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.  

Friday, July 05, 2019

Revisiting "ER" - Again With This

And then I got to episode 5. Yeah, the thing I had suppressed about "ER" was its generally crappy treatment (no pun intended) of sexually transmitted infections. They generally happen to sluts, girls who like sex and are demonstrably unchoosy in their partners. Their male partners get them because they have made bad decisions, lured in by the siren. I remembered the horrible HIPAA violation episode much later in the series, also involving a male doctor who got involved with a female patient. I had forgotten that a variation of this played out with Carter in the first season, where a girl with sexy poison ivy apparently felt so magically cured by Carter she wanted to test the healing of her sensitive parts right away. 
Also in episode 5, Doug shows up at a patient's home in a move I'm sure I found caring the first time around and now find a little concerning. 
Overall the series is still wonderful. The echoes of how fast every show with medical stuff is now is all over film and TV. But wow, time and perspective don't always make everything better. 

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. The Onion has some tips for civility in discussing child prisons
2. Sue Bird wrote a piece about watching your girlfriend compete and discovering the President has something to say about it. (Warning: Title contains some starred language.)
3. The "Be More Chill" cast did a Tiny Desk concert.  

Monday, July 01, 2019

Books - A Second Quarter Round Up

April to June had some travel (which is both good and bad for my reading - airports and airplanes, yay, jetlag boo) and my deeply ingrained sense that there is no new TV once it gets light in the evenings (even though yes, TV does not really work like that now) and so I must entertain myself with books.  With an attempt to not just pick the next in the series for some of the first quarter picks, here we are.  
The Hungry Hearts anthology - edited by Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung Richmond has some great stories all set in a fictional town with a great batch of restaurants and food.  The stories range from sweet love stories, to ghosts and mobs and murder.  It will make you hungry and show how food is such a great connecting force. 
Elizabeth Acevedo's With the Fire on High - was an excellent audio read.  (I have it in other forms too, but the audio is awesome).  It's a story about a teen mom, but it also isn't.  Emoni is a teen mom, and that fact permeates everything she does, but it is is many ways a story about figuring out the options available to you in this world be they new courses, or new cute students.  
Olga Bicos' Perfect Timing - was a re-read for me.  A Twitter convo had me digging it out.  The book is romantic suspense, and does some odd things, including an alien subplot I had entirely forgotten.  But the plane discussions are as awesome as I had remembered, and the reunited so we can solve this case but of course never getting back together, okay, fine, maybe kind of, was also as good as I remembered. 
Blair Braverman's Welcome to the Goddamn Icecube is a travel memoir, looking at journeys to cold places.  But it was an interesting reminder of how so many travel memoirs are about folks who get to travel without worry.  Not always an easy read, but Braverman's frankness about the challenges of facing those moments where you know nothing has happened to you yet, but it might, and how tough that can be to communicate to others, made it a memoir that seemed truer to me than some others I have read. 
Hudson Lin's Fly With Me is a great novella about flight attendants who become more than friends.  
Jessie Mihalik's Polaris Rising was recommended to me several times before I finally decided to give it a shot.  Sci-fi is often far more interested in the bits of climate or the operation of space doors than I am.  Polaris Rising is for me, a delightful on the run, maybe my fellow prisoner wants to help me escape not just this ship, but the even bigger group chasing me story that just happens to involve interplanetary escape.  It was great.  I have marked the arrival of the next story on my book calendar.  
Nisha Sharma's My So-Called Bollywood Life was a fun story about a girl who is just trying to get through senior year being co-president of the film club with her ex, no boys, no distractions, but of course there is a boy, and well.  It was pointed out to me later that it bears some similarities to Sandhya Menon's From Twinkle With Love, which I also read and enjoyed and had not really noticed the similarities.  So if you like one, the other is likely your kind of thing too.  
Anna Zabo's Syncopation is a new band member joining after another leaves following a video being posted online making it look like the lead singer is violent.  It involves some kink and everything about the two characters love of music as they learned to appreciate each other was really wonderful.  

Friday, June 28, 2019

One Year Later

It has been one year since the Capital Gazette shooting. Social media creates memories for you which can cheer and of course in some cases cut. Because nothing is different. We haven't made it safer to be a journalist, we haven't made it safer to be a student, a movie goer, or a church goer. I, in fact, spent Thursday at a church event where there was extra security so we could discuss the murder of man over fifty years ago who had participated in a protest in part spurred by a police shooting. The "White Lies" podcast looked at the systems protecting such things and I think therein lies the problem. While the person who shot the woman I worked with is going to trial, the systems in place, the things that have us treating each episode of gun violence as an aberration remain. I have not forgotten Wendi. I have not forgotten the others lost to gun violence. And I will keep working. 

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. A  Canadian child did science and determined that several hand dryers are louder than toys are allowed to be, and typically louder at child height, which most manufacturers do not measure for. 
2. This delightful piece about Megan Rapinoe also contains the best description of teamwork I think I have ever read.  
3. An article about modern YA and Twitter that captured things quite well. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

Revisiting an Old Fave - ER

Hulu has had the complete series of "ER" for a while. I turned it back on and realized a few things. Anytime you revisit the start of a series its a reset. You the viewer now know tons of things about the characters that you didn't at the beginning. But in this case, I suspect the biggest change might be me. See, at the time "ER" started I was closer in age to Dr. Carter, our new med student who actually doesn't even show up until about halfway through the episode. He seemed kind and well willing to learn and so my sympathies went to him. My vague recollection is that I thought of Dr. Benton as arrogant, but eventually revealed to be a marshmallow. In fact Dr. Benton - while yes, not lacking in confidence - is quite reasonable to Carter. When Carter reveals minimal skills, he puts him on some easier stuff and even guides him through the first one. Benton's not super kind when Carter gets a little nauseous, but ultimately let's it go. 
So it was nice to revisit but wow, I was not expecting some life stage evaluation along with it. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. Marjorie M. Liu's story about how Keanu Reeves is blasting through some stereotypes was fascinating. (Also, was one of the first things I watched with my Netflix trial "Always Be My Maybe"?  Yes, yes, it was.) Note: the headline contains an ableist word that is not repeated in the text.  
2. I've been catching up on "Grownish" and so got to the episode about sober consent and paused it because yeah, it already seemed problematic.  "Grownish" does some great stuff, and I like it.  But whew, as this article points out, first they used a non-assault as the jumping off point, which come on, US college campuses have plenty of real assaults. "Grownish" and it's predecessor "Blackish" often get to a good place by the end of the episode, but wow, sometimes the haha why be sober parts go on a little too long before you get there. 
3. Parenting advice columns are not a place I frequent, but this one has two incredibly thoughtful answers, one about bedtimes and one about being trying to raise your white kids to treat the brown kid in class thoughtfully. 

Monday, June 17, 2019

Widening the Frame - Samoan Citizenship

The "Americanish" episode of "Radiolab" was very well researched, and covered many of the basic issues concerning the current state of citizenship for Samoans, as you might expect of Radiolab. And yet. While I highly recommend the episode, the crux is this. Folks born in Samoa are in the unique position of being considered born on US soil, and yet are not US citizens, they are considered US nationals, but not citizens.  There is a case making it's way through the courts to change this.  And people in Samoa are conflicted.  After talking to a lot of people about why, including those who pointed to Hawaii as an example of places where the land is now in many cases not owned by Hawaiians anymore, and how being under the aegis of the US Constitution would mean that they would likely be unable to restrict land being sold or inherited by folks not of Samoan descent, the reporter still seemed really confused as to why people would be concerned. They ended the piece with the lawyer representing the person suing for citizenship, who said well it really comes down to do you trust your government.  And I finished the episode thinking well, yes, that's exactly it.  
Because of course when it comes to the people who were already here, the people indigenous to this land, be they members of the hundreds on nations in the continental US, be it Alaskan native, Hawaiian, Puerto Ricans, the folks in what is now Texas, the record of the United States is not just a little flawed.  Time and time again, the United States violated treaties, overthrew governments, made and broke deals, and overall has proven itself incredibly untrustworthy.  The reporter also kept saying things like, but what if the land could be preserved, and look, I am not a lawyer or a real estate expert, but the only thing I could think of that would allow Samoans to maintain a land can only be owned based on heritage rule is if something like what we did with reservations was set up.  And off the top of my head, we have taken back reservations when they turned out to be located in places that were advantageous to us, despite tribe members having the Supreme Court on their side, we have made particular efforts to steal their children and raise them outside of community traditions, we have decided that because tribes don't get US mail, then tribal citizens may not be able to vote, oh right, and apparently one store chain tried to argue that it wasn't illegal for white people to sexually abuse people on tribal land.  You may think those examples are from hundreds of years ago, but they aren't.  
I obviously don't have the answer for what choice Samoa should make.  As someone who lives in another special exception in the US, I have been fighting for enfranchisement, but in the case of DC, our pro/con list is a little different.  Our citizens are already subject to the US Constitution, we just can't vote for the people who can change the Constitution, and Congress continually tries to interfere in our local governance. So in the end I wasn't surprised to find some Samoans don't think full citizenship will provide as much as it will take away. 

Friday, June 14, 2019

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

I was back on "Let's Go Steal a Podcast" to talkie about "The Studio Job" aka "Leverage"s foray into country music. 

Monday, June 10, 2019

When the Reading Pickypants Takes a Break

There's sort of a surreal thing that happens when you read something that contains things you have snarled on lesser books for and yet you still like it. On the one hand it seems petty to quibble, if you liked something then you liked something. On the other hand I feel like people who know me, who have perhaps heard me rant about the lack of the bridge in "Braveheart" or my always ready discussion of the geography problems in "True Lies" are aware that there are some things I cannot get over. When I say all of this stuff is either wrong or unexplained but I liked it, I don't mean I found myself unable to enjoy it, I mean I enjoyed it and these things are still true. 
So here I am to talk about two different royal books. Rachel Hawkins Prince Charming - which takes place in a fake version of Scotland for reasons the text never fully explains. And Casey Mcquiston's Red, White, and Royal Blue which takes place primarily in DC and involves a Prince of England (just England, no apparent mention of the rest of the UK).
Now both books use single POV, so we are primarily in the head of the American so you could argue the lack of knowledge about the state of things is because Americans generally don't understand that England and the UK are not interchangeable terms. And yes, Hawkins says she did a ton of behind the scenes worldbuilding as to why in her book the Scotland royalty is separate and I have not yet read the sequel and maybe that info is there, but it is not in the first book. 
Also Red, White, and Royal Blue has the president's kids going for a jog around the Reflecting Pool which I found hilarious (I have no idea how the Secret Service handles jogging needs, but feel certain touristy areas are frowned upon) and also, I am not a person who jogs, but the Reflecting Pool is not that big and would seem to be incredibly tedious. 
So all of that is to say I enjoyed these books, I had fun, I laughed, and I basically treated both of them the same in my head, as if they took place in highly fictionalized versions of the places they claimed to take place in because yeah. 
Both involve fake relationships to cover things that would not be allowed, and both involve people dealing with family and public lives and how to find some semblance of who you want to be within  and outside of the public image. And while most of us are never going to be royalty or presidential children, those are pretty universal themes even if my life choices seem less likely to show up in a gossip magazine. 

Friday, June 07, 2019

Update on "Fosse/Verdon"

CW: Suicidal Ideation. 
Here's the thing. I finished "Fosse/Verdon". It's not a happy story. They are playing around with time in ways I can't decide if it ends up being more interesting than distracting. The Michelle Williams performance is captivating. Even when it's her washing dishes with a phone to her ear. Is it still a tale of a misunderstood genius who probably betrayed everyone in his life at least once and the folks married to him like billions of times? Oh hell yeah. 
I should mention I have a fondness for a number of the Fosse musicals. But "Pippin" was one my parents loved, had the cast album, rented a video taped version, there is no part of that show I can't sing today. (Okay, like two parts.)
Well, "Pippin" is a show about a dude who is sure he is destined for greatness, feels his life is too ordinary, and tries to fix it. Love doesn't work. War doesn't work. Suicide is suggested and right before the end Pippin realizes nope, love was all I needed and bails out. Using the themes, the songs, the razzmatazz, of all that as bits throughout the action was incredibly powerful. And yet, other episodes they have held back, done teases, but not all the way. I think some of this is he was having a breakdown so they could go all in, but in the end, I think this will be the episode that stood out, because they went all in thematically. And because watching Fosse's daughter sing a haunting "I Guess I'll Miss the Man" is kind of what this whole show is - a study of man who was quite awful and yet better than others. 

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. Most people.  I wrote a thesis in college on a thing that I now chat with people occasionally at parties about. This woman, I dethroned a long running "Jeopardy" champion after studying clues for years, including for my capstone. 
2. This reflection on miscarriage is a reminder that abortion is not a set procedure it is a set of health care protocols and procedures that are used by many. 
3. I enjoyed this piece on how Liv Tyler deserves justice from space

Monday, June 03, 2019

The Sweater is not a Metaphor, Probably

I cast on last week for a sweater using a type of yarn I'd used before. The prior seater went super fast. It helped that it is aran yarn, although made of light materials, had a lot of stockinette, but just enough lace to keep me from being bored. And the progress on the body went so fast that I zoomed through the sleeves. 
So I went into this one with high expectations for myself. It started with lace shoulder panels, those went fast, as things knit on 9's that are only 16 stitches wide tend to. I picked up the edges, did some short rows, got everything added and joined to start working in the round. And then, I started to wonder. Was it too big? It's an oversized sweater, so it's a question without a clear answer. I kept trying it on, but the yarn is so sloppy that it invariably fell off the needles when I tried. I was theoretically making progress, working quickly through the yarn balls and yet, it seemed wide. I reassured myself that things often come together once you're farther along and can better see the shape. That if it had taken Just over a week to get this far, if I had to rip back, it wouldn't take too long. And yet every time I picked it up, continuing to knit felt futile. Like denial. And I tried to figure out was it really the sweater bugging me or was it bigger stuff. Other things that felt stuck, going through the motions in the same pattern magically hoping for a last no ore reveal? And I have to tell you, I don't really have the answer to that yet. But I did cast on a new shawl. 

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. The entirety of #RomBkLove fills me with joy, but Corey's lists in particular are always filled with great books I have and hove not yet read.  
2. Judith Viorst is 90 and has some thoughts on liking where you are
3. Jackie Lau talks about what she looks for and also strives for in representation of biracial characters in romance

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Remembrances and Long Weekends

I don't know that any of my relative fought in the Civil War.  The Hawaiian side of the family was clearly in place, but not yet USian.  I have some other European descended relations who I know did some missionary type things in the New England area, and some relatives who ended up in Oregon in the early 1900's. Their location and activities in the 1800's are not currently known to me.  
I do know that my great grandfather wrote editorials in opposition to the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920's, and I know I have had relatives involved in World War II, the Vietnam War, and some of the more recent non-war war stuff we do these days.  As far as I am aware, none of them died directly in the war, although certainly one died much younger than we would have hoped.  
Memorial Day has expanded it's reach and purpose these days, but started as a decoration day of sorts, after the Civil War created a lot of dead soldiers who needed proper burial.  
And growing up, Memorial Day became a weekend we often went to visit friends and family in Connecticut.  A day associated with long car rides, to arrive to weather that always felt a little cooler than I expected in Connecticut, and involved things like tennis (usually watching on my part) and the sounds and smells of salt water and trains.  
This year I stayed in DC, celebrated a birthday with a friend, and cuddled cats at the cat cafe with other friends.  So there was food, several kinds of ice cream, cats, yarn, and various iced drinks.  It was good. 

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.)