Thursday, January 28, 2021

Three Interesting Things

1. In pre-pandemic times, Robin Bell sometimes chose spots in my neighborhood for his projections.  I enjoyed coming upon them in the wild, but began following him so that if it was more of a flash projection, I could get a chance to see it.  This piece on what his plans are now, and how projections have shifted his art, was fascinating.  
2. My understanding is that other activists not mentioned in this piece were also pushing for the Inaugural rental restrictions, but I think it highlights some ways that consumers can push corporations to do better. 
3. And this piece from December looks at Patreon and how brands need to have a plan for when (not if, sadly) their users engage in bad behavior.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Progress is Still Progress

There are a couple of things I try to remind myself and sometimes it's easy to let one take over the other. I remember some British politician (I have no recollection of her name) saying that when people say, oh they just want a woman on the committee as window dressing, it may be true, but if they didn't think they needed window dressing before it's still progress. 
On an organizing call I was on last year, one of the organizers reminded us to be bold, to take advantage and ask for all the things we wanted. 
Now of course, some of this is good negotiation. There's one shoe store that deliberately puts spendy shoes near the door so that even if your knee jerk reaction is, I would never spend that much, the tendency is to reset the amount you think is reasonable up a few notches. 
The same happens with social justice and other forms of progress. It's why things like internment camps go from that thing you thought you would never accept to something that is very bad that you hope somebody fixes someday when they have a moment. 
So when things happen that are part of what you want, it can be easy to focus on the parts you didn't get and forget to celebrate and appreciate those you did. 
Yarn Harlot did a post once about how yarn people are often very good about understanding incremental progress. And I think this applies to writers too. Word by word, stitch by stitch, you build something. 
So, it is in this spirit that I recognize the conflicting feelings of both finally and it's not enough, not yet, with the installation of Kamala Harris into the role of Vice President. The first woman, the first woman of color, the first Black woman, the first Asian American woman, and the second BIPOC vice president for our country.  One of the odd things about being the multiracial multicultural person is growing accustomed to seeing parts of you making firsts. Woman having been running for President and Vice President since before I was born.  We have more work to do, but this moment is still one to behold.  

Monday, January 25, 2021

2020 Reading Tally

171 books.   Not my highest year, but a good showing.
7 were novellas. 4 were rereads.  
Other years of extensive reading data analysis here, here, here, and also here and here. .  
135 authors.
Oldest book read was from 1994 - a book club "classic" read choice.  
90 were from 2020, so I was somewhat impressively current.  (Somewhat because books don't go stale.)
68 were new to me authors.  This is always true, but in 2020 in particular new to me included people I've followed for years on Twitter who had a book finally released and/or people who've already won multiple awards. So new to me is not always debut, and debut means many things these days.  
Most read was a three way split between Jackie Lau/Laura Jardine, Jessie Mihalik, and Rebekah Weatherspoon at 4 each.  Did it help some of these were novellas or rereads?  I'm guessing yes.
February was the least productive reading month with 8 finished. October - where I had a staycation week - I completed 23.  (Not all of those were started in October.)  
5 rereads.  
3 paper books. 37 audio. Remainder were e.  
51 were library books.  Shout out to the local library systems that made online renewal or reupping easy.  
73 romance, 54 ya.  
Contemporary is still my jam, although I did read some fascinating ones that blended magic and folklore this year.
By my likely flawed count about 80 of these books were own voices for at least part of the traditionally marginalized characteristics that the characters represented.  
And I decided that I wasn't going to pick a best of the best.  But if you want to review some of my faves that I read last year, the quarterly roundups are here, here, here, and here.  

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Three Interesting Things

1. I listened to part of the Inauguration on a radio app, so it wasn't until social media showed me Senator Sanders and his mittens, that I caught that.  This story of the constituent who decided Sanders needed warm mittens for the campaign is adorable.  And as any crafter will tell you, there is no better proof of how beloved an item is, than seeing it used well after the gifting.  
2. I apologize for losing track of the author of the piece, but if you or someone you know contracts COVID -  here's a handy list of suggestions - available in several languages - that was put together by some folks.  Obviously not a substitute for medical advice, but helpful.  
3. As a tea aficionado, this peek into the life of a tea taster was fascinating.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

4 Years Ago

4 years ago-ish I marched in the Women's March.  Yes, it turns out some of the leadership has proven imperfect.  But I had spent much of the previous year watching as people tried to tell me Trump wouldn't ever get elected, that if he did he only meant half the things he said, and that honestly both candidates were bad, and people died under every president (yes, someone actually said that to me) so this would hardly be that different.  
I mention this not to be right, although I am still a little mad that so many people, even after so many examples of how not alarmist I was, tried to tell me to just wait and see.  That the experts who were so wrong, maintain good jobs, portending to predict new things. And the experts who were right are not the experts we rely on.   
And here we are, four years later, and my city, the place where I was born, is under partial military rule.  What's fun about that is that plenty of people who just got here for jobs, or who left here but used to be here, have all positioned themselves as experts on what that means.  Some of them are sure we are very grateful to have so many soldiers keeping us safe.  And look, I am one hundred percent against insurrection, but the idea that flooding my city with soldiers makes things safe is something only people who aren't here and/or who are sure the soldiers will all assume they are a good person, can happily say.  I am incredibly lucky that I am outside the zone, that I can work, read, hunker down, and even run get groceries or other supplies without crossing the zone.  
But it's fascinating how some people are fine with border walls, when it's somewhere they don't need to go.  
I was talking with one person about how of course, they cordoned off parts of the city for Inaugurations (and other reasons) before.  They've done ID checks for people to cross through neighborhoods before.  (Officially, they are not supposed to be doing ID checks right now. But...) Of course, I spent a lot of time after the 2017 Inauguration, trying to find why the security fencing was up for months,  And as many have pointed out, if parts of the city can be walled off, then maybe those parts aren't our city. (People with voting members of Congress, always a good time to remind them you support DC statehood.) 
4 years ago-ish, I spoke to an off duty reporter who was worried that liberals feeling like the oppressed minority would make them more susceptible to false stories. I haven't seen that much.  But I have seen people become really comfortable with things like ID checks and border walls when it's to protect what they perceive as their people.  I have seen people - and look, pandemic plus news cycle - it's hard on all our brains.  But I have seen people literally forget that we are still running internment camps.  I have seen people say wow, I can't believe the world is watching us be embarrassing like this.  As if embarrassment was the problem.  And also as if anything we've done in the last four years encompasses the most embarrassing things we've done.  
Oh gosh, this started off all retrospective and ended up here.  So all of this is to say, I will not be marching around or near the Inauguration this year.  But not because they picked the guy I liked better this time.  Because between violence and the pandemic we have literally allowed this to get to a place where it is unsafe for me to do so.  I hope things change under the new administration. And I am ready to keep reaching out to my electeds to push us towards a better future. 
But I also hope more folks think about how we can move this country in a direction where it takes something less than the attempted assasination of multiple of our elected leaders for us to realize that some folks are dangerous.    

Friday, January 15, 2021

4Q Reading Roundup

Is posted over on the substack, with Bookshop links.  

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Three Interesting Things

1. As I watched a bakery that ended up on the edge of the newly expanded security perimeter try to update their social media to explain to customers how to pick up their orders, this piece about both the concern and disruption of being a DC resident in these times spoke to me. 
2. Kojo Nnamdi announced he's stepping down from a 5 days a week schedule, and while no one deserves it more, and I look forward to seeing how WAMU fills the gaping hole this will leave, it is also the end of an era..  
3. This post from the team at Tom Bihn about bag design I think speaks to other creatives.  Some ideas that seem great fade.  Some turn out to be impossible to replicate.  There will often be more ideas than time, so prioritization happens.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

"I Hate It Here" at Studio Theater

Content notes: strong language, toxic workplaces, references to death, sexual harassment, the pandemic, police brutality, and racist assault.

Told in vignettes with the occasional musical interludes as an audio play, this story is, well it's about feeling stuck in the crappy timeline. Economically depressed RVers, folks grappling with moral dilemmas, and folks figuring out how to get by when presented with a series of suboptimal choices. 
Like many vignette style stories, there are thematic links but is also feels like a bit of a trap to try and find too many links. One could say the linkage is in the eye of the beholder.
I confess I think the first few minutes start strong and you will quickly know if this is your kind of thing or not. 
If you are good at voices, you may spot voices as they reappear in later vignettes. Much like with onstage performances, the story moves fast enough that it's easy enough to look that up later.  
I did try to stay near my device and focus hard, but the call of distractions is strong when surrounded by all your things.  Audio plays obviously live or die on the spoken word, but the dialogue here was especially rich even when profane.  The sound mixing was stellar.  
Available for free through March 7th, 2021.  

Monday, January 11, 2021

Who Has the Super Suit This Week?

I keep thinking about that scene from "The Incredibles". The where is my super suit scene. Because of course its a play on a number of things. 
There's a call back to sitcom spouses (usually wives, and "The Incredibles in very interested in retro-futuristic gender binaries) who are more worried about how things look and get mad when their spouse lets work intervene.  
But right now I keep thinking about how if you live in a world where robot villains show up on the regular, some days you just need that dinner party you planned to happen. That some days you are the one yelling at friends and family to turn on the news, to watch what is happening.  And some days you are the person who just carries on.  And that for spouses, or other shared family members, sometimes the day you want to be the fixer and the day you want to be the ignorer, the someone else has got this right person, well, sometimes that's the same day.  
Because, yeah, I was in a project zone last Wednesday and ignored all my news alerts.  I briefly paused to talk books on social media, and then to wish a friend happy birthday.  And when the friend texted back have you seen?  My initial reaction was no, I will catch up later.  And I got the freking obnoxious curfew alert nearly jumped out of my skin.  And I finished up some stuff and caught up to the fact that well, things had happened.  
So I felt a bit like Mrs. Frozone, because I wanted my friend to have a good birthday.  I wanted to talk about baked goods and books on social media.  And yes, I was and remain aware that a super important thing happened not two miles from where I live, and it came very close to changing all of our lives in irrevocable ways.  
And, as I keep thinking about what to carry forward, I am also profoundly sad.  As a DC resident, I have been told over and over that all these inconveniences where your ability to walk or drive or take a photo of a federal building changes quickly and with little warning, is to keep us all safe.  
And of course, here the events of last week have shown that it was in fact, more whimsy. That these folks rallied around the Capitol under less restrictions than I have to follow to attend a hockey game.  
But I don't want daily life to be as restrictive as attending sports games. I want dangerous people to be taken seriously when they announce harm.  And if they can't be, then I don't think reforming these institutions, or giving them more money will fix that.  And I want us to remember that attempted overthrow of the government should have consequences. Greater than slightly less access to social media.  


Thursday, January 07, 2021

Three Interesting Things

1. I finally caught up to this piece from September where Anand Giridharadas spoke about fear, and talked with Sarah Kendzior about fascism and such.  If you are finding the level of shock at yesterday's events a little hard to take, this might be the read for you. 
2. I have not been having trouble reading.  I say this not to brag, but because for me I have been having trouble watching new to me TV.  This article about how anxiety affects concentration gets into why you may have been trouble with some of your normal forms of entertainment.  Also might explain why genre fiction, where one can usually expect closure of a sort has been working well for me. 
3. If you'd like something low stakes to read, this reporter reaching out to other folks who share his name is that. 
And: I shared this on Twitter too, but 730DC has been keeping this robust list of mutual aid and other support services for the DC area. Grocery stores, restaurants, and other retail had to close early and unexpectedly which means more people didn't get a full shift of work in a pandemic.  So, if you have money to spare, these are some places to consider sending it. 

Monday, January 04, 2021

Behind an Iconic Country Song

As a long time "Song Exploder" fan, it's not a surprise that this deeper dive about "Take Me Home Country Roads" was of interest to me.  
But first a story.  Growing up I lived in DC but went to school in Maryland.  By high school my two closest friends lived in Mitchellville and Damascus, Maryland.  Mitchellville is in PG County and houses an amusement park.  Damascus at the time was quite literally a one stoplight town in upper Montgomery County.  (I believe they have more stoplights now.)  We often teased the Damascus friend that we had to pass cows to get to her.  (There were actual cows.)  
So all of this is to say that learning the road the songwriters were driving down was Clopper Road in Gaithersburg as they charted out this song is both fascinating and hilarious to me.  I am well aware that good writers are chasing a feeling, not a specific road.  But nonetheless.  Also that this song debuted at the Cellar Door in Georgetown, is honestly just the cherry on top for me. The next time I'm on Clopper Road, I know what to sing now.  And you best believe I will be bringing this up all the time.