that you really don't need a hat never succeeds, so you just say, of course I'm wearing a hat. And when Billi asks Nai Nai what those sounds are (and they are the hospital announcements) she says oh, nothing. Throughout the movie the small lies we tell our family members, I'm fine, of course I quit smoking, and so on, come up. If you drank every time someone lied to a family member in this movie, it would be unsafe. 
But that's what I found so affecting and real about this movie. Yes, I'm American or individualistic enough that I can't imagine doing this. Yes, a doctor lying to their patient is now illegal in the US. But have I smiled and told my family everything was fine when I was worried about a job or various other things but didn't want to burden them with my worries? Of course I have. (Oh and if my family is reading, I am fine, and I am of course only talking about things that happened a really long time ago. Please don't worry.)
And in the end "The Farewell" does what a lot of stories do, takes something that depending on your background may seem unusual, places it squarely in the middle of a family event that is familiar across cultures. In the end it is about family members who love each other and don't want anyone to worry more than they have to. Nothing about that seems absurd to me. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Veronica Mars - The Spoiler Version

One of my formative mystery series was Robert B. Parker's Spencer series. Things in that version of Boston were bad. There were rich people, cops who were good and bad, a thriving mob, and a lot of grey. What noir mostly teaches you is that everyone is out for themselves, that you celebrate the small moments of justice because they are rare. And that often the people you thought you were helping have bigger secrets of their own to protect. 
It's hard to keep friends, it's hard to gain family. And even if you do, friends and family become a thing they can use against you. 
When we first met Veronica Mars her mom had disappeared, her best friend had been murdered, and she been roofied and assaulted. She had lost friends and social status. She didn't always do the right thing, but you understood that she was focused on writing wrongs. Wallace called her a marshmallow. Meg told her she might want to think about forgiveness. This came up again and again. Veronica is bad at forgiving. 
In mystery, as in many long running series, stasis is the enemy. No one is safe, not even the spouses. It sounds braggy to say I watched the whole series expecting one of the three credited cast members to die. I confess, I felt pretty sure for much of it that it would be Keith. That is until the wedding actually happened. People often mock the guaranteed happy or optimistic ending in romance. But part of the reason I think so many genre readers crave it is that moments of happiness in so much of the rest of fiction are harbingers of doom. I've watched fictional spouse die a day after the case was solved enough that I knew. The second the wedding finished I braced myself. 
One of the things noir and Neptune often do is not just give you red herrings, but there are so many legitimately bad people, each operating on their own set of rules, that the question isn't who is the baddie, it's how many can you stop?
I made it through the first three seasons of "Veronica Mars" only having loyalty to Veronica. I wanted her to find love and happiness, but learned early on, along with Veronica that it was fleeting. Your first love may dump you in case you're related. Your next might be using you to make his escape. And after that people over and over may never quite be what they seem. So I loved Logan when Veronica did, and thought she should dump him when she did. 
Military hero Logan, been seeing a therapist Logan, I was okay with Veronica marrying him. And God I hate Neptune for taking him away from her. Yes, Veronica is a marshmallow maybe, but gooey is not a state she gets to rest in. And it's hard to make friends who don't understand why you have to consider their possible murder status. Veronica has known the world was full of evildoers for quite some time. That the people you like and admire are just as likely to be untrustworthy. But it's hard to make friends like that. It's hard to love like that. Which is why it's more heartbreaking when it's taken away. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Veronica Mars Messed Up My Weekend Plans

I mean, sure, I hadn't quite figured out how I was going to watch and do everything I had planned for next week but dropping a season while I am waiting for a water taxi is just not cool. Except it is.
The irony is that one of the things I like about Hulu's programming is that in most cases they drop it on a weekly schedule. I am less likely to binge, the person who hasn't even finished "Shrill".
But this I watched. Not all at once partly because I do like sleep and partly because as much as I like TV, I like people to and had some plans over the weekend. 
So the show. One critic I saw mentioned so many reboots try to start right where the show left off. Sure the age of the actors affected the choices here but things have moved forward in Neptune. You know, except for still being a corrupt cesspool. Oh also, it's a show about adults now. There's sex, there's swearing, there's more overt racism, and there's bombings and beheadings. I mean sure, this was a show with rape and murder as the overarching storyline of it's first season, but it definitely feels like a show on a different channel. Also, in the prior seasons, most of our scenes involved a member of the Mars family. The camera follows more people here, we get scenes without the Mars family more often. Neptune is still a town of grey, the nuance, the world where it seems like justice is elusive and everyone over or underreacts. Except of course, it seems more normal there. Neptune wasn't predictive it was reflective. 
I love Veronica even when she does things I think are just a little much. (Not the tasing. I love the tasing.) At its core Veronica Mars the show has always been about a world stacked against people, and the small attempts that can be made to get some form of justice, even as you know the ones with the power will top the balance again. And even though our main characters are no longer teenagers, the show still respects teenagers, well - some of them, as people. 
The show is imperfect, and gosh could I really do without prison rape and suicide jokes made by the people I'm rooting for. The issues of representation and treatment of characters of color in the prior seasons remain largely unchanged here. But I am glad to have it back, glad to revisit Neptune, glad to have the chance to laugh, shudder, and have my heart be stomped on. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. This medium post by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein talks about the effects of seeing violent policing during protest on children, and asks that the astronomy community reconsider the planned placement of the TMT on Mauna Kea.  
2. This humor column imagines if people spoke about other professions the way they speak of writing
3. We used to get the Northwest Current delivered to our house growing up.  It was hyperlocal, in ways the Washington Post wasn't.  I still miss the days of hyperlocal blogs, the ones that remain have either broadened their focus, or slowed their posting. Journalism is changing rapidly and I don't have the answer, but the Current did a useful thing for a long time and will be missed. This look at it's history and it's downfall is fascinating. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

B&T - Books and Theater

So, because I am a person who likes connections, I am going to try to come up with a few books that I think share some thematic resonance with plays I see. Since last week I saw "Ann", we will start with that. 
Ellen Emerson White's The President's Daughter - thematic connection - female politician - This is a YA contemporary that I read as a teen.  It is from the perspective, as the title suggests of the daughter of the first female president, and the various changes and issues associated with that.  There is some smooching. 
Casey Mcquiston's Red White and Royal Blue - thematic connection - Texas female politician - I've talked about this book before, it's a college aged contemporary about a child of a female president, although this time the son, and there is much more than smooching with a certain prince. 
Aminah Mae Safi's Tell Me How You Really Feel - thematic connection - difficult woman - Also YA contemporary, it involves an enemies to lovers (although more, she mostly hates me but I can't help my terrible crush anyway, wait maybe not totally hate) with two high school seniors who, it seems by the dedication were inspired by Paris and Rory from the "Gilmore Girls".  

Monday, July 15, 2019

"Ann" at Arena Stage

Content warnings: Now dated language regarding certain ethnicities, erratic workplace depictions, discussions of sexual assault and child abuse, and a joke about Arkansas that I imagine Arkansans are quite tired of. 
I saw a preview night of "Ann". It is a one woman show about Ann Richards, one time governor of Texas that covers her ride to governor and some of the work she did after. 
It includes some of her relationship with her family, her coworkers, and Bill Clinton. There is some discussion of her stance on reproductive rights, sensible gun control, welfare reform, and even coverage of a stay of execution. 
I think whether you learn anything new about Ann Richards is a function of what you knew going in. I confess I don't know that I specifically knew she was what we often call a difficult boss, but to wasn't surprising. The show attempts to look at her nonstop pace as something that infiltrated all areas, and tries to also show that she was a great grandmother, and a caring but tough parent. Some of the issues get more time, her welfare reform is barely mentioned and she states going to school in California as a kid just made her racism float clean away. In fairness, I am pretty sure that's what Ann thought and so it is entirely true to the character. 
Overall, it was interesting and kudos to Jayne Atkinson, while there is an intermission, it's a long time on stage. 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1.  With recognition that there are many things that may to me - child reader of Born Free and other such things seem like common knowledge, and not to others, here is how lion prides work.  Just to clarify, no one is saying "The Lion King" can't exist or be enjoyed, just that knowing it is not a reliable source on lions is helpful.  (I have also never encountered a singing bug.  Which I would be into.  Just saying.  Singing bugs are definitely better and non-singing bugs.) 
2. This discussion with George Takei looks at how Americans have always tried to change the language around the concentration camps we make here, to make them seem less terrible. 
3. Moira Donegan talked about how a generation after Title IX we are seeing the fruits of it with things like the dominant women's soccer team. My girls high school has an alumnae award for athletes and even those who have gone on to be doctors and other leaders have talked about the skills for teamwork towards a common goal that sports provided.  Winning athletes is a small part of the rewards we have seen.  Oh also, pay them.  Pay the women.   

Monday, July 08, 2019

Code Switch's The Original Welfare Queen

Code Switch's episode about The Original 'Welfare Queen' is fascinating for a number of reasons.  It's always fascinating to do a deep dive into the story behind someone who became an avatar for something, the echoes of which are still felt today.  As a white-passing multi-racial person who has thoughts about the way the census has traditionally allowed folks to identify themselves, the idea that Linda Taylor was listed at one point as white, and another as Hawaiian, that part of the story about her was that she was planning a vacation to Hawaii struck a chord.  When my grandmother in Hawaii died, I had to think about how to frame this for my co-workers.  I was of course going to take several days off of work to attend her funeral.  Obviously, I wasn't going to spend an entire day traveling across the country only to fly out one day later, I was going to take this sad excuse to reconnect with family that I rarely get to see.  But yeah, I knew that folks were going to be like, uh-huh, sure, your grandmother died and you're going on a Hawaiian vacation.  Because we forget that people live in these places that signal vacation to so many.  
None of this is to say that Linda Taylor was a great person, or that she deserves more sympathy.  As the episode makes clear, she was not a great person, and she was using a lot of people and did a lot of not great things.  She probably was not using her trip to connect with family for good reasons.  But again, this part of her story, along with the implication that she was a representative example of the poor people using welfare, were examples of how we make use of certain assumptions to mislead people.  Of course the easiest way to fix welfare would be to raise the minimum wage. Or change welfare to universal basic income.  But it's much more fun to otherize folks on welfare and convince people that only users need welfare.  
And of course, as the episode points out, even the good stories, are often smoothed out for public consumption.