Friday, February 26, 2021

Announcement - Let's Talk About Fictional Sex

Over on the newsletter, I announcement the newsletter series I'm starting next week - Let's Talk About Fictional Sex.  The longer version is here.  The TL:DR version is basically, I'm putting together a series to talk about the things authors, writers, creators should think about in terms of the sexual dynamics they depict, and how sex scenes are a chance to better demonstrate who characters are.  Some of the pieces will be behind a subscription/paywall, some will not.  And then I'm going to compile these entries into a book.  Right now, I have over twenty pieces planned.  There may be more as we get deeper into this.  (Yeah, I saw that entendre and I left it there.) 

Edited to update link

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Three Interesting Things

1. Tavi Gevinson writes searingly about the framing of "Framing Britney Spears" and the ways in which society confers the illusion of control onto teenagers who act sexily.  Content note: Includes discussion of sexual coercion.  RAINN has resources for those seeking support or seeking info on supporting others.  
2. Soraya Nadia McDonald tallies up a list of characters that are magical negro characters and looks at the white characters that require such support
3. As a semi-regular PlayPerView viewer, I appreciated this interview with one of the folks behind it. 

Monday, February 22, 2021

Me and the Denver Airport

The first time I flew into Denver was for a friend's wedding.  The wedding had a snow theme, and so it was pretty cute when it snowed day of.  Especially since I wasn't a bridesmaid and didn't have to stand outside for pictures or anything.  
Anyway, the day following the wedding, we got to the airport, and were calmly dining in the restaurant when another guest texted my friend to ask if our flight had been cancelled too.  Too?  There had been no signs of trouble when we checked in, but as we all pulled out our phones, we discovered that due to an expected snowstorm on the East Coast (that was not scheduled to start until well after our arrival) everything going East had been cancelled. 
We ended up gathering up our luggage(which they just dumped onto the floor) and working on getting rebooked.  Interestingly, given we were all on the same flight, my one friend was rebooked for first flight out the next day, two were placed on the second flight the next day, and I was offered a flight out in three days.  I took it, but also asked what the chances were for me to fly standby the next morning.  
And I ended up being the last person allowed onto that first flight the next morning.  Which meant middle seat, but hey I was headed home.  
Except of course, now it really was snowing in the East Coast.  So, the DC airport (DCA) closed while we were in the air to catch up on snow. So we landed in Harrisburg.  We were let off the plane to use facilities, grab drinks, and charge up the devices.  And then we all loaded back on the plane and flew to DC.  Did I get home about the same time as my friends on the second plane that ended up leaving later? 
Yeah. But I got home.  
The second time, my flight got delayed.  I was there for a conference and discovered I was on the same flight with a fellow attendee and we chatted for several hours until the flight finally left.  
The third time was also for a wedding, this time family.  I had taken the butt crack of dawn flight and my lovely relatives got up before the crack of dawn to drop me off, which was very kind.  
Oh, I should probably mention, if scary plane stories bug you you should probably stop reading now.  Huh.  Spoiler. 

So, the plane was delayed due to a maintenance issue.  So we sat there, all at the gate with no plane for an undetermined amount of time.  The gate agent actually disappeared, perhaps tired of explaining that he did not know when the plane would be there.  It arrived, but they still didn't allow us on.  Then they started boarding.  We got on and the pilot said - after everyone was boarded - that there was just a small delay because they were waiting for a confirmation on something that maintenance had been working on earlier.  Which I confess was a worrying announcement, but delightfully transparent.  We took off.  
And about thirty minutes into the flight, I noticed a lot of call buttons going.  I was seated near the front of the plane.  Apparently, in the back, the noises they were hearing changed significantly, and the passengers felt the flight crew needed to know.  (Some of this I learned later.)  
And the pilot came on again to alert us that the hydraulic system had gone out, which had been the issue that they were working on this morning and it appeared that it had not been sufficiently resolved.  So we were using the backup system but the pilot and co pilot did not wish to complete the trip on backup, so we were returning to the airport.  And then the plane turned around.  
So, we all got food vouchers to use in the airport, which was nice.  And then we waited.  See, since our plane had taken off, it had disappered off the flights board.  So we waited.  The pilot and co pilot came off the plane and let us all know that we would be getting a new plane, which honestly seemed wise, and possibly like what the pilot and copilot had maybe wanted all along.  So that plane left the gate and then eventually a new plane arrived.  
The second time we took off, we flew and landed just fine.  And I got home.  
But it did mean, when I saw a story about an engine catching fire and then saw it was a flight from Denver, well, I felt a tiny sense of - of course.  Even though it wasn't the same airline or even a flight in the same direction. It is perhaps unfair to blame the airport for these problems.  But this level of consistency has only happened to me when I try to leave Denver.  

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Three Interesting Things

1. I have not watched "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist" this season, but this interview with John Clarence Stewart looks at the preparation they did for the recent episodes where they attempt to depict how large corporations address issues of racism when the time comes to confront them. 
2. This piece looked thoughtfully at the limits of the lunchbox moment for immigrant kids, and touched on something that having grown up in a school that - while still white dominated - had more than one kid of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.  (Full disclosure, we all ate cafeteria food.) That a lot of fiction still focuses on the only Asian American kid in school.  Or the kid who is embarrassed by their food, and that just as representation can be empowering, having the only representation feel different than your experience can feel alienating.    
3. This piece looks at the lasting cultural impact of the Whitney Houston/Brandy "Cinderella"
The Texas Tribune has a list of warming centers and various folks gathering donations and offering assistance.  In general, if you are not in an area, your best help comes from offering to connect resources, or by sending money not things.  If sending money isn't feasible for you right now, amplifying resources can be a way to assist.  

Monday, February 15, 2021

A Gentle Reminder

I know or know if in my immediate circles - approximately forty people who have been diagnosed with COVID 19 in the last two months.  The teams I play silly web games with had several people who got sick, and one who passed away.  One of my writer's groups had someone contract it, and their whole pod got it too.  Another writer I met virtually has a relative who is currently sick.  In one of my knitter's groups, one person's coworker had a whole segment of the family contract it.  So all of this is to say, I know we are so, so tired of this.  But we still need to be vigilant.  We need to be honest and clear with those we meet up with about the risks we have chosen to engage in.  And we need to continue to limit interactions, and space them out wherever possible so that if we get sick, we aren't the disease vector that takes out a large number of people.  
COVID 19 isn't as infectious as some other diseases.  But it's genius - other than being novel, which is always an advantage because human immune systems can get lazy with unrecognized viruses - it's genius is it's incubation period. On average, each person infects on average 2-3 other people, even with the new variants.  (Standard disclaimer, I have read up on this, but I am not an epidemiologist.  I know just enough to know what R2.7 is supposed to mean.)  But if you don't know you are sick, and those 2-3 people don't know they are sick, by the time you can alert them, they will have passed it on to others.  Unless after the gathering, you all went home and quarantined.  And yes, I have seen the stories about outbreaks on sports teams, schools, camps, colleges, and weddings.  But again, one gathering spreads out because those infected continue to go places and interact with more folks.
So, it's repetitive but true.  Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.  Stay home when you can.  Wear masks when interacting with folks outside your household.  

Friday, February 12, 2021

Three Interesting Things

Between Lunar New Year Prep and a number of other things that landed this week, I got a bit off schedule.  But here we are in the Year of the Ox.  
1. In what is sadly an unsurprising escalation, a child brought a book in to class for the teacher to read, some parents objected, and as a result a program to provide kid's in that district with kids books that represent a variety of viewpoints and experiences. One of those books in that packet was "Ohana Means Family.  1 percent of the Utah population is Pacific Islander (per the US census) which is the one of the largest percentages outside of Hawai'i.  So we're talking in part about kids not getting to find books about themselves, not just about others.  
2.I felt like this article didn't always mention the costume designers that oversaw the crafting of these garments, but this piece on knitters adoring knits and such in pop culture and working to reverse engineer them was lovely. 
3. I hope NPR is ready for the flood of young listener mail.  But, an 8 year-old called out NPR for having a show called "All Things Considered" that had a shocking lack of dinosaur content.  So they invited said child on to the show to interview a paleontologist.  

Bonus: Also WriteOnCon - which I am helping out with again this week - it's a great kidlit conference with a lot of info applicable to all writers and very affordable.  Schedule is here. Bookshop is here.  (Also, if you have, ahem, another conference that week, there's a pass that gives you extended access so you can catch up at your leisure.)

Monday, February 08, 2021

While I Yet Live at PlayPerVIew

Content note: recountings of pedophilia, recounting of a suicide
Viewers were warned that the play contained ghosts, so anything that seemed confusing, might be a ghost. 
This story is inspired by Billy Porter's life, but the characters all have different names.  I confess I personally do not know enough of Billy Porter's backstory to identify specific differences, but I expect that this is intended to give a feeling, rather than being a strictly factual play.   
The action begins on a pivotal Thanksgiving Day where we see that the family - like many - has a number of tensions and concerns.  Eva is sick, Maxine is disabled and mistreated by her aunt Dolores, and has realized that her husband Vernon is maybe not keeping her family intact like she hoped. Dolores is upset at how the cooking is progressing, Gertrude is trying to get her to be nice, and Calvin is trying to figure out if he can keep on living in this house. Just about everyone has a secret and/or a concern.  
The church - particularly in part one - is clearly a deep part of their life and used as both an excuse and hammer for certain behavior, including considering illness a punishment, and flamboyance and possible homeosexuality a concern.    
As the time progresses forward, Tonya ages and gets to questioning the version of Christianity she has been presented.  The ghosts allow for echoes of the generational ideas that were passed on.  
While in theory a play about Billy Porter's life might star the character based on him, but Tonya is the focal point, leading the audience through revelations, even though in the earliest rendering she is often left out of the conversations and sent to other rooms.  (I read one review that felt that Maxine is the focal point, which I think is something one could also argue.)
The play looks at complex family dynamics, concerns about care, and familial roles.  It takes place over three distinct days, separated by years, and is essentially slices of life, but it is also a play concerned with healing so while some of the pieces of business are left open ended, the main characters end the play in better relationship with one another than they started.  
The dialogue in this play is fantastic.  These characters are quickly rendered.  There is a reliance on cliched sayings, but for the most part it seemed normal. 
The cast made me believe they were related and loved and at times were thoroughly over each other. There's one moment where Maxine demands the phone to talk to Calvin's - ahem -  roommate and the look of embarrassed anxiety on Calvin's face was so real I had to look away. 
It is a play about the systems that didn't serve everyone equally, and reconciling the generational shifts, and of course recognizing that sometimes even your best survival leaves others in the lurch.     
It will shock, I expect no one, to learn that S. Epatha Merkeson is a powerful actress, even through a zoom screen.  It wasn't hard at all to believe that 
there was a Tony winner (Lillias White) in the cast and apparently Larry Powell performed in DC in the before times, so I will need to keep an eye out for that someday.  
The recording will be on demand through February 10th. 

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Three Interesting Things

1. Health news is always a tricky balance, especially with a still novel disease, but this piece on the possible link to new diabetes diagnoses in those who have recovered from coronavirus was interesting in what it might tell us about both conditions.  
2. Moira Donegan wrote wonderfully about what Ocasio-Cortez's choice to share specifics about her experience on January 6th means, and how we should respond. 
3. I once had a cocktail conversation with someone about how in data testing it often makes sense to use obviously fake data because in the rare cases where the data ends up in the production system, someone will likely know that Mickey Mouse is not a paid employee.  I assume some similar thinking went into this alert that went out in Texas asking citizens to keep an eye out for a murderous doll

Monday, February 01, 2021

Remote Grief is Odd

Pandemic life, where so much of our contact occurs, furtively, virtually, or masked is odd.  Grieving or dealing with trauma in these situations is odd.  But I want to specifically address how this is especially odd for remote employees.  
I remember someone posting a thing about how folks always think living under a dictator somehow means you don't also have to do laundry or go to work every day.  Remote employment can feel a little like that.  Obviously, the recent invasion of the Capitol building has put this firmly in mind, but there are many examples.  I was a remote employee during the winter DC had all the blizzards.  My manager at the time lived in Salt Lake City.  I wasn't asking for time off, or even special treatment, but I was trying to contextualize for people that when you live somewhere that isn't used to snow at that level, literally everything changes.  Walking to the grocery store is different when you have to peer around giant towers of snow to figure out if there's a car coming.  
Similarly atrocities like mass shootings and such occur, and some employees will be nearby, might know someone there, and some won't.  The disconnect is exacerbated by workers being remote and in different places.  
Now, I am not against remote work.  This is just a reminder that if you are working with employees in places like DC or Nashville, to pick two recent examples, it is not realistic to expect that people there are operating at peak capacity amid a huge event.  I am aware that there are times when the day job is the only thing that makes sense, and that is an acceptable response too.  But one thing an in person office facilitates, is a natural space, a water cooler if you will, for employees to gather and do the normal check ins.  To say more than yes, I am physically safe right now.  To talk about how getting groceries or what this means for loved ones who had to work through these recent events because they are essential, or who had their work cut short as a result of it, and the concerns that that raises.  
All of this is to say, check in with your people.  Check in with your co-workers, your reports, your folks.  Not just when something weird happens, but regularly.  Because the other thing we know is that grief isn't a linear process.  It's a journey.