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I keep referencing this list, but hadn't posted it anywhere, though I have posted pieces of it as I add them. Because of [profile] abenn's encouragement, I am posting it now and will keep it at the top of my LJ for future reference.

Suggestions always welcome, by the way.

Life To Do List )
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It's Marvel movies time! Watched Captain America: Civil War and with it an X-Men: Apocalypse trailer, and I have non-spoilery thoughts. (Well, at least no more spoilery than what appears in trailers.) Before I get into that, though, I wanted to share a quick thought I had while hashing things out with JBJ last night via text (I love technology -- half a country away and we can still watch movies more or less together): IP licensing can be such a pain in the ass, because but for the licensing agreement about certain Marvel characters, we could have had two sets of Maximoff twins. ALL OF THE WANDA AND PIETRO STORIES COULD HAVE BEEN OURS. WHY DO YOU HATE US, IP LAWYERS? WHY?

The Good



First up, saw Captain America: Civil War last night. I loved 90% of it, maybe 95%, and it's been a long while since I could say that about a movie that wasn't a Fast and the Furious movie. It was so good and so much fun and filled with wonderful (and wonderful-in-terrible-ways) character moments. I'm already looking forward to watching it again. It's also made me look forward to the next Avengers movies, which neither Avengers nor Age of Ultron managed (Joss Whedon stepping away from Marvel was an A+ idea).

I was already looking forward to Black Panther, but I NEED IT NOW IMMEDIATELY GIVE IT TO ME. BLACK PANTHER IS THE GREATEST. T'CHALLA IS MY KING. And so on.

The Bad



I haven't had the chance to watch many trailers lately, so I hadn't seen the X-Men: Apocalypse trailer we got with Civil War. (I expected it, though.) On the one hand, I am so, so excited about it, which is unusual. I haven't been this excited about an X-Men movie since X3 came out and was just terrible.

On the other hand, WHAT THE HELL, FOX, REALLY?! Once again, it appears as if the good guys are all white characters and the bad guys are majority minority characters. And here I hoped they'd learned from First Class and it's stupid. (I started to rant here about the whole Darwin death in First Class, but no, I've raged about that enough, including last night to more than one person.) What the hell is wrong with you, Fox? Marvel?

(Rhetorical question. It's racism.)

The Ugly



Not actually a Marvel movie, but we also got the trailer for Warcraft: (a) could they have made it look more like a ripoff of Lord of the Rings and other movies, and (b) much more importantly, why is there a weird flatness to all the CGI?
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I’m a Book Depository affiliate, and will receive a small credit if you order from BD using any of the BD links below. There is no additional cost to you.


What I've Read

GUARD WOLF (Amazon link) by Lauren Esker: GUARD WOLF is the second book in the Shifter Agents world. You guys, this has become the Seattle werewolf book of my heart, and I can't wait for the third book, which is supposed to be out this year. I will be doing a review of the first two books later.

THE RAVEN KING by Maggie Stiefvater (Raven Boys #4) (Book Depository link): Went ahead and read it to avoid spoilers. (Also, it gave me something to read that wasn't online, so I could also avoid spoilers for Captain America: Civil War.) I liked it well enough, I guess, but I thought the pacing was off, especially in the ending. And I have some concerns. I will need to think about this further.

EARTHBOUND BONES by ReGina Welling (Amazon link): Received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. I think the bones of the story were good (pun intended), but the pacing was terrible; the beginning, in particular, dragged, and then the ending felt rushed. I didn't connect with any of the characters, in part because of the random head hopping. And I have a problem with the way angel-magic is presented as this cure for mental illness. I won't be reviewing this in more depth (...probably), so I don't want to get into great detail, but I was mostly left frustrated and annoyed. I wish I'd liked it better, though. The bones of the story were wonderful. (Basically, it is about an angel who thinks she has fallen from grace and is now trapped in a human body, the small town that embraces her, and the old mystery she solves.)

What I'm Reading

THE GIRL I USED TO BE by April Henry: Received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. It came out this week, and I'm about halfway through. I like it so far. It's about a girl whose mother was killed when she was just a toddler, and her father was suspected of being the killer. Now, when she's nearly an adult, additional evidence reveals that her father was killed at the same time, and now no one knows what happened. Of course Olivia sets out to solve the mystery.

LISEY’S STORY by Stephen King (Book Depository link): Yes, I am still reading this. I really like Lisey, and I love the way her history with her husband unfolds throughout the story, in pieces and present thoughts and scenes set back in what she remembers, but it is really slow paced and easy to put down, so it is taking forever.

TREASURES, DEMONS AND OTHER BLACK MAGIC by Meghan Ciana Doidge (Book Depository link): I think I'm at least going to finish the first trilogy. I don't know if I'll continue it after. We'll see how much annoyance at the main character's "quirky" traits (and my dislike of first person narrators) balances against the stuff I do enjoy. So far, the stuff I enjoy is losing out, but maybe once I'm done with the cliffhanger ending, I'll like it more.

What I'll Read Next

HOLDING SMOKE by Elle Cosimano: Received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley. It also came out this week, and I'm so excited to read it. It's about a boy imprisoned for murder who can leave his body at will and the girl he teams up with to find the true killer.

EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan McGuire (Book Depository link): Don't know why I haven't read this yet, because I normally read McGuire's work immediately, but I am looking forward to it.

DARK ALCHEMY by Laura Bickle (Dark Alchemy #1) (Book Depository link): I'm trying to avoid buying new books this year, except for a few favorite authors, but someone recommended the second book in the series to me recently, and I bought this book immediately. It sounds like western + magic + kick ass women, and I am here for that so hard. SO HARD.
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It's that time of the year again, when I start avoiding advertisements because they're all so focused on Mother's Day in the US. To be honest, this is not the worst time of year for me (that essay I wrote a few years ago, "How to Survive Thanksgiving When Your Family Keeps Dying in the Fall," is still true), but it's not the greatest, either.

This morning, Facebook reminded me that six years ago today, I was called home because Mom went in for emergency surgery and no one thought she would survive it. That was not the first time I was called home, nor the last, but it was probably the worst. I was in Michigan, I was literally in the middle of a take-home final, and I couldn't afford a last minute flight, so I had a 10 hour drive ahead of me before I could be there in person. Mom didn't die at that point, but she was sick enough that neither she nor Dad made it to graduation, even though they'd been looking forward to it from pretty much the moment I moved to Michigan for law school.

Thanks for the memories, Facebook!

Two other times I was called home stand out. One was in either 2005 or 2006, and I wasn't so much called home, because I'd already moved back to my hometown to be closer to my family, but called out of work to the hospital a couple hours away where she was receiving special treatment. Pretty much all the siblings came home for that. We took over a section of the ICU waiting room (we are legion), said our good-byes, and waited. It was terrible. It was, perhaps surprisingly, wonderful, too. We don't get a lot of time to be all together like that, even back then, and sitting and waiting gave us a lot of time to talk. My sister, Kris, tried to teach us to knit. My youngest brother renamed "knit" and "purl" to "neal" and "diamond." I failed miserably at everything about knitting. Youngest brother turned out to be a fast learned. We sat, and we talked, and we brought in food, and we were together. It was terrible. It was wonderful.

Mom lived.

The other time that stands out is in 2012. I was called home, had to leave work in the middle of the day. I was working on office action responses for a trademark client. I'd been called home so many times I didn't even pack funeral clothes, just threw a pair of jeans into the car and a couple shirts. Figured I'd be back at work by Monday. It's just about a four hour drive between Kansas City and my hometown. I did it in less than three. I avoided the interstate, took roads that twisted and curved and forced me to pay attention to my driving, didn't give me much time to think. I made it home. Not everyone did. Mom's birthday was the week before. She'd been at home for it. Had a steak dinner with Dad. I went home. She was unconscious. I went home, held my father's hand. She couldn't hear us. I went home, listened hard, caught her last breath. I went home. It was terrible.

Mom died.
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Mental Illness, Disability, Language: The Forks Model of Disability at Thing of Things

The spoons model is an excellent model. However, in thinking about my own mental illness, I have discovered that it is, in fact, the exact opposite of how my mental illness works. Therefore, I have decided to coin the forks model.

(Look, I was not the one who decided that all our emotional energy metaphors needed to be utensil-based.)

Forks work somewhat like spoons, in that you have to pay varying amounts for tasks. However, unlike spoons, forks don’t replenish gradually over time. Instead, you get forks when you finish particular tasks. For instance, socializing might cost you ten forks and give you twelve, showering might cost you three and give you ten, and eating might cost you one and give you twenty. (Eating is important.)

In my own case, I’ve found that the more I do something, the easier it is for me to do it. When I haven’t written for a week, if I try to write, I wind up staring at my word processor and occasionally typing “the” and then slowly backspacing it. On the other hand, I have, several times in my life, written more than ten thousand words in a single day.

...

Unfortunately, some people– like me– are, for whatever reason, stuck with chronically low forks. Chronically low forks leaves you in one of the most perverse situations ever: when you know that if you did a particular thing, you would be happier and more able to do things, but you don’t have enough forks now to do the thing. (Unlike spoons, you cannot borrow forks from future selves.) If I worked on my homework, after like fifteen minutes I would feel like I could take on the world, but right now all I have the energy to do is browse Tumblr. If I ate, I would totally be able to cook an awesome meal, but right now I’m too hungry to cook.


The writing example rings particularly true for me. It's why I try to write daily, even though I know daily writing goals can stymie other authors. (Including my cowriter, Sarah, who often has a bad response to setting writing goals. Somehow, we still make cowriting work.) If I sit down to write after not writing for awhile, I will maybe be able to force out 100 words. If I write daily, some days are 100-500 words, and some days are 10k+. Unfortunately, the chronically low fork part rang particularly true, too. There are many, many times when I know exactly what I need to do. I just don't have anything left to do it, no matter what I've done or what I try to do.

Racism, Transphobia, Misogyny, Violence: Remembering Us When We’re Gone, Ignoring Us While We’re Here: Trans Women Deserve More by Morgan Collado at Autostraddle

There’s an interesting phenomenon that I’ve witnessed over the past few years. The names of trans women of color will be in the mouths of the queer community after they’ve been murdered, but support for us while we are still alive is sporadic at best. Trans women are pushed out of queer spaces by cis people, dfab genderqueers, and trans men, just to name a few. Women’s spaces are frequently hostile to us because we aren’t “real women” but trans men almost always get a free pass. And I’ve seen more than one cis queer say that trans women are “appropriating” the gay rights movement, totally ignorant of the fact that we started the damn thing. I have seen more than one cis queer say that we have nothing in common with them, that our issues are completely unrelated. We have a hard time finding dates, finding support, finding community. And when we dare to call people out for their transmisogyny, we are labeled crazy, hysterical, divisive. I have been called Austin “queer scene’s” number one enemy. All for daring to share my thoughts on the world around me.

...

Here in Austin there’s this tradition of calling the names of the dead and then having an audience member sit in a chair that represents where the dead trans woman would sit. The seats are always filled with white people and non-trans women. What do our deaths mean when our bodies, our lives, the physical space we take up, is appropriated by white folks? How can I mourn for my sisters when the space set up for that mourning is so thoroughly colonized? And how can I even see hope of living a full life when I don’t see myself reflected in what is supposed to be my community?


Horror, Racism, Violence: Eutopia: horror novel about Lovecraftian racism by Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing

Doctor Andrew Waggoner -- a Paris-educated Black American doctor -- is hospitalized by Klansman in the utopian settlement of Eliada, Idaho, where he soon encounters Jason Thistledown, the sole survivor of a plague that wiped out the town of Cracked Wheel, Montana. The two of them become unlikely allies in uncovering the mystery of "Mr Juke," a strange creature housed in the hospital's enormous quarantine.

Mr Juke is a monster, of an ancient race of parasites whose offspring incubate in the wombs of human women, and who are able to inspire religious ecstasy in the people who serve them. Mr Juke and his kind might have lived undiscovered in the back country, in grotesque symbiosis with the hill people, if not for Eliada's eugenics project, through which hill people are systematically catalogued and sterilized "to improve the race."


I don't have a copy of this yet, but soon.

Related: Horror, Racism: Don't Mention the War - Some Thoughts on H.P. Lovecraft and Race by David Nickle

Specifically, I wanted to talk about race as it pertained to H.P. Lovecraft's writings.

It seemed like the thing to do. The organizers of World Horror had found me a panel to sit on, moderated by Lovecraftian scholar, critic and anthologist S.T. Joshi, called Lovecraft's Eternal Fascination. My first novel, Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism, is the only pseudo-Lovecraftian book I've written, and one of my aims with that book was to deal with Lovecraftian xenophobia from a post-Martin-Luther-King perspective--to tie Lovecraft's horrible eugenic notions together with the genuine and just as horrible eugenic fallacies that were making the rounds in early 20th century America. As Eternal Fascinations went, I thought race might rate.

When the panel started it became clear: not so much. I brought up the topic early and affably in the panel, and just a little later but also affably, Mr. Joshi shut it down with a familiar canard: Lovecraft's racism and xenophobia must be viewed in the context of Lovecraft's considerably less-enlightened time. I recall gently objecting that Lovecraft's views may have been more mainstream in the 1920s and 1930s yet were still not universal--but, not wanting to be seen as hijacking the panel, letting things go.

...

I'd make the case that Lovecraft's fiction--and Lovecraftian horror--depends on the xenophobia that was endemic to Lovecraft's work to the point that without it, many of his stories lose their unique and uniquely profound effect. "The Horror in Red Hook" is a direct channelling of Lovecraft's loathing of newcomers to New York City; the real horror of "The Call of Cthulhu" is not the octopus-headed demigod that emerges out of his underwater city to kill all the people, but the people themselves--all either eugenically unfit denizens of the bayou or "primitive" island cultures whose religious practises amount to a kind of proactive nihilism. The manifestation of Nyarlathotep in the eponymous story is that of a black man bearing trinkets, who seduces the good white folk of America into authoring their own demise.


Lovecraft's horror is such a core to the genre, but Nickle is absolutely right: we have to talk more about his racism and xenophobia. I don't care how old it is, I don't care about the "world he came from," we still tout him and his work as high level horror, the kind we as writers should try to achieve. His racism and xenophobia is a huge part of that.

I've tried my hand at Lovecraftian horror while dealing with the racism of the source. It is hard, and I've not yet managed a story that I actually think works. But I will keep writing, and I will keep educating myself.

3d Printing, Technology, Copyright, Law: Licensing Your 3D Printed Stuff: Why 3D Printed Objects Challenge Our Copyright Beliefs by Michael Weinberg at TechDirt

The past fifteen years or so have given us all a collective informal education in intellectual property law. We have been taught to assume that everything we see on our computer screen is protected by intellectual property law (usually copyright), and that copying those things without permission can often result in copyright infringement (and potentially lawsuits).

By and large, this has been a reasonable rule of thumb. The things that we most often associate with our computer screens – those are the music, movies, software, photos, articles, and whatnot – happen to also be the types of things that are protectable by copyrights. As copyright automatically protects things that are categorically eligible for protection, it is safe to begin from the assumption that the music, movies, software, photos, articles, and whatnot made in the last century that you find online are actively protected by copyright.

This easy assumption becomes less reasonable in the context of 3D printing. Many of the objects coming out of a 3D printer are simply not eligible for copyright protection. As “functional” objects, they are beyond copyright’s scope. They may be protectable by patent, but because patent protection is not automatic, many of these objects will simply not be protected by intellectual property at all. The idea that something is entirely unprotected by copyright or patent would have felt perfectly natural 30 years ago, but can feel deeply disorienting today.

Furthermore, unlike those music, movies, software, photos, articles, and whatnot, we often have to treat a physical object and the digital file that represents that object differently in the context of 3D printing and intellectual property. Although we do not often draw the distinction between a song and an .mp3 file, there are many situations where we are called on to conceive of an object and its digital file as fundamentally different intellectual property entities.


I'm not sure how much I agree with the first paragraph, because what I've seen more is that instead of receiving an informal education about IP law and how things are protected, people really have taken away that if it is available freely on the internet (here I mean "freely" both as "free" and as "easily accessible" though not necessarily both), that means it can be used by anyone for any reason, because no one wants to believe they can't use something. (Tech law means often telling people no, you can't use that, I don't care how many other people are doing so.) Still, this is really interesting, especially as 3D printing becomes so widely available. (My youngest brother, T, has been creating amazing things with his 3D printer. I am intrigued as an artist, and a tech lover, and a lawyer.)

Poverty, Racism, Classism: Poverty is Not a Crime, So Stop Trying to Punish Poor People by Altheria Gaston at ForHarriet

(Note: Keep in mind this piece is more than a year old RE the proposed legislation mentioned in it.)

Whether we utilize government assistance or not, we need to push back against the policing of women of color. These restrictions are classist, sexist, and racist and preserve a broken social, political, and economic system that leave women of color on the bottom layer of stratification in a society built on the ideals of freedom and equality. I find it ironic that the same groups advocating for freedom from restrictions for wealthy business owners are seeking to regulate the poor. This is an issue of power and privilege, not misuse and abuse.

It is my hope that my research will illuminate the reality of the conditions in which these women find themselves. Perhaps this and similar scholarship can be used to inform future legislation that improves the plight of the poor.


Menstruation, Taboos, India, TED: A taboo-free way to talk about periods by Aditi Gupta (video)

It's true: talking about menstruation makes many people uncomfortable. And that taboo has consequences: in India, three out of every 10 girls don't even know what menstruation is at the time of their first period, and restrictive customs related to periods inflict psychological damage on young girls. Growing up with this taboo herself, Aditi Gupta knew she wanted to help girls, parents and teachers talk about periods comfortably and without shame. She shares how she did it.


Queer, Language: 5 Reasons LGBT People Should Stop Saying We Were "Born This Way" by Cassie Sheets at Pride

1) We don’t have to justify our sexual orientation or gender identity.

Many of us (myself included) have used the “we were born this way,” defense whenever we hear someone attacking LGBT rights. But if someone is attacking LGBT rights, or trying to say LGBT people are unnatural in some way, that defense isn’t going to change their mind. We’re here. We exist. We’re people who deserve basic human rights and respect. Whether our sexual orientation and gender identities are products of genetics, environments, or choices, we still deserve basic human rights and respect.


Prince, Disability: Whether Or Not Prince Knew It, He Was A Disability Icon To Me by Ekundayo Afolayan

My attachment to Prince grew when I found out that, like me, he also dealt with disability throughout his life. As a kid, Prince had epilepsy and as he aged, he also had hip dysplasia but, for religious reasons, he refused surgery and opted for a cane instead. I’ve personally had to deal with having seizures for almost a decade now. It is grounding for me to know that an international icon who I have always admired also has a history of dealing with a similar condition.

Visibility is really important to me; especially because positive representation of Black folks, femmes, and people with disabilities is rare. We typically aren’t seen as desirable or worthy of love. But Prince helped to inspire my self-love by exuding his confidence and being celebrated for it. I’m taking a cue from Prince. I’ve learned to be extravagant and myself not despite the seizures, but in the active acceptance of them.


Wrestling, Sexism, Chyna: Chyna Deserved Better by Malread Small Stald at Jezebel

It’s worth noting here that Chyna and Elizabeth, two women dead too young, are also the two most glaring absences in the WWE Hall of Fame. In an oft-cited interview last year, Steve Austin asked WWE Chief Operating Officer (and Chyna’s ex-boyfriend) Triple H if Chyna would ever be inducted. “Does she deserve to go into the Hall of Fame? Absolutely,” said Triple H. But he claimed the decision was complicated due to the fact that Chyna’s post-wrestling foray into amateur and then professional porn would appear when any eight-year-old might look her up on the internet.

A similar line of reasoning provides one possible explanation for Miss Elizabeth’s ongoing exclusion: overdosing isn’t kid-friendly. But that the Hall of Fame includes, in its celebrity wing alone, convicted rapist Mike Tyson and—inducted just this year—the titular director of the pornographic Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, does not seem to bother the Google-conscious COO.

The message sent from the company to its female employees is simple: you can bare your body, but only if it suits us. You can wreck your health, but only for our benefit. Steroids, CTE, injury, fatigue, degradation: fine, fine. But drugs and porn? No chance—not off the clock, anyway. Not when cameras are rolling—cameras that aren’t ours. The fact that Triple H—whose on-screen relationship with his eventual off-screen wife, Stephanie McMahon, began with forced marriage and allusions to rape—thinks a Vivid Video contract is reason enough to keep the woman he’s called “a paradigm-shifter” and “phenomenal talent” from the recognition she deserves is laughable.
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Sometimes I'll listen to a handful of episodes of Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft's podcast, Happier, and now Rubin is doing mini-podcasts along with it (hence A Little Happier). I listened to the first mini-episode earlier and in it, Rubin talks about the claim that within ten years of leaving school, you'll have forgotten your teachers' names and all the things they taught. She goes on to describe two sharp memories she has of her undergrad experience and teachers who were particularly enthusiastic about what they were teaching, but I was too busy being surprised by the claim she cited.

Do most people really forget their teachers names and what they've taught within a decade of finishing? Really?

I'm more than 15 years out of high school, 10 out of undergrad, and 5 out of law school, and while I can't tell you every single teacher I had or every single thing I learned, I definitely remember most of my professors and a lot of the things they taught me. Obviously, the ones who meant a lot to me are the ones I remember best (my adoration for Dr Susan Swartwout at Southeast Missouri State University will burn forever because she was an amazing teacher, a wonderful mentor, and continues to touch her former students to this day), but I remember the ones who weren't great, too, or the ones with whom I just didn't click. I remember pieces of things they taught me; I use the things they taught me, some of it pretty much daily, whether it was from high school or college or law school. There are many things I don't remember about life, but I can't imagine it being standard to forget what you were taught, your teachers' names, within ten years or less of leaving the school.

This sense of shock is the same I felt when my law school classmates, as we approached graduation, were so joyous that they were done with school and would never go back. I did not feel that way then, and I do not feel that way now. I haven't yet gone back to school, but odds are high it will happen. I can guarantee I'll take more classes, even if I don't get another degree. (... hell, pottery could probably count as an actual class I'm taking, considering how many of my undergrad classes were writing-based or design-based.)

Do you remember your teachers? Do you remember the things you were taught?
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Carla on Instagram  “On the one hand  I made a tornado. On the other hand  it is still a failed piece. 2 of  100ballsofclay  pottery”


A couple weeks ago, I posted this picture as a part of my 2016 pottery project, #100ballsofclay. (I handled ball four yesterday. This is going to be a long project.) During class that week, I put two balls of clay on the wheel, and took zero balls of clay off. (Ok, technically, I took them both off to take pictures, but then I smashed the projects and put them in the scrap bucket so the clay could be reused later.) This was the better of the two, because it was more interesting. It looks like a tornado. (The other fell in on itself, and just looked like clay that was too wet and overworked.) I liked my tornado, but not enough to keep it, because it wasn't right, it wasn't perfect. It wasn't a piece with balance and clean form and good structure. It, and I, was a failure.

It might have been art, too. I can see that now.

I had another class yesterday, and I put two balls of clay on the wheel. I took two projects off. They are good pieces, mostly clean and well structured. I can see their flaws, but I can also see the good lines and the okay technique that went into them. But once I was done and had wrapped them so they could start drying before I trim them next week, I noticed another of the students had made something that looked like a tornado. She kept hers, though. It is drying so it can be trimmed, or maybe, with a piece like that, it will go straight to the kiln for the bisque firing. (K, my teacher, generally uses a double firing technique. The bisque firing happens first, then we glaze and put the pieces back through the kiln for a second glaze firing. I do not yet know enough to understand why, but I have some reading to do.) Whatever the other student plans to do with it, she took it off the wheel. She let it be flawed, and let it be beautiful, and she will have a piece when I do not.

She has many pieces when I do not.

I kill more pieces than I take off the wheel, by far. It ranges anywhere between 1 in 2 and 1 in 4 for me, usually, but I have gone weeks at a time without being satisfied enough to take anything off the wheel. And while logically I know that each piece I throw teaches me something, it doesn't always feel like I'm making any progress, because I don't have anything to show for it. Because I keep making the same mistakes over and over again. (I raise my walls too fast. I don't have steady hands. I can't see when it is centered on the wheel, which is the most basic first step in throwing. I don't understand what I'm trying to do when I try a new movement.) I get frustrated, and then angry. I've cancelled class some days, because I knew I was not in a good enough mental state to deal with a failure. (K argues that it is not a failure. That doesn't change how it feels.)

I started taking pottery classes because I thought it looked fun and because K is amazing and does gorgeous work. Those things are still true. I also started pottery because I wanted to learn how to be bad at something. I am terrible at failure, and terrible at doing something I don't already know how to do. E.g., before I was willing to start piano lessons as a kid, I'd already taught myself how to play, including some very complicated pieces for a beginner. This was very bad for me, in the long run. Because I could play above where I actually was, class-wise, I got bumped up a bunch of levels, but I missed a ton of basics. Mostly music theory. I still don't really understand the theory behind chords or scales, and I can't translate from one to another. (I don't even have the right language to talk about what I can't do, obviously.) I felt that loss a lot during high school, especially, when I was a competitive musician who didn't understand the theory, the math, the logic, behind my art. So when I had the opportunity to take pottery classes, I pushed myself to do it, so I could be bad at something, and be bad at something in front of someone else.

I'm not bad, though. And that's a problem.

Because I picked up on a couple things very quickly, and had some good pieces come out of my first couple classes, I now expect way too much of myself. Even if I'd had a bad first few lessons, I'd probably be too hard on myself, because perfectionism runs down to my bones, but especially when I have a good moment early on, I then tend to expect that I will be able to do everything immediately. This is the opposite of what I wanted from this class. It is the opposite of what I want from myself.

#100ballsofclay at least forces me to take a picture of my pieces before I destroy them. I'm trying to convince myself to take more things off the wheel, though that's not going well at all. And maybe, someday, I'll find balance in my expectations for myself.

Not gonna hold my breath.
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Wrestling, WWE, Women: The Women Warriors of NXT at The Work of Wrestling

This article is about a year and a half old, and there have been many, many changes to how WWE treats its women wrestlers (including, finally, calling them Superstars just like the guys, which they are), and many of the women mentioned here have moved up from NXT to main roster WWE work (NXT is, basically, a development team for WWE, and is absolutely wonderful, in part for the reasons laid out in this article, which is why I'm linking it so long after it was posted).

I was not a wrestling fan back when it was being presented as "real" (scare quotes because there's a lot to unpack there that I'm not going to address right now), and I love wrestling (sports entertainment) for what it actually is, a show (show is too small a word -- a conglomerate? a form of entertainment?) that is telling a story through controlled violence.

The times I love wrestling best are the times when I am so caught up in the story that it makes perfect sense for someone to, oh, throw themselves off the top of a cage to try to win a match. I can get lost in the spectacle just like I can get lost in, say, a car crashing through three sky high buildings in a glorious action sequence (Furious 7).

All that being said, I need the spectacle to have a heart to it, too. In the Fast and the Furious movies, it's chosen family. In wrestling it's -- well, sometimes it's chosen family. Sometimes it's protecting your reputation. Sometimes it's pushing back against the Authority.

Sometimes -- too often, when it comes to women's wrestling on the main roster -- it's a story about two girls who try to "out crazy" each other (let me tell you how well that goes down with me, and note my intentional use of the word girls there, because that's what the show uses, too) or fight over a man. And it is gross and sexist and infuriating. Their matches get cut. Some of the commentators say disgusting things. The fans can be terrible toward them. (The racism and sexism thrown at my beloved Naomi makes me want to punch everyone in the face.) Things are changing, but these criticisms are still valid.


What separates NXT from the WWE main-stage, and the reason fans love it so much, is best summed up in one simple word:

Respect.

This respect is represented in the specific way in which NXT tells pro-wrestling stories. NXT respects the most fundamental truth of the professional wrestling medium, the purpose of professional wrestling and the quality of professional wrestling that this website is named for: NXT presents itself as a legitimate sports organization promoting athletes who are competing to win championship gold.
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Fashion, Identity: Our First Role Model at Shybiker

My mother was not really my first fashion role model, but that's mostly because I didn't (and still don't) have much thought for fashion beyond function most of the time, and while I have worked to develop a bit of a fashion sense as an adult (mostly by relying on my younger sister and some dear friends to help), I really didn't give a shit as a kid. Mom never taught me to wear makeup or do my hair because I didn't care about those things.

But I remember how carefully she would dress herself for church, how she would sit and brush my long, straight hair for what felt like hours (I didn't get my riotous curls until I hit puberty), how she would apply make-up when we traveled together, how important it was for her to dress nicely. I know a lot of that came from growing up a woman when she did, being terribly shy, and growing up so desperately poor; new clothes, make-up, the money for a perm, those were things she could use to gird herself against the world.

I'm adopted. I didn't grow up seeing myself in my mother. This rang true to me still, in so many ways.

I really love Shybiker's blog, and have for a long time now.

For most of us, our mothers are our first role model. For everything including fashion. Was that the case for you?

It was for me -- which was hard 'cause I was considered a boy. Everyone, including my mother, discouraged me from emulating her. But I tried. And tried.

Eventually I realized that path was closed; I wasn't allowed to be openly like her. I did, however, pretend to be a girl in the privacy of my bathroom; I used a bath-towel as a makeshift skirt.

Lately, as I've been re-claiming a female-identity, I find connections to my mother that are surprising. For example, I vividly remember how my mother's arms had freckles. Lots and lots of freckles. I thought that was unusual -- until I started shaving hair off my arms and was shocked to see that I too have freckles on my arms. I never saw them under the hair. I suspect I have many genetic similarities with my mom.
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I’m a Book Depository affiliate, and will receive a small credit if you order from BD using any of the BD links below. There is no additional cost to you.


I haven't read a ton of fiction the past couple months, in part because I've been writing a lot and focused on that and in part because I've been reading a ton of essays and articles instead. Still, here are a few things on my radar.

What I've Read

"Chasing Bigfoot" (link to author's website) and HANDCUFFED TO THE BEAR (Amazon link) by Lauren Esker: "Chasing Bigfoot" is a free short story set in Esker's Shifter Agents world. I hadn't read either of the two novels set in the world, but gave "Chasing Bigfoot" a try, and was so charmed and delighted by the characters and the world I immediately bumped HANDCUFFED TO THE BEAR to the top of my reading list. (I'd purchased it awhile ago, but it, with so many other books, lingered on my To Read list.) HANDCUFFED TO THE BEAR is a fun, tense, sometimes sad adventure full of tropes and amazing characters, and I read it pretty much in one sitting.

What I'm Reading

GUARD WOLF (Amazon link) by Lauren Esker: GUARD WOLF is the second book in the Shifter Agents world. I started it literally the same minute I finished HANDCUFFED TO THE BEAR, and guys, I have fallen in love with Avery. This is not a huge surprise, because he is a werewolf, and my love for werewolves is perhaps a little bit common knowledge, but he is a werewolf who was disabled while serving in the Army, who has PTSD addressed by the text, and who actually thinks he doesn't know how to werewolf because of his terrible childhood. I love him a ton and I want everyone to give him cuddles until he feels better, which I know doesn't actually work (and also, he's a fictional character), but that is what I want. I have also fallen in love with Nicole, who is an Australian-Chinese koala shifter. KOALA SHIFTER. This whole series is tropey and id-tastic and wonderful.

LISEY’S STORY by Stephen King (Book Depository link): Yes, I am still reading this. I really like Lisey, and I love the way her history with her husband unfolds throughout the story, in pieces and present thoughts and scenes set back in what she remembers, but it is really slow paced and easy to put down, so it is taking forever.

TREASURES, DEMONS AND OTHER BLACK MAGIC by Meghan Ciana Doidge (Book Depository link): I think I'm at least going to finish the first trilogy. I don't know if I'll continue it after. We'll see how much annoyance at the main character's "quirky" traits (and my dislike of first person narrators) balances against the stuff I do enjoy. So far, the stuff I enjoy is losing out, but maybe once I'm done with the cliffhanger ending, I'll like it more.

What I'll Read Next

EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan McGuire (Book Depository link): Don't know why I haven't read this yet, because I normally read McGuire's work immediately, but I am looking forward to it.

THE RAVEN KING by Maggie Stiefvater (Raven Boys #4) (Book Depository link): My copy showed up yesterday, after about a billion emails from Amazon over the last few months changing the date and then changing it back, over and over again, so I am unfortunately super annoyed with it already, which isn't fair to the book itself. I am debating whether I should reread the rest of the series real quick before I start this one, but to avoid spoilers, I may go ahead without taking the time to do that.

DARK ALCHEMY by Laura Bickle (Dark Alchemy #1) (Book Depository link): I'm trying to avoid buying new books this year, except for a few favorite authors, but someone recommended the second book in the series to me recently, and I bought this book immediately. It sounds like western + magic + kick ass women, and I am here for that so hard. SO HARD.
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Hawaii, Hula, Science: Hula competitors avoid iconic flower because of fungus by Jennifer Sinco Kelleher

After the terrible way many scientists approached the thirty meter telescope at Mauna Kea, it was really interesting to see how the forestry scientists handled this situation.

People going into the forests to harvest the blossoms and leaves could spread the disease through sticky spores of the fungus that can travel on vehicles, tools and shoes.

Scientists don't want to tell festival organizers and participants what to do about an important cultural practice. The flowers are said to be Laka's physical representation and an important symbol of hula.

"We're all mainland haoles," said J.B. Friday, University of Hawaii forester, using a word meaning white person to refer to the three scientists leading the effort to battle the disease. "We're not going to tell Hawaiians what to do."


Sexism, YA, Publishing: “Women built this castle”: An in-depth look at sexism in YA by Nicole Brinkley

A long read, but worth it, in a frustrating, infuriating way, because of the content.


In his interview at The Pen and Muse, Bergstrom also discussed the appearance of his protagonist and the appearance of women in media. “As the father of two daughters, I became pretty appalled at the image of women they received from the culture,” Bergstrom told The Pen and Muse. “It was all princess-this, Barbie-that. It was almost a satire of femininity. … What century were we living in if the feminine ideal little girls learned about was still a woman in a pink dress and a nineteen inch waist?”

As if there is something inherently wrong with pink dresses.

As if there is something wrong with Barbie, who has had careers in every field and inspires young girls around the world.

As if Bergstrom’s protagonist did not transform from a “slightly chubby” girl to a “lean warrior,” reinforcing that a feminine ideal – even for a warrior – was a skinny, toned girl, with maybe a slightly wider waistline than Barbie’s nineteen-inches.

The Cruelty features a chubby girl who becomes a “lean warrior,” who has no problem with men catcalling her, and who dismisses the category of fiction meant for teens; whose author is blissfully oblivious to YA as a whole, who dismisses it as lacking moral complications and who sneers at genre fiction, and who sees no problem in slimming down his leading lady while making derisive comments about Barbie.

This is what Feiwel and Friends paid six figures for; this is what Paramount wants to make a movie out of.

This is “the next big thing” in YA.

If you don’t see a problem with that, you won’t like the rest of this article.


Sexism, Racism, Publishing: Buzzfeed Writer Harassed off Twitter for Urging “Not-White, Not-Male” Writers to Pitch to Buzzfeed Canada by Carolyn Cox

Don't for one second think this kind of stuff doesn't happen in the USA too, constantly.

You’d be hard pressed to find a better demonstration of the perceived oppression of white people being called out on their privilege then what happened to Buzzfeed Canada writer Scaachi Koul over the weekend. [Note: Not this weekend.]

In a series of tweets that have since been deleted but are screencapped over on Huffington Post, Koul wrote, “Would you like to write long-form for Buzzfeed Canada? WELL YOU CAN. We want pitched for your Canada-centric essays & reporting. Buzzfeed Canada would particularly like to hear from you if you are not white and not male.” A pretty innocuous statement, right? Apparently, twitter thought otherwise.

...

Incredibly, the backlash to Koul’s call for diverse writers didn’t end there; she also tweeted that she was “starting to get tweets from white men saying that my (white, male) boss should rape and/or murder me as professional discipline,” and has since deleted her Twitter account. (It’s worth wondering if Silverman would have received comparable harassment if he’d tweeted the exact same thing as Koul—somehow, I think not.)


Copyright: Monkey See, Monkey Do, But Judge Says Monkey Gets No Copyright by Mike Masnick

If you haven't heard about this, basically, a photographer let an Indonesian macaque monkey hold a camera and it took a selfie. The photographer then tried to claim he owned the copyright. Then PETA tried to claim that it represented the monkey and the monkey owned the copyright. And I am left wondering why this didn't happen while I was still in law school taking copyright courses, when it would have been a blessed relief to see on an exam.

To sum up: non-human copyrights have been rejected by both the Copyright Office and the court. Shocker ending, I know.

Fat: How Fat People Deserve To Be Treated at Dances with Fat

As I’ve said before, the idea that our right to live in fat bodies and be treated with basic human respect is debatable is a pretty clear indication of the problem. The truth is that fat people have the right to exist in fat bodies without shaming, stigma, bullying or oppression regardless of why we are fat, what it means to be fat, or if we could become thin. There are no other valid opinions about that, it should never be up for debate.

For the record, I’m not suggesting that I can force people to treat fat people with basic human respect. What I am saying is that it’s important to know that we deserve to be treated with basic human respect. We deserve to live in fat bodies without shame, stigma, or bullying, and we are entitled to live without the crushing weight of fat phobia and oppression. What each of us does with that information is up to us – but it’s critical for us to know that these things aren’t our fault, though they become our problem, and they shouldn’t be happening to us.


Sexism, Comics: How to Talk to Our Daughters About Women in Refrigerators by Caroline Pruett

God, comics. I love them a ton, even though the creators (and the fans), sometimes seem to hate us (people who aren't straight white dudes) so much.

So I bought her the book. Her mother reports that she’s been reading it when she’s supposed to be getting ready for school. Cool aunt win!

But – what now? If she comes back and asks what happened to Babs next, do I say: “She kept on fighting crime and flirting with Robin and absolutely never got shot in the spine by the Joker in a story that wasn’t even about her”?


Originally posted at carlamlee.com.
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It's the middle of the month, time for a project update.

Current active projects:

UK Horror Project
(cowritten with Sarah)

1. Talking Dead
Young adult supernatural adventure. Ghosts, monsters, and killers, oh my. Status: Fourth draft in progress. Fourth draft combines Talking Dead and Monsters & Magic into one book. We generally write one chapter a writing session, and try to have at least one session a week though we've each had to cancel a few sessions, so while this seems like slow going compared to 2014, it's actually moving along quite well.

(Monsters & Magic used to be #2. Young adult supernatural adventure. Flirtatious werewolves and incorporeal monsters.)

2. Supernatural Slumber Party
Young adult supernatural adventure. It's a slumber party of supernaturals, see? Status: First draft complete. Second draft on hold until Talking Dead draft four complete.

3. Wicked Witches
Young adult supernatural adventure. Witches, dude, always with the witches. And the world goes BOOM. Status: First draft complete. Second draft on hold until Talking Dead draft four complete. Second draft combines Wicked Witches and Monster Mash into one book.

(The Monster Mash used to be #5. Young adult supernatural adventure. The world goes BOOM.)

Stand Alone Books

1. Monsters in the Trees
Young adult horror. Friends, makeouts, and monsters in an isolated cabin. Status: Draft one in progress. Slow progress. I need to do some more outlining on paper, I think, before I sit down at the computer again. We'll see if that helps.

2. Winter Cabin
New adult or adult paranormal romance. Flirtations and sexy times while snowed in interrupted by monsters and mayhem. Status: Draft one nearly complete. Though not as nearly as it should be. I hit the end of the outline around the end of March as planned, and then realized there's probably another 15k of story to write. Good times. (This will go under the pseud if it is published.)

3. Monsters and Music
Young adult horror. Ghosts and werewolves, oh my. (witches and dead people and haunted things, too.) Status: Draft two in progress. Had an epiphany about the main romantic relationship, which I think will help structure the story.
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Feminism, Technology: Why Do I Have to Call This App 'Julie'? by Joanne McNeil at The New York Times

And why does artificial intelligence need a gender at all? Why not imagine a talking cat or a wise owl as a virtual assistant? I would trust an anthropomorphized cartoon animal with my calendar. Better yet, I would love to delegate tasks to a non-binary gendered robot alient from a galaxy where setting up meetings over email is respected as a high art.

But Julie could be the name of a friend of mine. To use it at all requires an element of playacting. And if I treat it with kindness, the company is capitalizing on my very human emotions.


Fat, Concern Trolling: 11 Reasons Your 'Concern' for Fat People's Health Isn't Helping Anyone by Melissa A. Fabello and Linda Bacon at Everyday Feminism


Concern trolling – which is the act of a person participating “in a debate posing as an actual or potential ally who simply has concerns they need answered before they will ally themselves with a cause” – is something we see all too often, even on our very own Everyday Feminism Facebook page.

And most often, we get these sort of “But isn’t this freedom actually kinda dangerous for society?” comments on articles that we post about fat acceptance and body liberation.

And to be honest, it’s disheartening to see feminists – people who we generally trust to engage with content and have their status quo boundaries pushed – rush to quote sketchy research and throw oppressive ideologies around all in the name of, supposedly, “health.”

But when we live in a world that so desperately hates people of size (um, hello, “War on Obesity”), we completely understand how these prejudices turn into truths in our minds.


Fandom, 90s, Queer Joy: '90s BFFs We Shipped Before Shipping Was a Thing by Natasia Langfelder at AfterEllen

Note: That title (and the opening paragraph) is terrible, because shipping was a thing way before the 90s. God, people, learn your fannish history if you're going to write about it. (The opening paragraph says that in the 90s, fan fiction was just getting off the ground and "shipping" wasn't something they talked about. Um. No. Wrong. Incorrect. Do your research, people. One example: slash fanfic goes back to at least the 70s. Kirk and Spock shippers, as just one group, could shout this stupidity to silence.)

Mostly I love this list, but it includes Buffy and Faith. While I still, to this day, ship the hell out of Buffy and Faith, calling them BFFs is a stretch, and that was part of the appeal.

Okay, before everyone gets upset, I recognize that Willow and Tara are the best couple to ever couple. However, Willow and Tara weren’t a thing until 2000. In the ’90s, Willow had no idea her soul mate wasn’t a dude. What we did have in the late ’90s was Sarah Michelle Gellar and Eliza Dusku alternately fighting each other and working together to slay vampires, and it was the hottest thing ever.

Buffy and Faith were both sarcastic, funny and bore the burden of being a slayer. They totally understood each other, even when they were at each other’s throats, their longing glances at each other proved they were ready to throw down their weapons and have a make out sesh. And there’s no way you ever forgot about the time they danced together at The Bronze. Faith was also a lot more fun than mopey, brooding Angel. Who would choose Angel over Faith?! Sadly, the Buffyverse left this pairing unexplored.


Mental Illnes, Privilege: Why Speaking Up About Mental Illness is a Privilege by Anna Spargo-Ryan at DailyLife

People told me I was "brave". You're so brave, they said, for being honest and out there about your mental illness. It's so brave of you to lay it down like that, to stand up against stigma and discrimination.

What a load of crap. I didn't share these photos because I'm brave. I shared them because I'm privileged.

The only reason I'm able to share my experiences with mental illness is that I do so with little risk. I have a family who love and support me with full awareness of my illnesses. I'm self-employed in a dual-income household. I will not be out on the street, I will not be broke and I will not be ostracised by the people I love. I'm already ahead of the mental health game before I even start. I am a white, educated and middle-class person living in a capital city, and that means I have a loud voice.

The system is not set up to support people outside of this model. In fact, it begets mental crises in at-risk people and groups. The barriers to seeking treatment are immense and often insurmountable. To seek treatment is to confront stigma head-on, and for many people that can mean shame, fear, financial distress, exclusion and discrimination.

...

Dumb luck, too, that I am privileged enough to share this with you. Middle-class, white, educated. I have better access to mental health support than 99.9% of the world population. I'm not brave. I'm shouting.


Science, Space: NASA Working on Technology to Shoot Us to Mars Super Fast With Lasers by Dan Van Winkle at The Mary Sue

One of those technologies is photonic propulsion, or literally shooting us there with lasers, and the best part is that it’s not nearly as outlandish as it sounds. As a matter of fact, the Kepler space telescope is already using the pressure of photons traveling from the sun to balance itself and continue its mission in space. Meanwhile, The Planetary Society is using a similar technique for propulsion of its LightSail spacecraft.

However, to actually propel large spacecraft (LightSail is pretty … well, light) to the relativistic speeds (speeds even somewhat approaching the speed of light) necessary to significantly shorten space travel times, NASA wouldn’t so much rely on photons from the sun as on powerful lasers on Earth that would be directed at the spacecraft. This could allow a robotic mission to reach Mars in a matter of days.


Cultural Appropriation: Not Your Idea: Cultural Appropriation in the Birthing Community by Aaminah Shakur at The Toast

A dear friend of mine was just talking about her experiences with this and her new baby. The second I saw this article, I thought about her.

It wasn’t until about seven years later, when I had a Nicaraguan partner, that I had the opportunity to see Central American mothers wearing their babies on their backs in blankets. In the last 10 years, thanks to the internet, I have seen a resurgence in accessible information about babywearing. Unfortunately, most information and marketing is geared towards middle class white women, often with selling points about this great “new” phenomenon and requiring expensive contraptions, while disregarding the communities of color in which babywearing has been the norm since the beginning of time. This is evident in the lack of Black and Brown families present in most marketing campaigns and even social media. Four years ago I started a Tumblr dedicated to just showing people of color babywearing, and it was difficult to find pictures to post (this has since improved somewhat). It was also met with anger from white women who said that there was no need for a blog just for families of color and that it was “exclusionary.” They seemed to totally miss the irony of that term.

...

It is worth noting that traditional forms of babywearing and belly-binding did not require owning multiple $50-200 wraps or strappy carriers. All one needs is a long scarf, piece of fabric, or blanket. One can argue that it was only a matter of time before wraps became commercialized, and that marketing of wraps is responding to a demand. On the other hand, I would suggest that such marketing is exactly what makes these options seem “not for you” to many poor parents of color for whom such an expense is simply not realistic. Instead of teaching that belly-binding and babywearing can be done with one item, and showing how any scarf of a certain size can be functional, marketing suggests that babywearing is complex and expensive. For poor and non-white women who are also at a higher risk of accusations of neglectful caregiving, the question of safety is also very real. Marketers are quick to imply that carriers and wraps are necessary for safety despite the fact that women all over the world continue to wear their babies with a thin cotton scarf and no problems. It isn’t about the type or cost of your wrap, it is about being knowledgeable about how to use it safely. Access to the traditional knowledge of our ancestors and support to acknowledge that wisdom and methodology is a key missing ingredient because it has been appropriated by white women who fail to do outreach to the communities from which they have stolen the traditions.


Science, Health: 10 Epidemics Waiting to Happen (That You Won’t Enjoy) by Mira Grant at BuzzFeed

Who loves a good epidemic? Not…not anyone. Like the VH1 Top 20 Video Countdown, only kind of more disgusting. Mira Grant, author of Parasite, Symbiont, and the bestselling Newsflesh trilogy, presents the Top 10 Future Epidemic Countdown! Remember, good hygiene and vaccination can protect you from many potential illnesses, as can adherence to basic quarantine procedures. Don’t panic, plan. And don’t use an outbreak as an excuse to be an asshole.

...

We have a reliable vaccine for polio: we have a way to keep it from spreading. But it hasn’t been considered a disease of great concern in America since the 1960s, and the polio vaccine is one of many to have been disputed by the anti-vaccination crowd. The return of polio to the nations where it is not currently a concern is not an “if,” it’s a “when.” I have nothing funny or pithy to say here. It’s coming. We could stop it.

We won’t.


Finally, in case you haven't seen it: My Little Pony doll creator.

Originally posted at carlamlee.com.
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Critics, Diversity, Whitewashing: Chaz Ebert: Where Are All the Diverse Voices in Film Criticism?

It is not enough to have reviewers who understand how to discuss film. We need reviewers who can speak deeply and with nuance because of their lived experiences. The trusted voices in film criticism should be diverse ambassadors who have access to the larger conversation. If we can’t recognize ourselves within the existing public discourse, we are implicitly being asked to devalue our experiences and accept a narrative that is not our own. Excluding diverse voices from the conversation de-emphasizes the value of our different experiences. It is critical that the people who write about film and television and the arts—and indeed the world—mirror the people in our society.


Work, Privacy: Now Playing in Your Headphones: Nothing by Lindsay Mannering

Short of building a fort around our dsks using empty shipping boxes and half-functioning umbrellas, headphones are the only "Do Not Disturb" signs we have left.


Queer, Dating, Latina: How to Date Your Future Latina Girlfriend by Lorena Russi

When people meet me, I often get confused for a white boy. Which, hey, on the accidental privilege scale, it could be worse. But in fact, I’m a Queer, Colombian woman. Das right ladies! I shop in the little boys’ section of H&M, watched the original Ugly Betty series in Spanish, and eat fríjoles. So, when potential girlfriends find out, they don’t usually care about any of this. They aren’t interested in my career as a professional soccer player, that coming out to Colombian parents was difficult, yet not impossible, or that my Spanish accent sounds like I’m Spaniard. At least not at first. Instead, I get asked a standard set of questions to test my level of “Spanishness”:

“Are both of your parents Colombian?
 “Yes.” 


“Well, do you even speak Spanish?”
 “Yes.”


“But you look Jewish?”
 “…Yes?”


Fat, Queer, Dating: Dating While Fat: 5 Things I Consider Before Commitment by Ashleigh Shackelford

In navigating a fatphobic, sizist culture, it’s very difficult to find a partner that is worth committing to when the world codifies your body as unworthy of love. In finding a potential partner, my experiences have allowed me to create questions to guide me in knowing who to invest in as a queer Black fat femme.

To be honest, dating while fat, Black, queer, a hood feminist, and a radical activist means either compromising parts of myself, or suffering through easing partners into gradually respecting all of my humanity. Living in a culture that defines my body as unhealthy, a problem, ugly, unhygienic, and unworthy of love makes it that much harder to find a potential partner to value all of me.


Friendships, Homes: How our housing choices make adult friendships more difficult by David Roberts

Our ability to form and maintain friendships is shaped in crucial ways by the physical spaces in which we live. "Land use," as it's rather aridly known, shapes behavior and sociality. And in America we have settled on patterns of land use that might as well have been designed to prevent spontaneous encounters, the kind out of which rich social ties are built.


Harry Potter, Racism, Cultural Appropriation, White Washing: A bunch of links about this topic. Basically, J.K. Rowling released the History of Magic in North America on Pottermore, and it became clear that the HP universe is even more white washed, racist, and badly developed than people thought.

NORTH AMERICAN MAGIC: THE WORST THING TO HAPPEN TO HARRY POTTER SINCE VOLDEMORT by Justina Ireland

While the rest of the Harry Potter books and movies show a casual disregard for inclusiveness and rely on token minority characters (when they appear at all), the History of Magic in North America is the literary equivalent of performing in black face, although I suppose in this case it’s red face. I discussed on twitter why Rowling’s history of Magic in North America was lazy, but it’s worse than that. While it’s easy for readers to hand wave away the terrible representation in the earlier works, and by extension the movies (which have the whitest London ever depicted since My Fair Lady), it isn’t easy to dismiss this newest work. Rowling cobbled together random bits of found folklore and woo-woo like a New Age practitioner trying for a fresh identity after their third divorce. This isn’t worldbuilding, this isn’t a fresh and new spin on well-known tropes for a deeper message. This is a literal laundry list of stereotypes about Native Americans that required no thought or deeper examination. It’s hurtful to Native Americans and harmful, spreading problematic tropes, but it’s also insulting to the fans who have spent their money and time on the franchise.


Magic & Marginalization: Et tu, JK? :( by Righting Red

And it being JK Rowling, you can imagine the kind of violent backlash these Indigenous women are receiving from fans who couldn’t care less about Natives or our issues (or our women, obviously).

For me the representation issue boils down to this: The mass media narrative around Natives is intensely problematic; if we’re mentioned at all, it’s within a stereotypical or fantastical sense, and very rarely goes beyond 1 or 2-D. Many consumers of this media have no idea we still exist as contemporary, multi-dimensional individuals, which makes these fantastical/fictional perpetrations very much a part of the problem in that NO ONE knows or cares to know any of the very real issues our communities face. Who cares about the epidemic levels of Native youth suicide when OMG JK ROWLING IS WRITING ABOUT MAGICAL INDIAN SKINWALKERS!!!

We’re marginalized in real life and we’re marginalized in media. To have a powerhouse like Rowling (though any non-Native author really) profit off our continued erasure and harmful representations is something I am totally not here for. The argument that it’s “fiction” is worthless to me. If we (as consumers) had diverse representation of Native people the same way white people do, Rowling’s latest wouldn’t be so problematic, because consumers would have other representations to base opinions off of. As it is, so much of the Native narrative is romanticized and fantastical and now one of the world’s most successful authors has thrown her mighty magical empire against our fragile reemergence from near-total cultural genocide.


William Apess (Pequot) on Depictions of Native People in Stories

It is what Apess wrote there, in that paragraph, that matters to me in my work as a Native scholar who, 187 years later, is doing the same thing that Apess did in 1829. Through story, he learned mistaken ideas about his own people such that he was afraid of them.

Obviously, misrepresenting who we are was wrong in 1829, and it is wrong now.

What J.K. Rowling did yesterday (March 8, 2016) in the first story of her "History of Magic in North America" is the most recent example of white people misrepresenting Native people. Her misrepresentations are harmful. And yet, countless people are cheering what Rowling did, and dismissing our objections. That, too, is not ok.


It could’ve been great by N.K. Jemisin

You know, the thing I always try to remember when I’m borrowing from mythology is to be a shit-ton more careful with still-living traditions than I am with those long gone or transformed away from their roots. I feel relatively safe treading on the threads of Egyptian myth because there isn’t a centuries-long-and-ongoing history of using, say, the worship of Bast as an excuse to steal people’s ancestral land and children in the name of Christianity. But you know what? I’m still careful, even with “dead” faiths, because I don’t know how playing with these things might hurt real people. Nations have been built upon and torn down by the concepts I’m playing with. The least I can do is research the hell out of a thing before I put a toe in that ancient water.

It’s even more crucial for religions that are alive, and whose adherents still suffer for misconceptions and misappropriations. But these are easier to research, and it’s often much easier to figure out when you’re about to put a foot right into a morass of discrimination and objectification. All the evidence is there, sometimes still wet with blood. You just need to read. You just need to ask people. You just need to think.

And whether I believe in a thing or not, I always try to recognize that these concepts, these names, these words, have power. Power is always to be respected, whether it’s yours or someone else’s, present or past.


All of the following by Dr. Adrienne Keene:

“Magic in North America”: The Harry Potter franchise veers too close to home

So I get worried thinking about the message it sends to have “indigenous magic” suddenly be associated with the Harry Potter brand and world. Because the other piece I deal with on this blog is the constant commodification of our spiritual practices too. There is an entire industry of plastic shamans selling ceremonies, or places like Urban Outfitters selling “smudge kits” and fake eagle feathers. As someone who owns a genuine time-turner, I know that marketing around Harry Potter is a billion dollar enterprise, and so I get nervous thinking about the marketing piece. American fans are going to be super stoked at the existence of a wizarding school on this side of the pond, and I’m sure will want to snatch up anything related to it–which I really hope doesn’t include Native-inspired anything.


and


Native spirituality and religions are not fantasy on the same level as wizards. These beliefs are alive, practiced, and protected. The fact that the trailer even mentions the Navajo concept of skinwalkers sends red flags all over the place, and that it’s mentioned next to the Salem witch trials? Disaster. Even the visual imagery of the only humans shown in the trailer being a Native man and burning girls places the two too close for comfort.

We fight so hard every single day as Native peoples to be seen as contemporary, real, full, and complete human beings and to push away from the stereotypes that restrict us in stock categories of mystical-connected-to-nature-shamans or violent-savage-warriors. Colonization erases our humanity, tells us that we are less than, that our beliefs and religions are “uncivilized”, that our existence is incongruent with modernity. This is not ancient history, this is not “the past.” The ongoing oppression of Native peoples is reinscribed everyday through texts and images like this trailer. How in the world could a young person watch this and not make a logical leap that Native peoples belong in the same fictional world as Harry Potter?


Magic in North America Part 1: Ugh.

So, this is where I’m going to perform what Audra Simpson calls an “ethnographic refusal,” “a calculus ethnography of what you need to know and what I refuse to write in.” In her work with her own community, she asks herself the questions: “what am I revealing here and why? Where will this get us? Who benefits from this and why?”

I had a long phone call with one of my friends/mentors today, who is Navajo, asking her about the concepts Rowling is drawing upon here, and discussing how to best talk about this in a culturally appropriate way that can help you (the reader, and maybe Rowling) understand the depths to the harm this causes, while not crossing boundaries and taboos of culture. What did I decide? That you don’t need to know. It’s not for you to know. I am performing a refusal.

What you do need to know is that the belief of these things (beings?) has a deep and powerful place in Navajo understandings of the world. It is connected to many other concepts and many other ceremonial understandings and lifeways. It is not just a scary story, or something to tell kids to get them to behave, it’s much deeper than that. My own community also has shape-shifters, but I’m not delving into that either.

What happens when Rowling pulls this in, is we as Native people are now opened up to a barrage of questions about these beliefs and traditions (take a look at my twitter mentions if you don’t believe me)–but these are not things that need or should be discussed by outsiders. At all. I’m sorry if that seems “unfair,” but that’s how our cultures survive.

The other piece here is that Rowling is completely re-writing these traditions. Traditions that come from a particular context, place, understanding, and truth. These things are not “misunderstood wizards”. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
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Current active projects:

UK Horror Project
(cowritten with Sarah)

1. Talking Dead
Young adult supernatural adventure. Ghosts, monsters, and killers, oh my. Status: Fourth draft in progress. Fourth draft combines Talking Dead and Monsters & Magic into one book. We generally write one chapter a writing session, and try to have at least one session a week though we've each had to cancel a few sessions, so while this seems like slow going compared to 2014, it's actually moving along quite well.

(Monsters & Magic used to be #2. Young adult supernatural adventure. Flirtatious werewolves and incorporeal monsters.)

2. Supernatural Slumber Party
Young adult supernatural adventure. It's a slumber party of supernaturals, see? Status: First draft complete. Second draft on hold until Talking Dead draft four complete.

3. Wicked Witches
Young adult supernatural adventure. Witches, dude, always with the witches. And the world goes BOOM. Status: First draft complete. Second draft on hold until Talking Dead draft four complete. Second draft combines Wicked Witches and Monster Mash into one book.

(The Monster Mash used to be #5. Young adult supernatural adventure. The world goes BOOM.)

Stand Alone Books

1. Monsters in the Trees
Young adult horror. Friends, makeouts, and monsters in an isolated cabin. Status: Draft one in progress. Slow progress. I need to do some more outlining on paper, I think, before I sit down at the computer again. We'll see if that helps.

2. Winter Cabin
New adult or adult paranormal romance. Flirtations and sexy times while snowed in interrupted by monsters and mayhem. Status: Draft one nearly complete. (This will go under the pseud if it is published.)

3. Monsters and Music
Young adult horror. Ghosts and werewolves, oh my. Status: Draft two in progress.

Originally published at carlamlee.com.
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Cuba: Going Home for the First Time: A Return to Cuba by Monica Castillo.

Going to Cuba, I heard plenty from others who had been there before: the people are wonderful and it is a land stuck in time; be sure to get pictures of the cars and cigars! I'm glad visitors like the Cuban people--they may be talking about my family after all--but they're people just like in any other part of the world. I wince at every reporter playing Columbus at the sight of our cars and cigars. My Cuba is more than an idealized postcard. It is a real place full of beauty and pain, of want and generosity. I knew I could never go back to the Cuba my parents left; time and scarcity have seen to that. But I wanted to see what's left of my roots: my family that has never seen me in person and the one-screen movie theaters I heard so much about growing up. The ones where my mom would see her first Disney movies, Japanese samurai films, French comedies, cheap Italian spy flicks and Soviet period melodramas. They're all still there.


Diversity, Discrimination, Hollywood: Of Fear and Fake Diversity by Lexi Alexander.

So, good news....I'm ready to answer the question as to whether or not I have seen any changes: Yes, but none of them are good, some could eventually backfire and the vast majority are the usual fake diversity campaigns.

I'm not saying there aren't people who take diversity and inclusion seriously, they do exist. I've had dozens of meetings over the past couple of months (courtesy of my amazing manager and a team of new high performance agents). These meetings are set up for me to talk about directing and developing TV, but nowadays almost everybody brings up an article I've written about women directors or my diversity activism on Twitter (more than a few times now I've been elevated to VIP status with an important executive because either one of their family members, friends or children follows me on Twitter...which is quite amazing if you consider the wider connotation).


Movies, Sexism, Racism: Fuck You, Spike Lee by Ijeoma Oluo.

Here we were, the most antisocial people in the writing world, reaching out to share the pain we had just experienced. The pain of Chi-Raq, Spike Lee's ambitious new film tackling inner-city Chicago violence through the power of the pussy (I wish I were exaggerating, but it's based on the ancient Greek play Lysistrata). A fucking horrible film. This film is so bad, that even after 20 minutes of commiserating with other reviewers, even after bitching about it on my date later in the evening for another 20 minutes, I still don't know how to pour all my hate for this film into one review.

So I'll start here: Chi-Raq is bad. Everything about it is bad. Don't see it. For those of you who need more than that before being convinced to not waste $12 and two hours of your life on this monstrosity, let me try to put into words what makes this film so awful, listed from least egregious to "Jesus, Spike Lee, what happened to you?"


Libraries, Badass Women, Politics, Copyright: Obama's new Librarian of Congress nominee is a rip-snortin', copyfightin', surveillance-hatin' no-foolin' LIBRARIAN by Cory Doctorow.

RIP-SNORTIN! And to think my law school friends nearly died over my use of hootenanny in a game one night. Clearly, I need to start adding "rip-snorting" to my vocabulary. More importantly, though, Carla Hayden sounds amazing. I am in awe of her, and want to grow up to be more like her.

The outgoing Librarian of Congress was a technophobe who refused all gadgets more advanced than a fax machine; he was in charge of the nation's copyright, and hence its IT policy.

27 years later, he's finally going, and after a lot of speculation, the president has announced his nominee: the wonderful Carla Hayden. Hayden is an actual librarian, she fought the Patriot Act, lobbies for open access, and the RIAA hates her.


Copyright, Australia: Three Strikes System In Australia 'Too Costly' For Industry; Seems Piracy Not Such A Massive Problem After All by Glyn Moody.

It was evident when the "three strikes" or "graduated response" was first proposed in France back in 2009 that it was a really bad idea. After all, in its crudest form, it cuts people off from what has become a necessity for modern life -- the Internet -- simply because they are accused of copyright infringement, an area of law that is notoriously full of uncertainties. Given that inauspicious start, it's no surprise that over the years, the three strikes system has failed everywhere, with some of the early adopters either dropping it, or putting it on hold. No wonder, then, that a latecomer, Australia, is also having problems with implementing the approach, as this report from c|net makes clear:

A three strikes scheme to track down individual pirates and send them warning letters about their downloading habits has been all but quashed, after rights holders and ISPs decided that manually targeting and contacting downloaders would be too costly.


Comics, TV: The CW is Officially in the Archie TV Show Business by William Hughes.

Whaaaaaat?! It is a really great time to be a comic book adaptation fan. (J, who generally hates comic book adaptations, except for The Walking Dead and iZombie, is not nearly so pleased, because I keep dragging him to see things. Last year's movie negotiations ended with him not having to watch a single comic book movie, but he failed to ask if Vin Diesel had more than one movie out, so he got stuck with two Vin Diesel movies. I still feel like I won that negotiation.) But anyway, ARCHIE TV SHOW! ... except a Glee writer is involved, and anyone attached to Glee makes me leery.

The CW has ordered a pilot for Riverdale, comic-book-to-TV-series mastermind Greg Bertlanti’s “surprising and subversive take” on the quietly bizarre Archie universe. Scripted by Glee writer and Archie Comics Chief Creative Officer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the series will explore the suburban madness—zombies, gun-toting vigilantes, hamburger-loving, crown-wearing time cops—that lurks just beneath regular teen Archie Andrews’ various romantic squabbles.


(No lie, though, the pilots CW picked up sound really interesting, between Archie and the period horror drama Transylvania. Get it, CW. Get it.)

Art, DIY, Jewelry: DIY: Coding Jewelry by Gabrielle.

Last month I went to a lecture about girls and tech given by Cynthia Bailey Lee of Stanford University. Cynthia is a mom of two, and teaches C++ programming, computing theory, processor architecture, and number theory. Specifically her lecture was about getting our daughters and nieces and any other young girls in our lives to get more excited about working with code, and making the coding world more accessible.

One idea she had was making jewelry based on ASCII code. (And if you don’t know what ASCII code is, no worries. It’s all explained below.) I was really taken by this idea! I called Amy Christie and we brainstormed options for both kid jewelry and grown up jewelry (because hey! it’s not too late for us grownups to learn coding either).

The basic idea is to use beads to write your name or initials or a favorite word or a secret message in code. It’s so cool!


Originally posted at carlamlee.com.
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What I've Read

Mostly comfort rereading.

BATTLE MAGIC and MELTING STONES by Tamora Pierce, set in the Emelan world. BATTLE MAGIC is about beloved characters caught in a war, and MELTING STONES about volcanoes and magic and learning how to be a good person. They're pretty wonderful.

What I'm Reading

Time to drop everything else for a new Incryptid novel! CHAOS CHOREOGRAPHY by Seanan McGuire came out yesterday, I received my copy today, and I am already well into it. I'll probably be done by tonight. I love the Incryptid stories so, so much; they are stories of family and monsters and making the world better for everyone, not just the people like you, and they are such satisfying reads. (Even though I'm not all that fond of either of the two main narrators so far; I'm holding out for the Antimony books myself. Still, they are fun, and I reread the whole series at least once a year. CHAOS CHOREOGRAPHY is book five, though there is a sixth book in the same world.)

BEHOLD THE BONES by Natalie C. Parker is the sequel to BEWARE THE WILD, which I read and reviewed last year and really loved. I'm about halfway through BEHOLD THE BONES, and it is already even more enjoyable and wonderful than BEWARE THE WILD. I love the main character, Candace, and her sharpness and her drive and her logic an unbelievable amount, and I can't wait to finish her story.

LISEY’S STORY by Stephen King: Yes, I am still reading this. I really like Lisey, and I love the way her history with her husband unfolds throughout the story, in pieces and present thoughts and scenes set back in what she remembers, but it is really slow paced and easy to put down, so it is taking forever.

TREASURES, DEMONS AND OTHER BLACK MAGIC by Meghan Ciana Doidge: I think I'm at least going to finish the first trilogy. I don't know if I'll continue it after. We'll see how much annoyance at the main character's "quirky" traits (and my dislike of first person narrators) balances against the stuff I do enjoy. So far, the stuff I enjoy is losing out, but maybe once I'm done with the cliffhanger ending, I'll like it more.

What I'll Read Next

DARK ALCHEMY by Laura Bickle (Dark Alchemy #1): I'm trying to avoid buying new books this year, except for a few favorite authors, but someone recommended the second book in the series to me recently, and I bought this book immediately. It sounds like western + magic + kick ass women, and I am here for that so hard. SO HARD.

Originally posted at carlamlee.com.
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Last week I posted a Sims 3 ISBI legacy over on LJ. More updates will come, but as I was playing earlier, I realized I could hear a horse frantically whinnying over and over, but when I went looking, I couldn't find the horse. A couple days ago, I expanded the house I'm using for the legacy, and I think, somehow, a horse got trapped inside it while I was in building mode, but now I can't find it to get rid of it.

There is an invisible horse haunting my Sims, and I am cracking up about it.

(Though I'll be pretty unhappy if I have to move them to a new lot. I just finished all sorts of changes to this house!)
seeksadventure: (Default)
Current active projects:

UK Horror Project
(cowritten with Sarah)

1. Talking Dead
Young adult supernatural adventure. Ghosts, monsters, and killers, oh my. Status: Fourth draft in progress. Fourth draft combines Talking Dead and Monsters & Magic into one book. We generally write one chapter a writing session, and try to have at least one session a week though we've each had to cancel a few sessions, so while this seems like slow going compared to 2014, it's actually moving along quite well.

(Monsters & Magic used to be #2. Young adult supernatural adventure. Flirtatious werewolves and incorporeal monsters.)

2. Supernatural Slumber Party
Young adult supernatural adventure. It's a slumber party of supernaturals, see? Status: First draft complete. Second draft on hold until Talking Dead draft four complete.

3. Wicked Witches
Young adult supernatural adventure. Witches, dude, always with the witches. And the world goes BOOM. Status: First draft complete. Second draft on hold until Talking Dead draft four complete. Second draft combines Wicked Witches and Monster Mash into one book.

(The Monster Mash used to be #5. Young adult supernatural adventure. The world goes BOOM.)

Stand Alone Books

1. Monsters in the Trees
Young adult horror. Young adult horror. Friends, makeouts, and monsters in an isolated cabin. Status: Draft one in progress. Slow progress. I need to do some more outlining on paper, I think, before I sit down at the computer again. We'll see if that helps.
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