rockinlibrarian: (christmas)

On the off-chance you don't follow me on social media (or do but missed it because FB's obnoxious) or on GeekMom -- which you really should because I post there more often-- I posted my Merry Christmas post there this year https://geekdad.com/2016/12/here-is-what-christmastime-means-to-me/--I'm on my Nook so I can't make that link look pretty.

So anyway, allow me to direct you there. Merry Christmas!

rockinlibrarian: (portrait)

Hi. This might be a cry for help? Part of me's great. I feel capable. Christmas prep is fun and exciting. But if I didn't have Christmas, and to a lesser extent if I didn't have my library job (because I have hard-to-get-moving moments with that, too), I'd... well I don't know what I'd have. What I'm feeling is maybe best described as disillusionment? I feel like I don't believe in anything. Not in a religious sense-- in fact God is probably one of the few things I DO still believe in, but I don't exactly feel close it Him either--though religion as an institution isn't faring so well on my things-I-believe-in list, either.

But no, I mean, I've lost my faith in random stupid things, like journalism and... okay not STUPID, that's just the disillusionment talking. I just mean... aside from the US government crashing down before our eyes, and every other horror of humanity: my Sesame Street has lost sight of its original mission to serve the underserved; my daydream of running away to England has been tainted by Brexit crap, and my Imaginary Englishman Husband has even lost most of his luster; my favorite local radio station's news reports sound like The Trumpaganda Minute; my kid has developed full-on Oppositional Defiant Disorder and I'm CRAP at everything I ought to do as a parent; I'm not in love with my husband, he's just there (I LOVE him, mind you, in the sense that I love any family member, I'm just not IN love--no admiration, little affection) ; and no, I'm STILL not writing fiction, but hey, that's been not-happening forever now. It's like I have nothing to dream for. Disillusionment.

That's a weird word, because logically it sounds like a good thing: seeing through illusions to the truth! Except I'm not seeing any TRUTH, either. It's just pointlessness all over.

I literally do NOT CARE about self care. I can't bring myself to bother. My cholesterol recently took off out of nowhere, I'm falling apart, but eh, who cares. Watch the world crash down, why not just crash with it? I know what I'm SUPPOSED to do to get healthy/keep from getting more unhealthy. But I DON'T CARE.

I'm not sure what it's like to be an atheist. Surely they have SOME beliefs, not supernatural ones, but, like, VALUES. Things to stand for. Right? I'm short THAT.

I know this is bad. I need to get my meds fixed, but, a, I lost my psychiatrist and can't get an appointment with the new one until february, and b, my perpetual state of not-caring wonders what the point would be.

But the Christmas lights calm me. They remind me to light a candle to get through the dark times, because the light WILL come again.

So while some people find this time of year stressful, I'm thankful for it. It's carrying me through. I'm just not looking forward to January.

So anyhoo, that's where I am right now. Sorry for the downer. I just need to get it off my chest.

rockinlibrarian: (roar)
So, unlike people living in Bubbles of Blue, I was not shocked. Disappointed, absolutely, but not surprised. So why did it hurt so much? Why was I crying? Why have I been unable to shake off the tears that keep coming all day?

I mean, there's the usual. The stuff I've already explained, about why I was voting the way I did in the first place. I want to thank those who voted differently but acknowledge that they're not necessarily happy about it, or who even, plain, don't gloat at all, because for some of us this IS genuinely not just a matter of the-one-we-liked-lost, but the-one-who-won-gives-us-literal-panic-attacks-and-it's-going-to-be-rough-for-us-to-watch-the-news-for-the-next-four-years.

But as I tried to explain to the kids, doing a very bad job because my own emotions belied every "it's going to be all right" I said, it's not like the world is suddenly going to erupt into nuclear war this afternoon.

Besides, WE are lucky. WE don't have to deal with systematic racism. OTHERS are much more directly fearing for their lives.

I began to get the sense that there was something slightly selfish about my grief. It felt so personal, like I wanted to shout "But look what you've done to ME!" at everyone who voted. What HAD they done to me? Voted for a guy who triggers my bully-anxiety, so what, it's not like my health care or marriage legality or right to freakin' live in this country is in danger. Sure I could TRY to nobly insist it was all alturistic, that I really felt so bad for EVERYONE ELSE, but no-- I mean, yes, I DO feel bad-- but no, this personal grief IS INDEED personal. What bugged me so much?

Eventually I unearthed it. It's because I always started crying harder when I read inspiring messages like this:










And most notably, this:


Because THAT is one of my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE QUOTES OF ALL TIME. I was keeping a quote book when I first read Fellowship, and at that I'd jumped up and ran to grab the dang thing because I needed to write that one down. It hit me hard in the chest this morning, like J.R.R. Tolkien had taken me by the shoulders, given me a little shake, and said, "How could you have forgotten what I told you?!"

"I'm sorry, Professor. I hear you. I hear the others. I'm just having a really hard time believing you right now."

WHO NEEDS MY VOICE. I worried for ages that my voice is useless because I'm too Privileged, because I'm not from a population that's been historically silenced. Ah, but then I found it again. I found it not enough to feel that I had any FICTIONAL stories worth telling, but I at least had, not just the right, but the DUTY, to speak up for those who AREN'T as privileged as me. So I started getting political. I started getting BRAVE. I started making statement after statement and long essay after long essay.

And I voted. Because Every Vote Counts.

Yeah, but I look at the returns for my county, and although it was obvious from the signs along the road, it just felt disheartening to see that MY vote, in my county, had been outnumbered two to one.

And I thought about my essays. My impassioned pleas here and on Twitter and Facebook, and the time last week I finally absolutely BLEW UP at my husband for his continued insistence that both candidates were awful so he'd stick with the one who "wouldn't take away [his] guns." And I thought, did it even matter?

Who even reads what I write except people who already agree with me? Who even CONSIDERS what I have to say? WHOSE MINDS HAVE I CHANGED by writing these things? Nobody. Nobody cares. I have no effect. I've failed.

Writing has failed.

So I had a well-timed counseling appointment this afternoon. By that time I'd pinpointed this problem, this stupid selfish thing that was upsetting me. As I said last time, my therapist was unsurprised by my general anxiety about the thing because that was going AROUND in her office. "What can help you from getting stuck here, though?" she asked. "What are you going to do in your own life? What do you have control over?"

She was paraphrasing Gandalf. I smiled.

But my eyes teared up again. "It's just that nothing ever changes. No one listens to me. I spoke, but I didn't change anyone's mind."

"Maybe you've got the wrong goal. Maybe you're going to fail if you go into it thinking, 'This one beautiful essay will CHANGE PEOPLE'S MINDS.' That starts to sound kind of nasty, actually, wanting to CONTROL WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK, you know?" She looked hard at me. "Instead, make the goal to be strong in your own beliefs. Believe in yourself enough to put your beliefs out there. You've done that. You've made something beautiful. It may seem like a small drop, but it's something. A small drop still makes waves.

"Besides, no great social movement happened overnight. Do you think it took just one pamphlet to win women the right to vote? Did Martin Luther King go out and make one beautiful speech and suddenly win equality for all? I bet all the great leaders had days where they came home, said to their families, 'Why do I bother? No one is listening.'

"But what did all those great heroes have in common?"

I grinned sheepishly, because again J.R.R. Tolkien supplied the answer, popping immediately into my head:


Why SHOULDN'T that answer have been ready in my head? I NAMED MY SON AFTER THIS GUY BECAUSE OF THIS SPEECH.

Heroes have lots of chances to turn back, but they don't. That's all. That's what makes a hero.

I could actually feel light seeping back into the wrinkles of my brain, sitting there. I started to believe in the inspirational messages again.

"So, what are you going to do now, so you don't slip back into that stagnant water?" she asked me at the end of our session. "What action are you ready to take, to keep things moving?"

"I--" I started to laugh. "...I actually want to write about it."

The Lone Power is always trying to get me to SHUT UP, one way or another. I've said it before and I'll say it again, because over and over It feeds me excuse after excuse, why I should just give it all up, stop trying to write, stop trying to be heard. It's always something new, but it's always the same in the end: "SHUT UP, AMY, NO ONE NEEDS YOUR OPINION." And it always results in entropy taking over, which is how I KNOW it's the Lone Power's doing.* You'd think I'd be able to catch It in the act quicker now. You'd think I'd recognize it sooner. But I guess that's how It works.

I need the reminders, every so often, that the only thing that makes a hero different from everyone else is that they don't turn back.

Don't. Give. Up.


*God bless you, Diane Duane, I don't know how you so deeply infiltrated my own personal theology, but it sure is handy for expressing my dilemma.
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
I should probably get out of the habit of checking the Internet first thing in the morning, because the anxiety it evokes ruins me for the rest of the day. But then, I should probably also change the radio station on my clock radio. It wakes me with news, and local news, at that, which is why I like it. It's the little Washington, PA, station, as opposed to the Pittsburgh stations covering all of western PA, so it's got local traffic and weather and other stuff about things that might affect me in my day to day life, so it's good to wake up to that way (it's also an independent Oldies station that plays the HUGEST variety of music from the 50s to early 90s-- ALWAYS pulling up obscure stuff or stuff that's fallen out of rotation on the bigger stations-- and I often find myself yelling "I LOVE you, WJPA!" periodically every time it unearths something awesome and unknown. Though I will admit some of the stuff they play on their Cruisin' Sundays PROBABLY should have stayed unknown). But it covers national and international news, and while earlier in the year some of the announcers did express some anti-HeWhoMustNotBeNamed (BecauseNowEvenHisNameMakesMeSick) sentiments, the way the news is covered, itself, when it doesn't outright show a bias towards him, at least WHY do they always have to include a soundbite of him, which in most cases adds no information to the news story but never fails to make my body freak out in response?

Self-care says I should be AVOIDING triggers, particularly when they ruin me for the rest of the day like this, but at the same time they're kind of unavoidable right now, period, and if I stay offline I'll just be facing my own ruminations in isolation. And as an EnneaType 9, I'm all about avoidance. There's nothing new there. I'm all about suppressing my own anger (to the point where often even I am not aware of it), peace-ing out, and pretending everything is JUST FINE. It's a sign of growth for me to face up to things, and to express my anger instead of let it simmer.

It's delicate. I know other people are feeling as sick-- or nearly as sick-- of this election stuff as I am. I usually try to be the bearer of light on the Internet, putting beauty and humor out there to counteract all the negativity. But there are TWO definitions of being a bearer of light: counteracting darkness is only one of them. The other is ILLUMINATING, and sometimes that means shining light on things that aren't so pretty. I feel like if I stop speaking the truth I see, I'll be betraying a Holy Mission or something. It's my duty to speak. And I know I've spoken up before and what difference does it make, everyone has made up their minds and the only people who will read this are the people who already agree with me. But I have to keep saying it.

At this point what I'm trying to say to you, to everyone, right here is THIS IS NOT ABOUT POLITICS. This is not about differences in opinion regarding policies and the role of government in the lives of the people, which is what differences in politics should REALLY be about. This is about my personal feelings of horror at watching half the nation rally around a demagogue. It is about personal gut fear, and how I normally do not feel this way about political figures. Remember, I'm a registered Independent! It's not a simple matter of government size or particular policy!

Anyway, what follows is what I wrote for MYSELF as the only audience, in my journal Sunday morning. Not trying to convince anyone else of anything, just me getting it all off my chest. Some of it I've expressed before in bits. I'm sharing it here because that's all I feel I can do at this point: just put it out there, This is what I am experiencing and I feel you should know. What you do with my personal experience is up to you.

Well I mean, within reason. Don't plagiarize my personal experience and say you wrote it, that would suck of you. It's copyrighted by virtue of me writing it here, first (or in my journal first, me second), the law's on my side, dude.

*ahem*

Sunday, October 30, 2016

There's no CCD today so for once I'm not rushing off anywhere in the morning. I feel like I journal so infrequently now that maybe that's why my brain feels like it's about to explode. I woke up at 8 and still feel tired. I realized, this week, is part of it is current events, but not in some theoretical isn't-the-state-of-the-world-frightening way. No, it's that monster of a GOP candidate, there's no escape from him and, here's the thing, he's a genuine bully who uses all the emotionally abusive techniques all the bullies in my life have used-- the ones that tormented me in elementary school, Angie in high school, my other students when I was a teacher. So it's not just an ideological beef I have with him-- he's genuinely triggering. Just seeing his face or hearing his voice puts my body reflexively in fight-or-flight mode-- by this point even just seeing/hearing his name will do it (notice I haven't used it here).

I'm torn between WANTING to talk about it and WANTING to pay attention to the news, and just taking it easy, knowing that reading the news won't accomplish anything, all I can do is go in and VOTE for Hillary next week and pray enough other people are voting for her, too. If she wins maybe this constant state of stress will let up-- if she doesn't, I honestly don't think I can take having to be exposed daily to that man for the next 4 years. Maybe they'll impeach him sooner than that (they impeached BILL C for less), or maybe he'll bully his way into a dictatorship. Still, ANY amount of time with him continuing to dominate the news is TOO MUCH FOR MY POOR NERVES. It got to the point that yesterday I found myself wondering if the Xanax I got last year was still good. I don't know, maybe it WOULD do me good to take one! But one won't change the political situation, so I'd soon devolve into an addict, popping pills one after another in a desperate attempt to stop the world from hurting me.

It's just... insane. You know, some people find the word "insane" a slur toward the mentally ill. But it's BACKWARD, because I'm the one dealing with actual mental illness here, these anxiety flashbacks, but I'm not the dangerously irrational one. This anxiety is not, in and of itself, irrational, it's an actual warning, my experience and understanding throwing up flashing red lights and sirens: "THIS GUY IS BAD NEWS: DON'T LET HIM BE IN CHARGE." The only thing that makes it irrational is that the warning outweighs my ability to DO anything about it. All I can do, besides casting my own vote, is speak up, but WHO'S LISTENING besides the people who already agree with me? I'm Cassandra, over and over.

Sammy had the bad timing to yell "Vote Hillary Clinton!"  while [J's extremely paranoid Survivalist friend--not exaggerating, anyone who knows him knows exactly who I'm referring to-- which would be pretty much Megan, Megan's the only one likely to read this who would know, but she'll also tell you I am definitely not exaggerating], king of the Libertarian Survivalists, was visiting with Jason last night, so the two of them gaped at each other in shock and finally piped up "Why would you SAY such a thing?!" and Sammy goes "Because Donald Trump's a BAD man," naturally-- see? KIDS know. And Jason,* sounding strangely panicky, burst out "WHERE'S YOUR PROOF?!" at his 9yo son, sheez, I mean MY GOD ARE YOU SERIOUS-- first of all, this is another bullying tactic, throw off someone from expressing their opinion by demanding proof in a way that suggests no proof exists (or at least can be used-- there's also the "your word against mine" version of this technique). Second and MOST important, THE PROOF IS ALL OVER THE PLACE, BLATANTLY OUT IN THE OPEN, as opposed to scraps of incidents taken out of context and blown out of proportion by political enemies or conspiracy theorists, which is all Hillary-haters base their hatred on.  Whereas the far greater faults That Monster has are flaunted out in the open. His supporters praise it as a sign of transparency-- because apparently when it's OBVIOUS someone is a pathological liar that makes him more trustworthy than someone who's just accused of being a liar without the facts backing it up? Well, the conspiracy theorists haven't dug anything up on him! BECAUSE THEY DON'T NEED TO DIG!

This is why KIDS don't like him! Why do KIDS so consistently profess their dislike of him? BECAUSE IT'S OBVIOUS if you're not mired in political maneuvering and bias. He is simply a BAD MAN, and kids can spot the emperor's lack of clothes, just like the story said. I'm not saying kids will ALWAYS be right about politics, just that they can tell when the emperor has no clothes. Like a dog who's normally docile suddenly growling at certain strangers who turn out to be bad. It's gut instinct. THIS IS A BAD MAN.

[Name of daycare retracted], the daycare I went to on Friday, has THAT MAN signs up-- one along the edge of the road I thought could be just, you know, anybody, not the daycare itself trying to make a statement, but then I saw they had TWO HUGE SIGNS, one on each side of the daycare's actual sign, EACH EVEN PARTIALLY COVERING UP THE SIGN FOR THE DAYCARE ITSELF. Hol-Lee-Heck. Well, it's a very effective Halloween decoration, scares the crap out of me. How desperate ARE the directors of this daycare? I mean, I'd find even Hillary signs displayed that way inappropriate for a large non-affiliated-with-any-other-group-that-could-be-biased daycare/school, even if it is technically a private school. It's just-- it's mind-boggling. Obviously the other side has feelings just as strong as mine, it's just THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES. There's no other way to put it. That's what that story was about. I feel like I'm screaming truth into a void.
___

So, that. I've said my bit. Mic drop.

Here's to all of us surviving the next week and whatever comes after.

Now let's see if I can actually accomplish anything practical with the time I have left today.

----

*Note: back during the Primaries, J thought That Man was a horrible joke, too-- but now that he's, GASP, the only one who can save us from CROOKED HILLARY, suddenly it doesn't matter! Yippie! He's outnumbered 3 to 1 in this household and he's highly aware of it-- Sammy's outburst the other day wasn't the only time it's come up-- but...! At least none of us here are trying to put up any yard signs, boy, that would be a fun household war, wouldn't it? Though in all seriousness, maybe I should try to explain my anxiety reaction to him, maybe then he'd get it. But he's SOOOO touchy about it, he's pretty much shut himself off from listening.

For the record, I get that HRC represents everything the poor folks of rural pennsylvania (and elsewhere) hate, but the charges laid against her over the years have been outrageously, excuse the term, trumped up. She's not a bad person, although she might have policies you disagree with. I don't agree with everything she says. But she is FOR SURE competent and I have faith in her to do the best job she can do. I'm not JUST voting against the other guy. I genuinely think, though admittedly not perfect, she'll be good for the job. Her biggest hurdle in doing a good job will be the same as Obama's has been-- political enemies trying to block everything they do. WHICH IS JUST RIDICULOUS, CONGRESS, GET OVER IT ALREADY. Anyway, but that's discussing politics calmly on the subject of actual issues and abilities, something we can politely disagree over, as opposed to DEAR GOD KEEP THAT MAN AWAY FROM THE NUCLEAR CODES.
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
I've been unearthing roots of current subconscious feelings a lot this week, like spontaneous psychoanalysis: "That's impressive," my therapist said, "you've done a lot of work!"

"Not really," I said, "I just ruminate about these things. I don't DO anything about it." I mean, it's all well and good tracing your self-denial and hesitancy to WANT anything back to a simple and understandable Ice Cream Incident at the age of six, but what can you do, go back to 1984 so you can tell that six-year-old "It's OKAY to be disappointed, you're NOT selfish, maybe we can try again to get ice cream later"? Being able to see clearly what had happened and knowing objectively that that six year old did nothing wrong and should not have been so harshly punished by her own inner demons, can't magically erase the layers of loathing and mental mechanizations those demons put in place to keep punishing that inner six-year-old whenever her 38-year-old self tries to even HAVE her own wants and needs.

They keep whispering, "Stop whining! You've got it good! You have nothing to complain about, you live a life of privilege!" Little white girl, comfortable middle class home, two loving parents, good at school (not counting homework*). You lived a sheltered childhood. Oh, sure, try to pipe up something about how lonely you were, start to mention "bullying," but we all know bullies have done much worse to OTHER people. Bullying is supposed to involve physical assault! Nobody ever hurt you. Never mind that when you actually look back and describe various situations you think, "Holy heck, girl, no wonder you have social anxiety." Didn't hurt you.

The irony is, the inner demons are doubling down on all the bullying that did, in fact, happen on the outside. They are being bullies, bullies you can't escape from because they keep following you around inside your own freaking head. That's why you still have anxiety dreams involving school cafeterias, where everyone is laughing at you, and everything you say and do just makes the laughing worse, and you literally blow up and start SMITING people and, well, they STILL point out that you're obviously a freak because normal people don't SMITE people and you're all worked up over nothing.

Note: I'm going to get into the current political situation again here, so, you know. But I'm still not talking about politics, per se, I'm talking about bullying. And subconscious roots.

And the fact that walking down a street lined with campaign signs for a classic psychological (as well as apparently physical) bully can be triggering.

I told you, when I devoted a whole post to this election, that I normally don't have strong feelings about politicians. They're all flawed, they're all skilled, it's just a matter of weighing their traits and comparing it to the job and deciding from there. I was very objective in that post. The FACTS favored one candidate far over the other. But the truth is my strong feelings about this election aren't completely objective, because one candidate literally makes me nauseous. Not hyperbole. I'm not insulting him here, saying "he makes me sick" because he's ugly or I don't like his ideas (although I don't). I'm saying he causes a reflexive stress reaction in my body that makes me feel sick. I am LITERALLY SICK of hearing his voice and seeing his smug, hateful, punchable face.

I saw an article on Twitter last month, see what I wrote:

And because the embed doesn't actually let you see the content of the tweet I was quoting:



And if you're like "On a site called 'Everyday Feminism,' yeah like THAT'S not biased," shut up and read it. Well, read it if you ARE like that. If you can just see the headline and are already nodding like, "Yep, absolutely true, I KNOW," then don't read it because it's freaking triggering. Or in my case, read it, discover it IS triggering but it EXPLAINS SO MUCH so you're glad you read it.

THOSE are the things I experienced at the hands of other kids (and in some cases, probably unintentional, from adults--not my parents I must add) as a child, and the things I saw other kids, some of them very important to me, experience and fill me with rage. THOSE are the experiences evoked in my subconscious when I have those cafeteria nightmares.

And, like the article said, it's incredibly triggering to see these behaviors flaunted by someone running for the highest office in the country. When I see his smug face, he reminds me of every kid who picked on me or my friends at school. The decades of simmering frustration bubble back up into the present and all I want to do is PUNCH HIM, and with him every other bully who has ever crossed my path. Did you hear about the guy who sledgehammered his Hollywood Star yesterday? Oh, say what you want about the evils of vandalism, I'm not condoning him, but I TOTALLY understand him. He just DID what all us victims/loved ones of victims FEEL. And, more kindly than sledgehammering the guy's FACE, which is what we really burn inside for (not saying we genuinely want it with our minds! We just FEEL that want).

This ISN'T political, this is primal gut instinct. Don't try to tell me his opponent is a bully, too. You may not agree with her, but if you think she's a bully then you don't understand what a bully is. It isn't just insisting that you're right-- that's called being assertive. A bully is something else entirely, and victims recognize it when we see it, if only subconsciously through reflexive stress reactions. I went into my therapy session on edge yesterday, and said I kept thinking about bullies, and my therapist kept asking if something had happened that had triggered it, and I said, "No, it was just seeing political signs along the road." She nodded immediately and said, "Ah, of course, you've been Trumped." She didn't know my political affiliations! I hadn't said anything specific! But I'm willing to bet I'm not the only one of her patients who has this reaction, and she knew EXACTLY what I meant. People are only getting bullying flashbacks via one particular candidate.

Anyway, to bring it back around, walking the kids to the bus stop along a street with sign after sign supporting the Bullying Poster Boy is... somewhat disconcerting. Even the kids think so. Of COURSE the kids think so-- not just my kids, SO MANY kids, not just parroting their parents' opinions, but genuinely their OWN: "Why do people like him? He's MEAN." Leave it to the kids to cut to the chase.

"Well," I say, "people like him... because... maybe they just believe his lies?" I don't know how to explain. I understand how many people in communities like mine have just had enough of the Liberal Elite, but to actually support this monster instead? THESE people are not monsters. These are ordinary folks who give me cheerful hellos, who have lent a hand on occasion, who have families and full lives.

Maddie's friend and her older sister run out of their house (one WITHOUT a campaign sign) to join my kids at the bus stop, their hair in cornrows, bright smiles on their dark faces, and I get another mental nudge. How does THEIR family feel, living on this street? Oh, maybe people are just as nice to them. Maybe they see them as "GOOD ones, not like Those Others." Or maybe not. But how would I know? Perfectly inoffensive white lady with Resting Nice Face? Nobody feels threatened by me. Who knows how many people who are perfectly decent to me aren't nearly as decent to someone else?

Bringing me back to childhood again. Or adolescence-- do you know how socially acceptable it was to pick on my best friend in high school? Kids I didn't previously think of as bullies would join in freely. Maybe they felt it was okay to side with the bullies when the person being picked on seemed so different from them, too. Maybe they felt it was safer. Maybe that's how the people on my street feel.

I'll admit: I wasn't completely immune from this behavior myself on occasion. The song "Hey Mickey" always kind of haunts me-- people in the marching band had made up alternate words for it, directed at this awkward nerd of a kid whom I didn't particularly like either, and although I knew I shouldn't find it funny, it WAS funny. But gosh, what was it like for that kid, when even I couldn't help laughing at that song?

But luckily for my retroactive pride, I was more often the kid in the middle. The one defending a friend to another friend who was saying terrible things behind--or in front of-- her back. "How did the others react when you defended the person they were picking on?" my therapist asked. I blinked a little. "Well... it was weird. On the surface they called me things like 'goody goody' or whatever, asked why I cared, told me to stay out of it because I was wrong," I said. "But on some level-- I think something in them kind of respected it? Because they weren't like 'If you're friends with them you can't be friends with us,' or anything overtly cruel. I think they KNEW that, with the situation reversed on them, I'd stick up for them, too, you know? So they didn't want to alienate me too much."

She smiled as if I'd finally hit on obvious proof that I didn't have to be so afraid of speaking up for myself. But it's so much easier to stick up for other people than for myself. Sticking up for myself against outside bullies (or even just nice people who disagree with me) would require me to first stick up for myself against my inner bullies, and they are super-persuasive.

But maybe that's why I'm so privileged. Maybe I can't handle any more to battle inside me. But outside me? I can keep standing up for others. And maybe people will actually, every so often, listen to me.

So that's why I keep speaking up, trying to get people to listen to each other.

My therapist suggested maybe I'd have better luck standing up against my inner bullies if I thought of it as doing it for my childrens' sake. Still really hard. But it feels right.

I have enough trouble dealing with internal bullies. I refuse to put up with outside bullies, no matter who they're picking on.



*Last night after I tucked her in and left the room, Maddie out of nowhere piped up, "Mommy, did you ever forget to do your homework as a kid?" HAH, girl, we don't have time to have this discussion right now! 
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
Been having a bad week. When I say that, there's usually nothing actually BAD happening IN my LIFE, it just means my mental/emotional imbalances are acting up again. That's the case here. I feel like my brain has been invaded by seven billion voices shouting for help. I can't handle the weight of it. And as I struggle to shoulder that weight while my own life slowly succumbs to entropy, I feel guilty about my inability to handle this all. So that weighs me down further. I know with my brain that all this weight isn't mine to carry, that I need to let it go, offer it up to God, lean on a support system of some sort, but knowing with your brain and being ACTUALLY ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH what your brain says you ought to are very different things.

Facebook did a thing the other day. Now, I must say, I've been avoiding Facebook a lot. It's a shame because more actual people I know spend time there than on Twitter, but the algorithms make such a mess of things that I just simply DON'T LIKE trying to read my feed. I go to check notifications, and every so often I'll read what I can see. Like how on Twitter I'm a chronic ReTweeter, and on Tumblr I ONLY ever reblog, I "share posts" a lot on Facebook, more than I post original content. Now, apparently someone didn't like my political sharing? Because I got blocked from sharing. Actually for 24 hours I was blocked from posting ANYTHING. Now it seems I can, say, post the word "testing," but it still won't let me SHARE posts. Even, apparently, when they're MY post.

Because Facebook likes to show you "memories," what you posted on this date in a different year, and offers to let you share it again. Yesterday it showed me this LiveJournal entry, on being Pro-Life. I was kind of curious if the entry still reflected my feelings or if it would show me my naivety of two years ago. On the contrary, I found it strangely inspiring. I clicked "Share" on the FB Memories post and typed this into the "say something about this" box:

Me from two years ago encouraged me today, to keep speaking what I know is right, even if no one agrees with me.

Look (going off on a tangent here): I have spent my entire life being silenced. I was laughed at and shamed to the point where I was, rightly, voted Shyest in my high school class. I still struggle to speak, both literally and figuratively. When people tell me "You're wrong" I shut up, feeling like everyone else must know something I don't, everyone else must be smarter than me, even when I know deep inside that I am right. I am SICK of being silenced, of being belittled, of not being taken seriously. I am SICK of buying the lie that everyone else knows something I don't, that everyone else has some vital bit of worth that I'm lacking. I am SICK of hating myself. And darnit, when I know, deep inside, that I'm right about something, I NEED to speak up. I NEED to let my unique outlook shine even if it doesn't jive up with everyone else's. ESPECIALLY when it doesn't jive up with everyone else's. I don't know who reported me for something yesterday that had my Facebook account locked up for 24 hours, but dude, why you trying to shut up the Shyest Girl of Derry Class of '96? I've had enough of being shut up. It's more than time I start making noise.*

*(Note: this is still really hard: I'm fighting against some really strong internal Shut-Up-Amy demons. I speak determinedly but I could still use support. I had a REALLY rough I-should-just-die day yesterday. Encouragement is never wasted).

Except when I hit post, it told me I was still blocked from sharing.

You see the irony, here, right?

I copied the comment into my email drafts and tried posting again from different computers and devices-- no luck! I figured I'd just give it up, because it's really not important, yadda yadda yadda.

Except the irony nagged at me. I couldn't write a screed about being sick of not speaking up, and then not actually POST it.

So this morning I saw this hanging around my email and knew I had to put it SOMEWHERE to get it off my chest before I could move on to anything else.

Because my brain is still too heavy to function well, but now it's just this tiny bit lighter.

As long as LiveJournal doesn't decide to crap out on me just as I hit "Post" now.
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
This morning I filled out a survey for the Census Bureau. I kept snorting derisively at my answers to the questions. Gosh, yes, this is a family of four, one mother one father two children (one boy one girl, at that!), living as an individual family in our own house with two cars, nobody's ever been divorced or remarried or blended into other families. Yes, every one of us is white and non-Hispanic, and our ethnic backgrounds are the patchwork of typical European cultures boasted of every white non-Native American whose family has been here for generations. It's disgustingly cookie-cutter, yes.

Then I got to the disability questions, and the laughter changed to something charged with a little more hilarity. "Does this individual physically, mentally, or emotionally require help with walking or climbing stairs?" "Yes," I said out loud, thinking of my extreme klutziness, and my daughter's somehow even MORE extreme klutziness.* No, I checked in the box. I knew what the question was really asking. We're all perfectly capable of walking.

"Does this individual physically, mentally, or emotionally require help concentrating, regulating emotion, or making decisions?" "YES," I said with an even more hysterical laugh. This whole household is a mess of Attention Deficiency. But again, I only actually MARKED Yes under the boy's name, since he actually gets government aid for home/school wraparound services. Whatever his dad's and my problems, it isn't like we CAN'T make decisions. It isn't like we need someone signing our paperwork for us. We accomplish things. We hold down and even excel at our jobs. We are perfectly capable adults.

One hour later I was sitting in my therapist's office, sobbing about my incapabilities, while she reminded me that I should stop beating myself up for failing to be everything to everyone, that it's okay to ask for help even if you think you're SUPPOSED to be able to do it alone.

Does this individual physically, mentally, or emotionally require help concentrating, regulating emotion, or making decisions? I thought again as I sniffled through an attempt to schedule my next appointment, slowly realizing a scheduling conflict and catching it just before the receptionist printed it out. I don't need an assistant to make my appointments for me. But this interaction took a great deal more energy to accomplish than it would for an average person. Just because I'm capable of making my own appointments doesn't mean I don't need to REST for a minute after doing so.

I thought of the Spoons thing that goes around Tumblr and the like, that code for the amount you have to give. I'm not sure the analogy always works for me, but I understand the feeling behind it, and that's what I thought about now: just because I'm not obviously disabled doesn't mean I'm invincible. Just because SOME people aren't as sensitive as I am doesn't mean I SHOULDN'T break down over "stupid" things. Just because SOME people are neat freaks doesn't mean
I should instinctively keep a tidy house. Just because SOME people communicate through shouting doesn't mean I shouldn't be totally uncomfortable and shut down in such interactions. Just because making a telephone call is a thing MILLIONS of people do without trouble every minute doesn't mean I should be able to do it without scripts and deep breathing exercises and a reward for myself when I finish.

Just because it seems like nothing to most of the world doesn't mean it's not huge for me. But it's only a problem if I pretend it isn't.

I am exceedingly fortunate. There is so much I can do, so much I'm even good at. But that doesn't mean I SHOULD be capable of EVERYTHING. That doesn't mean my weaknesses are failures. I'm just Differently Abled.

This is me. I'm a good writer. I'm an excellent children's librarian. I'm empathetic and thoughtful. I'm highly sensitive. I'm demisexual. I'm a good cook but hate deciding what to make. Oh, just in general, I'm indecisive. I'm scatterbrained, inclined to be late, and very, very messy.

Take me or leave me. Don't demand I be anything else.


----
*So last week my cell rang at work and I saw it was the school calling. When I answered I heard someone saying in a pitying voice to someone in the background "...smashed your fingers in the door..." and before I could stop myself, before even saying hello, I said, "This must be about Madeleine." Of course it was. She has a gift, I assure you.
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
YOU GUYS. Remember when LiveJournal was actually social media and new Harry Potter books were coming out and we'd just DISCUSS THEM excitedly RIGHT HERE as we finished reading?

That was a decade-ish ago. Since then I've learned to Blog Properly, and have networked with loads of Librarian-types, or have made online friends with just various cool people I haven't actually met. (Since then also my baby has gotten quite grown as has his sister who wasn't even conceived yet). I've gotten into the habit of Writing Reviews, in which I DO in fact go on about my feelings about a work or whatever, but what I write can better be described as a typed book talk: "Here's this book, here's why you might want to read it! No spoilers, no discussion, I'm just RECOMMENDING!"

When I finished reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child --The Script, I felt curiously incomplete. Well, partially because I have not yet fully experienced the story by seeing it performed. But also because I felt "Okay, I've finished, now I need to frantically post to all my friends who are also probably finishing about now! Right? That's... that's how reading these works."

...it's different now, a decade later. A lot of us have kids, which means me reading this three days after its release was actually EARLY, not late, and who knows who else has managed to get to it yet. And online, I have followers. Loads of people I don't actually know, who keep expecting me to write brilliant things instead of just chat. We speak a language of reviews. We carefully avoid spoilers. We don't just spill our thoughts.

BUT I WANT A SPACE FOR THAT AGAIN!

Anyway, here is my Spoiler-Free Response post. Those of you who want to hash things out in more spoilerific detail, use the comments section right here on LiveJournal, rather than on Facebook or Twitter or whatever-- that keeps the discussion all in one place and, ironically, makes it harder for people to stumble upon spoilers, because the comments aren't just OUT THERE like they are on Facebook or whatever. You do not need a LiveJournal account to comment-- you can log in with another type of account or just do it as Anonymous (but please sign your name)-- Anonymous comments won't show up right away but I DO get notified and I WILL put them up eventually. Anyway.

Make no mistake, this is a SCRIPT. Reading it is not magical like seeing it performed would be, or even like reading a book that's actually crafted to be your whole experience is. It's a placeholder, a consolation for those of us who CAN'T see the show on stage, so that we don't miss out on the story itself. But you can tell that this really is just an OUTLINE of the experience. This is meant to be viewed on a stage-- that's how the story is crafted. You really aren't getting the whole experience just reading the script.

But that never stopped anybody reading Shakespeare.

I saw in passing a tweet in which somebody said somebody ELSE had called it fanfiction, which IS technically not true, but I can see where the thought might be coming from. After all, some theater guys did the actual WRITING.* It's just Jo Rowling helped shape the story, making the story, therefore, canonical. But there are lots of reminders and callbacks to things in the books that may just be reminders but also kind of feel like jumping-off points actual fanfic writers MIGHT use. And, being written almost a decade on, it kind of takes the part of-- what's the word, fanfic people? "Corrective" fic? Something that rolls off the tongue better? Anyway, that-- it's able to fix some of the problems the original series had. Notably, we get our first actually likable and heroic Slytherin House characters. (In fact, if you'd told me ahead of time who my favorite new character would be? ...well, didn't see that coming). And yes, they're ambitious and cunning without being evil or snobbish!

We also get to play around with AUs a little bit for those people who weren't always sure about Granger-Weasley marriage concept, and we get FURTHER SATISFACTION THAT RON/HERMIONE IS INDEED THE BRIGHTEST TIMELINE for those of us who are still passionate shippers after all these years. That wasn't a spoiler. THAT WAS MY HIGHLY OPINIONATED TRUTH. ...it was LOVELY to see them together as adults, their ever-beautiful chemistry still melting my heart after all these years. I liked the reminder that they really are one of my absolute favorite fictional couples ever. SO SUE ME.

It's scary. I was surprised how scary it could be simply reading the script-- imagine seeing it in the theater! The stakes get high and they get there fast-- "this is happening in only Act Two? Of Four Acts? Only the BEGINNING of Act Two at that?!"

There are twists and turns you don't see coming. It's just plain fun.

When I finished I had to go look at production pictures. I know, that sounds funny-- I can read BOOKS without pictures just FINE. But it was strangely comforting to see some of the scenes I'd read, like, "oh good, they DID complete this script by performing it, PHEW!" And, just reading about grown-up Harry, and then SEEING grown-up Harry... it was just good to see him there, you know? I kept staring at him. "That's Harry Potter, grown up." Now, I see Daniel Radcliffe as a grown-up and I go "aw, look how well he grew up!" but I don't actually think of him as HARRY grown up. THIS is Harry grown up, and it's just nice dangit.

I guess I'll stop there. Chat in the comments if you like!

*Just like an old-fashioned LiveJournal journal entry, I'm not bothering to look up their names for accuracy because I don't actually CARE. It's not like you won't be able to FIND it.
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
My dad is a big genealogist, and when I say big, I mean he was into it WAY before Ancestry.com, when you had to do serious legwork, travelling all around the country and even world to pour over decades of paper church registries and the like. By chance I eventually settled in the town that one of his favorite ancestors had lived in, my great-great-great* grandfather on my dad's mom's side, a blacksmith, guardsman, and Civil War hero. My dad wrote a (self-pubbed and extremely limited in distribution) book on the guy and his squadron's history, which supposedly once was in the Local History collection of the library I now work for, though I can't find it there now. I have to smile every time I drive past the corner where this several-greats grandfather's blacksmith shop had been, just because I can hear the enthusiasm in my dad's voice as he once pointed it out to me, every single time.

Ancestry.com has certainly added new ways to track genealogy, though. And recently, through DNA testing, it unearthed an unpleasant truth: the man he so admired, who'd done so many great things, wasn't his great-great-grandfather after all.

My great-great-great (or however many) grandmother had been 15 when she married this man. And five months pregnant. And according to the DNA trail, the father of that boy she carried (my g-g-grandfather) was one of three brothers, one of whom was a teacher, another of whom was eventually locked up in an insane asylum, and all of whom were at least twice her age. Was it the teacher, taking advantage of one of his students? Was it his younger brother, and they locked him up for being a serial rapist or something? Does it matter? Whatever happened, it was at LEAST a STATUTORY rape, if not full-blown. The blacksmith/war-hero was a family friend, who married the girl to save her from what in that era would surely have been scandal and ruin. "It makes me admire him even more," my dad said sadly, "to have raised this boy as his own even though he knew he wasn't actually his."

I wondered a little at my dad's disappointment when he said that. So this hero's blood didn't run in our veins after all. But he still RAISED our however-many-greats grandfather. Did it matter that our DNA came from a rapist, or did it matter more that the boy ended up calling a good man Dad?

(It's a bit like the part of the Gospel of Matthew they read on Christmas Eve, which always makes me roll my eyes. Ol' St. Matt goes off on this long, long genealogical report, tracing the genealogy of Jesus from Abraham all the way up to Joseph. To JOSEPH. Who, in the very next verse, he explains is NOT ACTUALLY JESUS'S BIOLOGICAL FATHER, ANYWAY. Like SERIOUSLY, Matt, what was your point?! UNLESS it's more important that this man, who happens to have serious Jewish blood going way back, RAISED the boy Jesus as his own. Because maybe that's more important than the bloodline after all? I don't know, don't lecture me on theology, I'm just observing. Anyway, this is only tangentally related, because this post is about bad stuff in the past, which makes this story very different depending on whether you believe Mary had been raped like my g-g-g grandmother or she had indeed conceived the child via the Holy Spirit. Or you believe the whole story was made up period which makes it moot. But in that case, the Holy Spirit answer's the one in the story so it is still good).

I got onto this subject today because I started puzzling over something I'd seen on social media (ah, social media). The other night the First Lady spoke at the Democratic National Convention, a lovely speech full of hope and integrity, and she noted that now two little black girls lived in a mansion that had been built by slaves-- look how far we've come! Think how much farther we can go! And for some reason a bunch of people, instead of hearing the message of progress, got stuck on "wait, did she just say the White House was built by slaves? How DARE she say the White House was built by slaves!" and I'm like, "uh, because it WAS? It's not like you can't learn this information through a picture book. Or even just, you know, ASSUME, based on the history of the region." But these folks were really riled up about this. If they couldn't deny that there were a lot of dang slaves "employed" in the building of our nation's capital, they had to start insisting that well, they were slaves, but they really weren't treated that badly.

I'm like what is your ISSUE? She wasn't trying to slander the holy edifice that is the White House by referring to a negative-but-well-documented fact about its history, she was trying to say Isn't it GREAT, that once people that looked like my family were enslaved and would they ever have imagined a family that looked like them would be living here as the Family in Chief but here we are? Hooray! Our country is getting better all the time! Is it really that important that the history of our country is far from perfect?

It got me pondering the ways history is told, and how a lot of these people are the same ones who complain about "revisionist history," and how they want to stick with the TRUE history, which is the history they learned growing up. You know, like how George Washington chopped down a cherry tree as a boy? So what these people are looking for, I guess, is Golden, Gleaming History, History that is a role model for us to look up to.

I finally got my ears on the Hamilton musical a couple months ago. 1) gosh it is SO GOOD; 2) one thing that struck me is how much it put the lie to the idea that the founding of America was some stately, well-organized thing like the back of a two-dollar bill. That's another thing people who like Golden Gleaming History like to talk about: "The Founding Fathers thought THIS" and "The Founding Fathers did THAT" and "WHAT would the Founding Fathers say?!" And yet, listening to this, it reminds me that the last thing the Founding Fathers were was a unanimous monolyth on the issues we would face as a nation. SOME Founding Fathers wanted stronger state governments, weaker federal; SOME wanted a stronger federal and weaker states. SOME Founding Fathers did indeed keep slaves; but SOME Founding Fathers were outspoken abolitionists. The notion that the Founding Fathers were the last word on every issue is based on this Gleaming concept of History, a History that has no room for Cabinet Battles and dirty deals and blackmail, because that would mean we COULDN'T use it as the final word in an argument.

It's literally part of the conservative mindset-- not just politically conservative, but the whole idea of conservative-- to want to hold the past up as ideal. That's what conservatism is about: change is bad, the good old days were good. If you hold this mindset, it's a little earthshattering to face up to the not-so-good parts of the past. If your ancestors came out of history on top, it can feel like a personal affront to hear that they weren't perfect. But it's not just political: we all have a little conservative side of us, a part that holds tight to stories of how things ought to have been and believes in them. My dad's a pretty progressive guy, but it did upset him to learn of the smudge in his family tree that seemed to take away his claim to good blood. And me-- as a kid I had a really hard time with this concept. To find out anyone great had a not-so-great side? To uncover the dirty laundry of history? Heck, to find out how many of my favorite musicians were "druggies"? Frustrated me, man. I couldn't reconcile it. If these things were BAD, why were we learning about how GREAT they were?

But I was younger then. I've learned about shades of gray. Which is why it's surprising when so many people my age and older are still stuck in this black-and-white mindset.

A thing I've always hated since I discovered it is the Your Fave Is Problematic thing. It's almost like the opposite of the History Was Great and Never Dare Say Otherwise mindset, but is the exact same thing, really. You think something's or someone's so great? I'm going to POKE AS MANY HOLES IN THEM AS I CAN. SEE, NOT GREAT. So a fan says YOU ARE SO WRONG, THEY ARE GREAT, YOU SUCK, and the "problematic" folks are like "NO, THEY SUCK, AND IF YOU LIKE THEM STILL THEN YOU SUCK." WHAT, people. Why does everything have to be perfect or terrible? Why can't things just BE with all their nuances?

Back to the topic of dark spots in ones ancestry. I've always felt uncomfortable with the use of the word "we" to describe anything that I, personally, was not involved with-- "we won" or "we lost" or "we did this historical thing because...." I don't like my sports teams referred to as "we" unless I'm on them (ha). I don't like my country referred to as "we" if it's something out of my control-- like, back to sports teams, Olympians-- "we" do not get so many gold medals, those people who are way better athletes than most of us could ever imagine being got them; and I especially don't like it when referring to events that happened before I was even born. We settled in America. We drove off most of the native people. We defeated the British. We nuked Japan. Our ancestors, maybe. And maybe we've even benefitted from horrible things our ancestors did.

But we don't have to take it personally. It happened. And who cares whether it was your ancestors or not. What are YOU going to do? Who are YOU going to follow? I've got a great-great-great grandfather who was a rapist, but my great-great grandfather was raised to be a good man by a good man, instead. You're not bound by the past, so you don't have to fear it.

What happens NOW, is the question. That's what Mrs. Obama was saying the other night, not "feel ashamed of your history" but "look back on history and how we have improved and how we can keep on improving!" Look back to look forward.

I think I've made sense here, it's hard to tell because I've been super distracted by our library Harry Potter party happening on Saturday and I've been making chocolate frogs all day, which involves a lot of back and forth while waiting for things to set. But anyway.


*I THINK I have the right number of greats
rockinlibrarian: (voldemart)
If you've known me awhile you probably know that I can't stand politics as they are: the us-vs-them arguing and posturing and refusing to work together. You might know I'm a registered Independent because I can't stand the side-taking. It's true I lean left, but not in a party line way, and most of the time I'm the one that goes "but the CORRECT answer is something completely DIFFERENT from what either side is proposing!" See, my problem is I am, by my very nature, extremely talented at seeing all sides of a situation. Not bragging, stating. This is after all the same trait that makes me obnoxiously indecisive ("but ALL these dinner options have equally valid plusses and minuses!"). Old acquaintances have reminded me that, even as a kid, I tended to get myself in the middle of feuds, trying usually painfully to be friends with two or more people who hated each other (to my credit, I always defended the person who wasn't there to the person talking smack that I happened to be with at the time. No two-faced behavior from me. I was open in my refusal to take sides). I'm a peacemaker. 'Swhat I do.

But the ability to SEE all sides of a situation does not necessarily mean AGREEING with all sides of a situation. It's one thing when the sides genuinely ARE balanced, like in the what-to-have-for-dinner question. But when a Peacemaker like me has managed to see all sides of a situation and has come to a conclusion that the sides are NOT equal, after all, our decisions come rock-solid. And listen, it's easy for me to defer to other people, assuming they know better than I do-- yet another symptom of my indecisiveness, but I'm learning to put my foot down. I'm learning to speak up. I'm learning that I can be RIGHT, sometimes, too. So look, don't try to tell me I'm wrong on this one. I've seen all sides. I sympathize with all sides. But my gosh one side is clearly better than the other, so let me just get it out here so I can point to it and move on.

I know, friends and family, that many of you have, not just disliked, but utterly hated Hillary Clinton for a very long time. You've already made the decision to vote against her no matter what, and the GOP is counting on that. They will be slinging so much mud over the next few months, and that mud looks totally justified. Here's the problem: what's their alternative? THEY have a narcissistic blowhard with no political experience and not much in the way of brains, who yes has boatloads of money which he might claim equals business sense but in truth the money is primarily inherited and his actual business decisions have been relatively bad ones, a hothead who doesn't believe diplomacy applies to him. Or, it applies to how YOU should treat HIM, but HE is immune from having to use it. I'd add here the bits about him being openly bigoted and outright hostile toward women and minorities, but if I did y'all'd just go "Oh, that's just those liberal types being so OVERSENSITIVE again, they blow everything out of proportion," so I won't even bother. Let's just stick with the narcissistic blowhard part.

Oooo, you say, those are awfully mudslingingish words, yourself, you hypocrite! You can't say one side is relying on bashing the other side and then go bash 'em right back! But the difference is Clinton is experienced. She's competent, intelligent, knows how the world works, and her underlings both love and respect her. I don't particularly care for everything she's ever done or said. She wasn't my top choice in 2008. But I've always admitted she's got the chops for the job.

BUT LOOK AT THE BAD THINGS SHE'S DONE, say you.

Okay then. Let's look at this. Imagine that, instead of choosing a President, you're choosing a Service Animal. Sounds kind of insulting, but it's not-- we're talking about choosing someone who is meant to serve and lead you, so, it applies. So Hillary is a Trained Service Dog (again, in this scenario. I am not calling her a dog, I'm weaving a metaphor). She's got all the paperwork. But there's some troublesome notes in the paperwork. Maybe she's chased squirrels a few times when she was supposed to be on duty. Maybe she's even led her unsuspecting masters into danger once or twice. Maybe the paperwork might be fudged, maybe some of the incidents reported have been blown out of proportion, but maybe they haven't. Either way, okay. You decide you can't trust this one as a Service Animal. Maybe she needs some more training or something, maybe she should be retired or taken out of the Service Animal register.

But you still need a Service Animal. So you turn to the GOP and say, Well then, do YOU have a Service Animal we could use?

Well... they hesitate a bit, then dive onward. Well, not a TRAINED Service Animal, per se... but we've got this rabid weasel who crawled in the mail slot. We tried to put a leash on him but he chewed through it, but that's all right, he's got spirit, see?

So look. I think I'm going to stick with the imperfect but actual service animal. The chances she'll mess up at the job are just a LEETLE less likely than the chances the rabid weasel will make a complete mess of everything.

You disagree? You want to argue? Okay, but there is nothing you can bring to light that will make the Trained Service Dog look like a worse option than the Rabid Weasel. Instead, you've got to prove to me that the Rabid Weasel isn't actually a Rabid Weasel. Got it? Prove to me you're not trying to put a Rabid Weasel into office and maybe I'll care what smack you have to say about the Trained Service Dog.

Good luck.

You know very well I still love you. I'm just saying THINK. Just say no to rabid weasels.
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
Summer Vacation hasn't been treating me well. Sure, I didn't always make the best use of my time while the kids were in school, but now that they're home I'm a zombie staring blankly and mourning my lack of alone time. Also they're addicted to YouTube and video games like Minecraft and Roblox which are only available two places in this house-- my computer and my Nook-- and since there's two of THEM they've been commandeering my online access, so I don't even have you all to whine to about it. Seems the only way I can get them to go out and play is if I go, too-- take them to the pool, let them hang out an hour after Vacation Bible School this morning because they were actually running around with other kids even though I really wanted to get back home and have lunch, whatever. I feel very impotent when it comes to actually running my own life-- everyone else is running it for me. And when they AREN'T, I sit and stare because I can't even figure out what it is I would do if I DID take charge of my own life. I'm not sure how long it took me to actually start typing this, once Sammy decided to go see what his sister was doing instead of playing Roblox and I realized I had my computer to myself and could finally type out all the stuff I've been wanting to put out there all week. Like, wait, what did I want to write about again?

My physical body has been a mess lately. My right knee has been acting goofy* since Disney World and really only getting worse over time. It doesn't like to bend. It doesn't like going up or down stairs, or getting in and out of the car, or bending down and standing up again, and will protest with a scream of pain if I try it. And resting it doesn't even help. It's still mad at me in the morning after a supposed good night's sleep. I finally went to the doctor last week, who determined that nothing was broken and it was something in the joint itself, either tendonitis or arthritis, and all I can do is take lots of ibuprofen and put ice on it occasionally. This past week it's felt like my whole body wanted to follow that knee, finding a million ways to creak and cramp and act up whenever I tried to move OR to stay still, and I was like, seriously? Is my whole body falling apart now? I'm supposed to get into shape but I can't because exercise hurts, but not exercising makes me continue toward entropy? The good news is the x-ray determined my knee issue is not arthritis, which means it's not permanent, supposedly. There's hope for me eventually.

For some reason I have gained 25 pounds in the past two years. Now, before I go any further, you have to understand that I, unlike far too many people in this fat-phobic world, have never had body issues. I was skinny as a kid, so no one fat-shamed me into hating my own body, so instead I devoted all my physical self-loathing to my face, my blotchy, too-square face with the crooked teeth and stupid-vague-EnneaType9 expression-- look okay I still have irrational issues with my face, so I'm not like some miraculously physical-shame-free person. But my body I've always been okay with. I thought my figure was kind of perfect when I was younger. When I was pregnant, while other mothers-to-be fretted about feeling fat, I was like HOLY CRAP I LOOK LIKE A FERTILITY GODDESS, THE EARTH IS MINE! Even now, I'm not disgusted by my figure: it feels properly womanly** to me. But lately the weight gain has brought other problems with it. GIRTH has become a problem vanity-wise only because dresses I made or bought-on-Modcloth-so-they're-expensive-and-pretty just a few years ago NO LONGER ZIP UP. I do not want to get rid of those dresses. Okay, but besides that, I've developed actual health issues that correlate with weight gain: the joint pain, as established. Sleep apnea. Heartburn, which for some reason always hits me at two in the afternoon no matter what I may or may not have eaten. I've never been in good shape, what-my-body-can-do-wise, even when I was skinny, but that's hardly improving now, either.

And my husband ironically makes it worse by needling me about it. He's equal-opportunity about it at any case, going on about how we BOTH need to lose weight, but every little crack he makes makes me feel more stubbornly like NOT doing anything to help improve my weight. I'm just going to NOT exercise now because he said that, right? And food. Food is a real issue. I've always wanted to eat healthier than we eat in this household, with salads and produce of all sorts, experimenting with all kinds of foods, cutting back on meat intake-- in summer, especially, why doesn't my family like SALADS? Why do they insist on COOKED food? But with my family of picky eaters, they're not going to go for it. But my husband, while he won't sacrifice his hearty meat-and-potatoes*** dishes, he thinks snacking is the evil we need to cut. No eating too late in the evening (even though when I work evenings I often CAN'T eat until, like, 9 PM). No eating between meals. Whenever he sees me get a snack he makes some snarky comment about it, and you know what? It just makes me want to eat MORE and WORSE. Whether it's out of spite or just a feeling of DARNIT I WANT SOMETHING FOR MYSELF, I WANT SOME LITTLE BIT OF HAPPINESS JUST FOR ME TO INDULGE IN, DO NOT DENY ME THIS COOKIE. With the objective observer part of my mind, I can see myself doing this, making an unhealthily psychological connection to food, STRESS-EATING. So obviously, the objective observer says, I don't NEED to eat when I feel that way, right? At which point the objective observer gets GLARED AT by the rest of my mind, more determined than ever that NO ONE, NO ONE SHALL TAKE MY SWEET-AND-STARCHY SNACKS FROM ME, INCLUDING ME! When I mentioned this to my psychiatrist she said, "so when you feel this way, how much do you eat?" "I don't know, a few cookies?" "So not, like, two pizzas at a sitting?" "What?!" "People do that," she explained. Well dang, surely I SHOULD be allowed my cookies then, shouldn't I.

But seriously, that's so psychological. I so definitely make sure I always have a chocolate stash just because it's MINE. I'm a grownup and I can have a dang chocolate stash if I want. Because it's nice to feel like SOMETHING is in my control, you know?

Completely psychological.

I was going to write about bigger, more important things probably, but I think this is all I'm getting to today.

*pun not intended
**not that skinny women AREN'T womanly! I do not wish to suggest there is any WRONG way to be womanly! But I do feel my body is in fact properly womanly. Not my face, though, it's still too square. :P
***Granted, I won't sacrifice potatoes, either. It's just, you know, the concept. Meat-and-potatoes. But potatoes are happy. I love potatoes. Shut up anti-starch people.
rockinlibrarian: (love)
I have two friends I, admittedly, might love even more than my other friends. I fell madly in love with each of them at our first real meeting, and since then just thinking about them brings me a deep feeling of inner sunlight, pure joy that such people exist. They shine with inner beauty. I met the first one in high school, I was in 11th grade, she was in 10th, we were at a newspaper staff meeting, a bunch of people were discussing something I had strong opinions about but couldn't put into words, and I was becoming more and more frustrated and fearing that I was on the verge of tears (and when I say "fearing" I MEAN it), then she piped up and said it for me. And she kept doing it, putting my thoughts and feelings into words (except she was technically putting HERS into words but you know), mixing in wise and beautiful things I hadn't even thought of, unintentionally making me feel more completely understood than I had ever felt, and by the time the bell rang I wanted to tell her all my deepest darkest secrets, things I'd barely considered telling myself let alone anyone else. Be my most bosom friend! this voice in my head screamed from that very first meeting, and through partially the luck of already having best friends who were also best friends with each other, she eventually was.

Of course, as it happened, I'd somehow chosen for my Most Bosom Friend one of the most unpopular girls in school. She was bullied, constantly and carelessly, even by people who weren't generally known to be bullies.* It put me into a rage I have never felt on my own behalf, though I'd had my share of bullying (though mostly in elementary school, not high school). HOW COULD THEY NOT SEE how perfect and amazing she was?! It so happens one of the things they needled her about most often was being a lesbian. Now, this was back in the day when NO one was out in high school, not even the extremely flaming kid who always sang Madonna at karaoke. You didn't admit it, you didn't discuss it, you wouldn't dare-- probably because kids got bullied so mercilessly for even SEEMING gay. I am always so amazed when I see and hear today's teens-- the bullying still happens, but, my, how far they've come. Anyway, back to the mid-nineties, NOBODY was out, certainly not Angie. It was all speculation and stereotyping on the part of her tormenters. So I, bursting with utterly naive loyalty, shouted** at them, "If she was, then I'D be dating her! So there!"

Let's skip ahead to Friend #2. I met him at the start of my second year of college, trying out for the marching band.*** A mutual friend had told me to seek him out because he'd be in my section and he was the "nicest boy [she had] ever met," so would certainly help me out. And he was indeed hopelessly nice, and he did indeed help me and everyone else waiting for tryouts. But eventually everyone else there wandered away and we kept talking, going beyond our mutual niceness into Completely Hitting It Off. I felt so comfortable with him that talking, for once, came easily, so easily things started slipping right out of my mouth without me thinking about them. I spotted a large electrical outlet on the wall, and "That electrical outlet is staring at us so mournfully" slipped out, but before I could think wait, maybe I should have said that in a way that actually makes sense, he peered at it, too, and said, "Yeah, I see what you mean."

"You DO?" I sounded utterly flabbergasted, which might have been what made him start giggling, and once he started I couldn't very well not start, so we sat there giggling hysterically over an electrical outlet. And that was when it snapped in my head, this same instant deep mental and emotional infatuation I'd felt when I'd met Angie, except this one was a BOY. So the mental/emotional jolt kicked my body into the mix, too. So instead of thinking "Please be my bosom friend!" I thought "I am so DONE FOR. This could very well be The One."

See, here's the annoying thing about attraction: you really can't choose it. It happens in whatever way your body is programmed to react. I've seen some people define mental-emotional attraction as "romantic" and physical attraction as "sexual," but "romantic" is a confusing term. By this definition I'm a "panromantic," because I fall madly in love with anyone and anything, but, like, so? It's just intensity of LOVING, is all, and I'm all for loving. But physical attraction? I only ever felt that toward guys, and even then, only toward a few particular guys who managed to attract me mentally and emotionally first. Turns out there's an actual word for this type of inclination, "demisexual." And because I'm only physically attracted to the opposite sex when I am, I'm "demiheterosexual." Well, on the spectrum of sexual preference I suppose I'll allow a little slide toward Karen Carpenter's Voice (just her voice) and probably Peggy Carter, because DANG, PEGGY CARTER, but... we return to my bold yet naive proclamation to the bullies back in high school: "if she was, I'D be dating her!"

Because she was, and I wasn't. There it was. I'm freaking straight. My body was infatuated with this GUY, just like society said it was SUPPOSED to be. And yet he wasn't, either. My two dearest, most beloved friends were both tentatively coming out of the closet, and there I was attracted to the wrong one.

I wasn't the greatest friend I could have been through their coming-out processes. I was too jealous and frustrated. Why was sexuality such a MIXED-UP THING? Why did society say I was the normal one when I was the one who DIDN'T FIT in this triangle?

While I pouted, as Angie tried to explain what she'd been going through to the back of my pouty head, a different awkward coming-out story was happening much more successfully across campus. Randy, my Friend #2, had tentatively come out to many of his closest friends, but the thought of telling one of them made him really nervous. I mean, this guy was obnoxiously male. He was politically conservative and freaking outspoken about it, a gun nut and an ROTC-er, exactly the stereotype of a homophobe, right? He was also a psychology major who was well in the habit of reading people, and he knew very well Randy was acting weird around him lately. "So, are you ever going to tell me what's bothering you?"

"Wha...? Nothing's bothering me," Randy mumbled in his obviously-lying voice.

"Should I tell you what's bothering you? Okay then. You're gay and you're afraid to tell me because you don't think I'll be okay with it."

"How did y-- who told--?"

"Nobody told me, it's just obvious." And to Randy's bewilderment, he continued on, completely unfazed. He was beyond okay with it, to be honest: he flat-out exploited the great resource that was a gay-best-friend-wingman. Randy had so many dreamy-eyed girls following him around, why not introduce them to someone who could appreciate their charms? Then came the day that, in the middle of planning a new D&D campaign, they ran into one such girl and decided to recruit her for the game and here we are almost seventeen years and two kids later....

So basically, it all worked out. Well, Angie and I had a bit of a blowup that worked itself out mainly through letters (because we'd always both been better at writing than talking) and left my heart utterly shattered for quite awhile but gradually that healed, and we're all happy sexually with people we're actually sexually compatible with and the genuine love of friendship is big enough to not be jealous and selfish anymore. I love them both thoroughly and unpossessively just the way they are.

Why am I telling you this? Mostly, to explain that I'm straight. Unless you count demisexuality as some kind of Queer orientation which technically it is sort of as a variation of asexuality but come on it's NOT THE SAME THING. It means I can get happily married to one person of the opposite sex, that is the FRIGGIN AMERICAN DREAM. But that's what I mean. I am totally sexually acceptable by society.

Usually when people say that, it's in a gay-panic way, "But I'M not like THEM." Well, I AM saying I'm not like them. I don't have to face what they face. I'm free of the judgments and curses thrown at them by people who see them as disgusting deviants, lesser humans who've forfeited their right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I am pointing out to you that I AM NOT A VICTIM OF HOMOPHOBIA, so you understand fully where I'm coming from when I support LGBTetc causes. THEIR causes. Not mine. I have no ulterior motive.**** When I speak up about depression or public libraries, I've got those motives, those "Don't hurt ME!" motives in doing it. This I am doing for THEM.

I don't know-- sometimes some members of oppressed groups are offended by people outside the group taking up their cause, but I feel like, if real change is going to happen, you need people who AREN'T among the oppressed to say, "No seriously, this IS wrong." It's going to take men, for example, to stand up to the other men who perpetuate rape culture-- to say "Actually dude, no, that's not funny, that's gross." Because why would they take women seriously for saying that, when it's obviously women they don't respect? In order to bridge us vs. them thinking, you need somebody in the middle, to say "sure I'm one of YOU, but I stand with THEM."

I get overwhelmed by the world's injustices to the point that most social-media stand-taking turns me off. I avoid posting the "thoughts and prayers are with so-and-so" junk because it honestly sounds more like "look how caring I am" than "I care and this is important to me." And when guns are involved, that just makes so much more of a mess of awkwardness. But this past weekend when there was a massive massacre at a gay club, I caught something genuine in the posts from my, er, QUILTBAG friends-- a genuine fear, utter shakenness. Definitely not the impersonal righteous rage that usually accompanies such tragedies.

And I saw, particularly, these two dearest, most beautiful friends I've been talking about, post about their horror. These two people whose social media feeds are usually filled with beauty and humor. How can anyone see these two, see the extraordinary love and beauty they put into the world, and write them off as evil because of the way their bodies feel attraction? They aren't rapists. They don't hurt anyone with their orientation. They're just people whose bodies work a little differently from yours and it so happens that these two are flat-out gifts to humankind, so OPEN YOUR EYES AND SEE THE BIG PICTURE FOR ONCE.

So yes, that's why I'm an unapologetic***** Ally in LGBWhateverCollectionOfInitials Rights issues. It's a little personally stronger for me than other issues in which I can merely be an Ally because I have these two huge luminous people in my life. But the same point goes across the board, you know. The People are People and You Can't Judge Them By One Aspect of Their Personality Unless That Aspect Is Actively Hurting Others point. Like, take a look at the perpetrator of said gay club massacre. He was an awful person because he chose to freaking KILL a whole bunch of people. But some people look at his name and say "HE'S GOT AN ARAB NAME! IT'S THOSE HORRID MUSLIMS AGAIN! EVERYONE KNOWS HE DID IT BECAUSE HIS RELIGION SAYS HOMOSEXUALITY IS EVIL, SO LET'S STOP MUSLIMS!" Dude, supposed CHRISTIANS persecute and sometimes kill people based on their sexuality. THAT happens far more often in this country, THAT happens all the time. But, you know, I'M a Christian, and most of my closest friends and relations are Christian, so obviously CHRISTIANS aren't horrid viruses that need to be stopped. :P Again, judge a person by what they DO, not who they ARE. Any time I can reinforce THAT social lesson, I jump on the Ally Train as well, but I can't put quite the same knowledgeable FORCE behind it that I can Gay-for-Short Rights, because the only Muslims I know are library patrons I know only by general decent behavior and reading habits. I still fight for their rights. But I admit to more of a bias toward fighting for the people I actually do know and love personally. Make sense?

Makes TOO much sense. It's still personal, still tinged with a bit of selfishness in that way. But maybe if we all acted like people who are different from us COULD, possibly, be one of our dearest friends in the right circumstances, we'll stop and think before making sweeping judgments about Their Sort. Maybe if we remember the beautiful people we know who are nonetheless hated for who they are, we'll remember the countless beautiful people we may NOT know among the faceless Others out there.

Maybe we'll stop and think and choose LOVE, and I'm not talking about sex. REAL LOVE.

Thank you.


---
*If you have skipped this link, go back and click and read it now. It is heartbreaking and courageous and beautiful and most importantly, in her own words, in her own story, not just mine from the outside.
**okay, maybe not SHOUTED, but me being angry and forthright at ALL is so odd that it sort of feels like shouting to me.
***Which, if you're curious, I did not end up making. That year there were just an AWFUL lot of clarinets trying out. More amusing perhaps was when I tried out my senior year and instead of the competition being tight, I just flat-out flubbed the audition, and as Randy was the section leader that year and therefore one of the people evaluating me, he was quite embarrassed and literally couldn't talk to me for the rest of the day.
****Unless it's to ease my guilty conscience over what a crappy friend I was at the time of their comings-out. I suppose that could be part of it.+
+Technically, we observed years later, Randy hadn't actually ever directly come out to me. Like Jason, I just figured it out myself, because it was obvious. I just wasn't HAPPY about it then.
*****As unapologetic as I get, anyway.
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
Today is Billy 'Arrison's birthday. It's a thing I still say that only makes sense to a few of my friends now, but still when I see any other references to any other aspect of Geek Pride Day, asking me where's my towel or my lilac or arguing over whether the day has anything to do with Star Wars or not (look, I'm a Star Wars fanatic, but we already have May the Fourth AND a Saturday in October for Star Wars Reads AND nowadays most of December as new movies keep coming out, so we really don't have to claim any more)-- anyway, fan as I am of all those things, I still want to say "...but none as important as BILLY 'ARRISON'S BIRTHDAY," even though it ought not to mean anything even to ME anymore.

Because it DOES still mean something to me. even if I said I've given up trying to give him a story. May the 25th rolls around and I realize I can't ever give up on him. And in the meanwhile, have you noticed, the superhero genre has become more prominent in prose fiction in the past couple years? Both the big comic publishers have licensed their characters out to prose writers lately, and that's not even counting all the stand-alone books about original superheroes like my Billy. And I realize how many of my favorite shows and movies are superhero related and every so often I'll go, "Hey, there's a genre I'd feel comfortable writing in, the superhero genre," and then sometimes it doesn't even hit me then that I'VE TOTALLY WRITTEN IN THAT GENRE BEFORE and my favorite character I've ever created not-counting-D&D-characters* is a superhero.

And then I'll see discussion of superheroes and start to say, "Oh yes, that's why Billy... um, sorry, I keep forgetting nobody knows who Billy is." Today, in fact, on his birthday, the comics fans on social media were talking passionately-yet-vaguely about various developments, none of which I really got any actual idea of but that doesn't matter because that's not what I'm talking about. What I AM talking about was what I saw someone said about different perceptions of what superheroes are FOR. For some, the focus is on "HERO," for others, on "SUPER" (as in superPOWERS). It made me think about the old Marvel vs. DC argument, which I'll admit that I'm on Team Marvel even though I don't read comics, because I find the characters more interesting (and my favorite TV show ever DANGIT ABC revolves around a Marvel character who was little more than a passing reference to a one-time girlfriend in the comics, but anyhoo INDEFINITE HIATUS NOT A CANCELLATION NEVER SAY NEVER) *AHEM* what was I talking about? Right, the old Marvel vs. DC thing. The idea being that DC characters were more Other, like, superheroes as a whole different breed, whereas Marvel characters were more like people who had to deal with superpowers on top of being people, that's all. And that's KIND of what the guy on Twitter was saying, some more HERO, some more SUPER, but on the other hand...

...How do I put this? He was referring more to the purity of heroics vs. dark and edgy anti-heroes (which in the movie universe, Marvel and DC kind of flipped their old stereotypes haven't they? Deadpool doesn't count). But I prefer my superheroes somewhere in the middle. I prefer them not to be the infallible demigods but the regular people who happen to have superpowers instead. But on the other hand, I DO prefer those people to be heroic, not antiheroes (well, except sometimes). I want them to be faulty people who TRY. I want to see what a regular person would DO if they had more power than the average person, and I'd like to see them make the right choices. Because with Great Power, as the saying goes, comes Great Responsibility.

Which brings us back to Billy. When he was very young and training himself to be a superhero, he patterned himself after Superman. But the older he got, becoming an awkward, nerdy teenager (albeit one with superpowers), the more drawn to Spider-Man he became. Here was another nerdy kid trying to figure out how to manage his Great Power. Superman PRETENDED to be a nerd so people wouldn't notice he was actually an all-powerful alien. Peter Parker WAS a nerd. With spider powers. And that's why Billy found comfort in him as a teenager. He needed a role model he had a CHANCE of emulating.

So I take this argument kind of personally, on Billy's behalf. Heroes can be faulty and still have good intentions. Supers can have powers and still have problems. It's what you DO with what you've got that matters, whether your powers involve flight and telekinesis or whether they're just a bit more experience, a bit more money, or a bit more opportunity.

In conclusion... I guess I should keep holding out for a new story for Billy after all.

*Her name is Coriander Lemongrass and she's a Kender if the campaign has Kender but if not she's just an ordinary Hobbitty halfling, and her class also changes depending on the campaign-- right now she's a "thief" because that was the only appropriate class open to her in this campaign, but usually she's had some sort of magic, too-- bard seems to be the best fit. The best thing is, when I pulled her out and dusted her off for this current campaign, after YEARS, I looked up and said in shock, "You know what? Cori is totally Maddie. I CREATED MADDIE BEFORE SHE WAS BORN." 
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
1. I feel kind of guilty about expressing my discomfort with the We Need Diverse Books campaign in the past. I want to make it clear that my discomfort is COMPLETELY PERSONAL, not ideological. I never want to give anyone the impression that I think it's "reverse racism" or unfair to me as a really-boringly-undiverse writer in any way people have industry control over. IT'S NOT. IT'S COMPLETELY FAIR, AND AS A LIBRARIAN I AM ALL FOR IT. It's only me as a struggling writer with low self-esteem, every time I see it The Lone Power whispers in my ear "NOBODY NEEDS YOUR WRITING, YOU'RE BORING, GIVE UP TRYING TO WRITE NOW." And obviously, considering I'm attributing the voice to The Lone Power, I know it's wrong, I know it's a lie, but the part of me that knows this can't think of a good comeback. "I SO TOTALLY DO HAVE A UNIQUE VOICE AND AN OUTLOOK THAT NEEDS TO BE SHARED! I'M GOING TO WRITE...uh...okay I have no idea what I'm going to write." And the Lone Power goes "SEE?!" and I go waste my time reading TV recaps instead. So what I'm saying is DIVERSE BOOKS=GOOD. SUPPORT THEM. I DON'T WANT ANY SPECIAL TREATMENT FROM PUBLISHERS. I'M NOT AFRAID OF HAVING MY CHANCES TAKEN FROM ME BY PEOPLE WHO HAVE LESS REPRESENTED VOICES. I'm only afraid of having my chances taken from me by my own internal doubts.

2. ABC, you can't CANCEL Agent Carter. I'm not saying this as a rabid fan who doesn't personally WANT you to cancel Agent Carter. Well, I AM, but that's beside the point. No, it's just, and I've said this before, Agent Carter is a MINISERIES and theoretically you can bring it back at any time, stick it in anywhere you have a break. The word "cancel" is too FINAL for something so flexible. Just say, "Not in this next year, but hey, maybe some other time!" I mean it'll WORK, we've got YEARS to explore, with the exception offinding out what happened to Thompson

there's no reason we can't pop back into the history of proto-SHIELD several years later. Don't be all "CANCELLED" about it! Be "on indefinite hiatus!" COME ON, KEEP YOUR OPTIONS OPEN!

3. Speaking of Marvel TV, Jason has decided he doesn't care about Agents of SHIELD anymore. Part of me's like, okay, I'm fine with that, I don't need to worry about making it to the TV every Tuesday at 9, I can watch on my own time the next afternoon or whatnot (I work Wednesday mornings), but another part of me is like YOU DON'T REALIZE WHAT A HUGE BLOW THIS IS TO OUR MARRIAGE. It was our DATE NIGHT. That's one of the few things we really enjoy doing together, watching superhero shows! And I have a feeling I want to see Civil War more than he does. Which if we could only get babysitting he'd be okay with, but his parents are in the middle of moving and my parents live farther away. Part of me's like, gee, I could totally go by myself some weekday afternoon, but then I'm like, "NO, AMY, THAT'S THE EQUIVALENT OF ADULTERY. Not just because your Imaginary Husband has a small part in it. IT WOULD BE SUCH AN UNCARING MOVE TO GO SEE A SUPERHERO MOVIE WITHOUT JASON." Seriously. There's more at stake here than watching a movie.

4. I'm kind of mentally cluttered at the moment. I've got gardening to catch up on, on account of being down with the flu all last week. I have a lot of GeekMom articles I want to work on, but I feel guilty sitting down to write long enough to do so. The house is, of course, a wreck. And I still have to feed three picky eaters and myself, which is still the bane of my existence. Sometimes I just want to shout "ENOUGH! FROM NOW ON I AM ONLY MAKING SALADS AND YOU WILL EAT IT OR YOU WILL MAKE YOUR OWN FOOD WITHOUT WHINING!" But I have a hard time cooking for myself.

5. Now I am running late for work, so bye. Excuse the lack of editing and links that I would have done had I had more time.

rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
As you may know, depending on how closely you follow me on other platforms or know me in real life, we recently took a trip to DISNEY WORLD (*ahem* didn’t mean to shout that, that’s just the sort of thing you can’t help shouting, so, anyway). Here is a little of that if you missed it. My parents went too, but were taking the autotrain, and they took the kids down with them because TRAIN! But Jason is always more comfortable in control of his own vehicle, even if he’s insanely in control of his own vehicle (don’t ride the Teacups with him with your eyes open), so the two of us drove down to meet them.

This, strangers out there in the wide internet world, means we took about a thousand miles of Interstate south from Southwestern Pennsylvania, the heart of Stillers Country, to Central Floria, Theme Park Capital of the World. Straight through the Deep South of America.

A lot has been said about the homogenization of America, even the world. We’re all chain establishments on big parking lots on huge highways, all over. But maybe it’s not that clear-cut. Maybe the similarities just make the differences stand out more. If the US and UK are two countries separated by a common language, the Mid-Atlantic and Southern States are two cultures separated by a common national government. Heck, Western and Eastern PA are different enough. We hadn’t left the country and it still felt totally foreign.

Little things, beyond the accents, would remind us we were somewhere else. Our stopover hotel in South Carolina had packets of Quaker Grits on the breakfast buffet instead of Quaker Oatmeal. Not even both! Just plenty of grits and no oatmeal in sight! Then, oh lord, the radio stations. We had some audiobooks but sometimes we’d search for radio stations and WHY IS IT SO FRIGGIN’ HARD TO FIND A DANG ROCK STATION IN THE SOUTH?! HOW MANY COUNTRY AND CONSERVATIVE TALK WITH THE OCCASIONAL POP STATION THROWN IN STATIONS DOES ANY AREA REALLY NEED. That may be just me.

But speaking of the radio, that brought it home (that we were AWAY from home) even more. There were commercials for gun stores— we have loads of gun stores in SW PA, I should know since I’d probably sent a resume on behalf of my dyslexic husband to all of them, but you just don’t hear them advertised on the radio. One of the ads boasted a collection of full-auto rifles they called their “Wall of Freedom,” which cracked us both up. “We need to move to the South!” he’d exclaim every time it would come on. “We absolutely do not!” I’d say back. It’s like the South took every stereotype about Conservative Americans and FLAUNTED it. It came out in the word choices of their radio personalities and the content of their billboards. My conservative husband was genuine about his wanting to move there (in theory at least)— he felt comfortable, like he belonged. I on the other hand did NOT. The commonality of billboards demanding that I meet Jesus were even more alienating to me than they were to my agnostic hubs, because I could tell by their very nature they’d been posted by people who genuinely believe I HAVEN’T met Jesus, that I’m an un-Christian idolator with my Roman Catholic ways. I gave him that Southern states with higher Hispanic populations, like Texas— or Florida, although Florida is different enough from the rest of the South in other ways too (like, you CAN find a decent selection of rock stations)— MIGHT be okay in that respect because there’d be a higher Catholic population than in this freaky Evangelical Southern Baptist Wonderland. Still, I'd still be a liberal in this area and I could already tell it would be weird. Where we are, in somewhat-rural-somewhat-suburban PA, ideology is pretty well-mixed— the chance that either of us is going to feel like the ideological weirdo in any group is a toss-up. What if you ALWAYS felt like the weirdo?

My biggest take-away from this: NO WONDER PEOPLE CAN’T COMMUNICATE ON THE INTERNET.

Yeah I know. Maybe that was a leap. But the day before we left I’d had an internet conversation with a person who was offended by the use of the word “spade” in a TV show. “I know it’s not meant to be derogatory in context, but because it’s a loaded word in other contexts you’d think they’d think twice about using it.” “Ummm,” people responded, “why would anyone’s brain GO there in this context though? A spade is a kind of shovel.” “Yes, but that’s an archaic term!” the first person continued. “It’s like using ‘gay’ to mean ‘happy’!” I finally commented, “’Spade’ as a gardening tool is not remotely archaic, I just used one this morning (and yes there’s a definite difference between ‘spade’, ‘shovel’, and ‘trowel,’ they’re not interchangeable). On the other hand I have never heard ‘spade’ used in a derogatory fashion at all and am not even clear what it’s meant to refer to, so I surely wouldn’t have thought twice about using it.” For a moment I rolled my eyes at myself for making the comment anyway— why bring that on myself? I’d just look like a clueless white girl to this person who would now find ME offensive. But the person responded thoughtfully, “Maybe it’s an East Coast vs. West Coast thing. Or rural vs. urban: no one I know would have any opportunity to use any gardening tools.” I kind of blinked at this. Sure, I grew up in a school district known for its outstanding Ag-Hort department, but you don’t have to live on a farm to stop by Home Depot to grab a few tools to deal with your yar…OH. I guess it IS theoretically possible, if you grew up in a big enough city and still lived there, that everyone you know MIGHT actually not even have a yard.

Huh.

Made me think of British and Irish people and the way they swear. There are words they say that they don’t think twice about— or if they do, it’s in the way somebody here might think “Should I say ‘damn’? There are children present.” And yet Americans are like “I can’t believe they said that on TV. Oh, and I can’t believe they said THAT one at all! Don’t they know how OFFENSIVE AND HATEFUL THAT IS?!” And said other-side-of-the-pond-er is like, “What? Why are Americans so prudish?” And then the quite-progressive-thank-you-very-much American is like “PRUDISH? No, YOU’RE being MISOGYNISTIC/RACIST/HOMOPHOBIC/WHATEVERTHATWORDAPPLIESTO by using that word!” And the Brit/Irish person blinks in bewilderment, then turns around and wonders how on earth Ron Weasley got away with using “bloody” so much in the movies.

So on the internet you find these people all over the world that have SO MUCH IN COMMON WITH YOU AND YOU’RE ALL EXCITED and then you end up getting into an argument over terminology or ideology that you think is OBVIOUSLY one way and so you’re shocked that these people you THOUGHT you had so much in common with could POSSIBLY subscribe to such abhorrent ways of thinking, when they’ve simply grown up in a culture with different connotations and weights for things!

I write about this sort of thing a lot on here, I know. I’m either preaching to the choir or you just don’t care and never will. But I do. I see so much strife and anger and hatred in the world that just comes out of MISCOMMUNICATION. Of people not realizing they’re coming from totally different places, whether physically or philosophically, and so they ASSUME things about each other and react according to those assumptions. “EVERYONE knows that’s offensive” isn’t true when you leave the culture where your “everyone” happened to be. Likewise “EVERYONE would know I didn’t mean it that way,” every bit. Both speaker and listener need to be aware that sometimes there’s going to be a disconnect, or the disconnect is just going to get wider as each person attempts to defend their own worldview to someone who doesn’t even realize the worldviews are different, and thinks the other is only being obstinate or oversensitive.

I was going to get into how this also applies to political memes, but I don’t feel like it though. It’s not a whole other kettle of fish, though, it’s actually the same kettle of fish. My husband and I have very different understandings of the concept of “socialism” for example. Sure, he knows Donald Trump is a narcissistic jerkfaced megalomaniac, but Bernie Sanders is, gasp, A SOCIALIST WHICH IS A MILLION TIMES WORSE. So what I think is a given good vs. evil-wise politically, he thinks is a completely different given (though I personally find it telling that I’d be fine with any of the current Democratic candidates, and he DOESN’T like any of the current Republican candidates, and yet he’d still vote for one of them before he’d vote for A SOCIALIST OR THAT EVIL EVIL CRIMINAL CLINTON. I don’t know, I think I’ve got the better stand here, don’t you? When HE doesn’t even like his own guys?)

So what I mean is, when people post political memes, they’re usually talking in a shorthand that only people who agree with them politically ALREADY will get. No one else is going to be convinced by it, they’re just going to be offended, because with THEIR understanding of the situation, whatever the dang meme says DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. And we end up bitterly hating people who, in real life, we’d probably like quite a lot. Or be married to, in some cases. Yeah, the hubs and I have tried to have political arguments but it just doesn’t work. Partly because he’s much better at verbalizing than I am so tends to dominate an argument which is JUST NOT FAIR, but also because our own ideas of what government is for are completely unaligned. In our own heads we are right and the other is wrong and nothing we say will make any difference because of that FUNDAMENTAL DISCONNECT.

So I guess I did get into that here. Anyway.

Day to day life is not about politics. We can agree to disagree about politics. Much more troubling is our disagreement on the best kinds of dietary changes we should make to our diet-that-definitely-needs-to-be-healthier-SOMEHOW (I am all for less meat and more salads, he’s all HECK NO but let’s snack less and avoid junk food and I’m like BUT SNACKS ARE HAPPINESS)--it’s much harder to agree-to-disagree on something that actually immediately affects your lives. But the POINT IS, the things people get all riled up about on the internet are probably not as big a deal as they seem. They’re probably just people speaking different versions of what they thought was the same language.
rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
I'm sure I've mentioned that the reason I actually started WRITING stories as a child (instead of just playing make-believe-- I was plenty enough good at THAT sort of storytelling without any other prompting) was that I kept having awesome narrative dreams that needed to be written down and shared. In my teen years I actually came up with tons of stories that WEREN'T inspired by dreams, then in adulthood I mostly concentrated on rewriting old stuff in an attempt to make them publishable, then I had kids and lost control of my mental capacities.

Nowadays I never think of fictional story ideas during my waking hours. I'm just like, "I have no ideas. There's nothing I need to write about." Occasionally I think of things to BLOG about, and to be honest probably the only reason I allow myself this is that blogging is easier and it's so much more immediate than fiction.

Because my subconscious still ADORES writing fiction. I really do have epic, marvelously story-like dreams. I even work on revising and otherwise shaping the story to make it better while I'm dreaming it.

And then I wake up.

Anyway, here's what I dreamed last night. I was in a pet supply store. There was a sense of survivalism among the shoppers, and a couple of girls in front of me in line begging for leeway with their payments because they only had SOME of the money now but they couldn't wait because there's no time, "the DNA shift is messing everything up!" The "DNA Shift" was apparently affecting masses of people, changing their genetic makeup just enough to slightly alter the way they experienced the world. It had apparently happened to prepare humanity for a pending apocalypse. Only the shift affected everyone differently apparently depending on their moral values and choices, and only SOME of the shifting would actually result in survival, only nobody knew exactly how. And I was given a brochure about a holiday CALLED "Ramadan" but celebrated by Celtic Neo-Druids in early February and based on spring cleaning, both actual and symbolic-- and then I was in the midst of such a celebration, which was kind of fun and involved candy feather dusters and a video game about vacuuming up evil spirits. But they were still actually prepping for the pending apocalypse, and there was a gas that caused the DNA Shift that was incorporated into the celebrations, but because not everyone had been exposed to the gas/experienced the Shift yet, some powerful executives tried to exploit Celtic Ramadan to withhold the gas for only those they deemed Most Worthy (ie, those who had the money to pay), so now there was a whole thing about who could and who could not undergo the Shift, and rogues going out intentionally exposing people and other rogues going out trying to stop them, and... and...

I woke up. And immediately I think, "Gotta write this one!" and then almost immediately another part of me thinks, "It's TERRIGEN MIST, you were totally just stealing Terrigen Mist because you're a Marvel TV addict with no ideas of your own. And the fact that the survival-likelihood of your DNA shift is based on moral values has a weird religious tinge to it, what exactly are you trying to insinuate? And is Celtic Ramadan more offensive to Muslims or Neo-Druids? Why does your subconscious have to have such messed-up cultural appropriations? WHY CAN'T YOU GET ANY USEFUL STORY IDEAS?"

And THAT is why I can't write fiction with my conscious brain. BECAUSE IT WON'T SHUT UP AND LET ME.
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
I touched on my personal problems with Lit Analysis in my last post (which, by the way, I have edited to include thoughts on Agent Carter's season finale, if you care), and as I continue to read a wide variety of opinions-expressed-as-truth about shows and books and etc, I thought it might make a good GeekMom post. So I pulled up something I'd written before about Lit Analysis to see if I could pull any of it for a new piece.

This had been one of a series of "memoirs" I'd written about my first years of college during my last year of college. Yeah. Kind of stretching the word "memoir" here but whatnot. As I read it I both laughed and cried. The bits and pieces I might use in an article would need a lot of reshaping to sound like a proper article, but I kind of want to share the whole thing as-is right now.

(I think I shared the one I wrote about my birthday once a long time ago, too. I'm going to go look for that! Oh, it was friends-locked because I used real names. I've un-friends-locked it due to like three people actually ever reading this while logged in on LiveJournal anymore. If anybody is called out by name in this who would not like to be, let me know!)

I'm not going to change or remove names in this one, either. Just shout at me if you think that should change. I've added a few notes and edits to clarify things for people who didn't know me in college, and taken out some chunks that are completely off-topic, but otherwise, I'm leaving it. I want to get other stuff done today!

And so I present to you "April 1997: The Trouble with Lit Analysis":

As written by me about 15 years ago! Not editing at all! So don't judge current me! Unless in a good way! )
rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
So two of my favorite TV shows have been airing their miniseries this month-- one of which always HAS been a miniseries and is technically having its second season, the other of which is a miniseries for the first time and is back after over a decade. I was going to do a wrap-up review of both AFTER they'd both completely finished airing, but I'm exceedingly worried about the fate of the one that still has one episode to go so I'm hoping, perhaps, I can get all my multitudes of readers to marathon it and watch the last ep live in the next week so as to singlehandedly save the ratings situation. Every little bit helps, right?

(Any specific spoilers will be noted, but this will be more of a general review of things for the most part)(If you're reading this in Feedly which apparently several people do, I don't know whether the LiveJournal spoiler cuts will transfer over, so proceed with caution. I'm vague about the bigger bombshells, and the specifics aren't huge surprises or anything, so it shouldn't hurt TOO badly).

So, let's discuss the completed (HAH HAH) miniseries first. I only watched The X-Files sporadically back in the day when it was regularly on TV, then Jason and I marathoned it 9 years back or so and my love was more solidified (admittedly, not as HUGE of a fan as a lot of people I know-- not to obsession level-- but LOVE? I do love it). A miniseries seemed like an excellent idea for a revival-- many of my favorite shows ARE recurring miniseries, and I've mentioned what I love about that format before. I wasn't going to go into that all again, but one point is very relevant here: miniseries tend to be tighter, more consistently high-quality than regular television. Unfortunately, THAT was not the case with THIS miniseries-- "wildly inconsistent" would be my two-word review.

But, enjoyable as it was, the original X-Files was also scattered through with clunkers-and-the-entire-ninth-season. I still loved it. But when you have a six-episode miniseries (what's UP with that? Fargo has ten-episode seasons and that should be the final word. Granted, Sherlock has 3-episode seasons, but each episode is longer so that counts for...something?--it occurs to me I could probably write up the Holiday Special of that one, here, too. I might. I think it might happen organically) it sticks out more when half of them are clunkers. In this case, episodes 1, 5, and 6 were the clunkers. And 5 was one of those nonsensical-what-the-hey-did-I-just-watch clunkers that the series has a-plenty. 1 and 6-- possibly not coincidentally, the two parts of a two-parter-- were the two that just didn't sit right with me at all.

I figured out why as soon as I saw the previews for episode 2 at the end of episode one. In just a few clips, I felt like I was watching X-Files again, more than I had in the entire episode that had just ended. And it felt rather cruel of me, if I wasn't talking about a fictional character, but I realized the problem with that first ep (and again with the last) was depressed Mulder. I mean, storywise he had every right to be depressed in the first episode, and he spent most of the last gravely ill and injured and also-- this may be key-- separated from Scully. But that wasn't what I loved about the X-Files.

In the end I realized that it was THESE TWO SPECIFIC CHARACTERS that made this show for me. The X-Files has spawned so much great TV SciFi since. I can find conspiracies and crazy monsters and mysterious phenomena LOADS of places on TV-- Agents of SHIELD's got all that, if a little less scary-and-or-gory. But no other show has Mulder and Scully, these very complex and fully-alive characters with their perfect banter and chemistry. Many shows have tried to replicate that banter and chemistry but the fact is it's not going to be Mulder and Scully unless it actually IS Mulder and Scully. And in those moments of the episode 2 preview, I saw them again. The two of them, out Truth-seeking again, in their element. In episode 1 you had a kind of somber, slower, softer Scully, and even more glaringly, you had depressed, hopeless, disillusioned Mulder. Dangit the POINT of Mulder is his readiness to believe! I missed playful, determined, obsessed, and loving-every-minute-of-it Mulder. His JOY in discovering paranormal phenomena is what buoys this show along! In one moment of episode 1-- when he sees a replica of an alien spacecraft in action-- that old Mulder cracked through to the surface. But he was back to himself consistently for episodes 2-5, as was (possibly because of his being himself again?) Scully. And in those episodes I could sit through great writing (episode 3-- I know my online friend/biggest X-Files expert of them all, @easyqueenie, didn't like that one so much, but I thought it was brilliant) and terrible writing (ep 5, as mentioned), because I was hanging out with these two characters whom I loved so much I even managed to write a small and ridiculous piece of fanfiction about. I could roll with it. Whatever weirdness happened, they were still my two favorite FBI agents and I always enjoy their company. 1 and 6 just didn't feel that way, and that was the only time I really felt dissatisfied.

Feeling a little dissatisfied with the episode already probably made the ridiculous cliffhanger at the end of episode 6-- the LAST episode, remember-- a little easier to take. I'd never witnessed such a blatantly trolling move by a TV show before. Or, I thought, such a gutsy bid for another season: "You WILL give us more episodes or you will NEVER KNOW HOW THIS ALL WRAPS UP!" And the thing is, despite the unevenness of the writing and the expense and hard-to-get-hold-of-ness of the stars, they probably will. Because it's a big deal, dangit. It's the first thing that shows up when you go to the catch-up-on-TV Comcast page. And people watch it.

But meanwhile, over at ABC, it seems like nobody's watching television's greatest gift to humanity, Agent Carter, or more appropriately AGENT!CARTER! because I tend to get excited. And those who are-- well, I suppose most of us ARE just peachy with it, but there's a small contingency of reviewers and folks who are SO DISAPPOINTED with various aspects of this season that they keep writing "THIS IS WHY AGENT CARTER ISN'T WORKING" articles (two such from GeekMom people!). Never mind that this season has improved on many aspects of last season (and THAT season was amazing!), and blows The X-Files out of the water quality-wise (not just the new miniseries, but the bulk of the original episodes as well). It deserves way more positive attention than it's getting. I honestly cannot comprehend how low the ratings supposedly are. I said the same thing last year, but it bears repeating: if Agents of SHIELD can get decent ratings, why shouldn't Agent Carter get MORE? I LOVE Agents of SHIELD, it's my favorite current non-miniseries TV show, but it doesn't hold a candle to Agent Carter. Carter is clever, funny, and suspenseful all at once; it's got a premise even non-MCU fans like my mother can appreciate; it's gorgeous to look at both in the cinematography and the period costume/prop/set design (OMG I am still pining for Whitney Frost's purple coat/dress combo from the other night), and relatively universally cast-wise as well; and it's JUST GENERALLY AWESOME I'm out of specifics that fit in this sentence.

It's simply an awful lot of fun. When you get down to it, I just enjoy watching it. Much like those X-Files episodes where the leads AREN'T painfully depressing to watch, I'd follow it in whatever weird directions it might want to go. Which is why I really don't understand the criticisms. They tend to be minor nitpicks and personal preferences blown up into THIS IS GOING ALL DOWNHILL fatalism. It makes me wonder if people have gotten so used to looking for things to complain about in their media so they can write a Proper Critique of it online, that they've forgotten how to just ENJOY a show.

I mean, I'm not trying to claim that it's perfect. My biggest gripe with this season (though, remember, there's one episode left, it could blow up in my face then! But I doubt it) was that Jarvis was being used far too exclusively as comic relief in the first half of the season, which not only does a disservice to his character, but becomes extra jarring in the second half when he goes through a period of intense worry and anger which is just beautifully acted, but it would have been nicer if he hadn't been made a fool of too many times earlier in the season.

Otherwise there were moments here and there where I thought "well THAT was stupid" or winced from something that wasn't nice to see (that would be Whitney's Zero Matter mostly-- but obviously that's not a bad choice on the part of the creators, that's just gross), or where I really wasn't sure if I would like a direction the story was going in, but I went along for the ride, and always ended the evening satisfied-- okay, maybe "satisfied" is the wrong word when most of the time I found myself more and more anxious for the next Tuesday to arrive. And yeah, I was pretty freaked out for the week after episode seven, but that's just suspense. That's what a cliffhanger is SUPPOSED to feel like (and only last a week!).

I don't know if people are ALLOWING themselves to go along for the ride. Take, for example, your random musical dream sequence. (That spoiler title is actually longer than the spoiler it's hiding). It seems very much a matter of personal taste. But the reactions I've seen are either "That was the greatest scene ever and it elevated the rest of the episode, which was meh" or "That was an utter flop and totally wrong and it ruined the whole episode, nay, the whole SEASON." Seriously? There's no middle ground here? I was dubious about it, and storywise I think it was pretty pointless, but I, like I said, went along for the ride and enjoyed it for what it was, and in the end I WAS HAVING FUN AND THAT'S ALL THAT MATTERS.

People are also very opinionated about the romantic angles. Last year I said outright that the LACK of romance was one of my favorite things about the show. Yeah, it was. And apparently lots of other people felt the same way, because this year there IS a romantic subplot and suddenly people are all "YUCK GROSS WHY, YOU'VE RUINED IT, PEGGY DOESN'T NEED A MAN!" (with the occasional addition of "...unless it's Angie who isn't a man anyway"). And I'm sitting here gaping agog at these comments, wondering where this vitriol is coming from. I don't like (hot and heavy) romance! I loved last year's lack thereof! I might have chalked it up to my demisexuality, except that most of these people are far more sexual than I am, and yet I have no problem with this season's romantic subplot! Okay, ALMOST no problem, I'll get to that in a bit, but....
1. First of all, it's a subplot. SUBplot. It never overpowers the story proper. It never tries to be more important than SUPERVILLAINS PLOTTING WORLD DOMINATION. It reads, to me, as mere social entanglements that give the characterizations a little flavor, that's all. Nothing to make or break the show.
2. Second, I think personal bias about certain tropes has colored a lot of opinions. The mere existence of a LOVE TRIANGLE UGH causes people to rant about how awful that trope is and how it automatically brings the show down. LOOK, OKAY, maybe certain tropes are overused and often used poorly, but I've seen next to nothing of the faults that plague badly-shoehorned love triangles in this show, in practice. Peggy is SO NOT MOONING over two men, helplessly pondering which one might be her One True Love. In fact she's doing her darned best to IGNORE the situation, only rather angrily (although yes quite confused) discussing it once Jarvis pesters her into discussing it, and it takes being outright knocked out for her even to ponder it to herself subconsciously. Plus it's not a triangle. I wouldn't even call it a quadrilateral, even though it is, because that connotes, like, STRUCTURE. THIS is not a geometric shape, it's a long series of miscommunications and bad timings!
3. I also think people's own shipping preferences might have something to do with it? Note the "unless it's Angie"s. Or, whomever. I called it last year, I'm a Peg/Sousa shipper, and my ship is prominent among these entanglements-- in fact that oddly might be my only problem with the romantic subplot, because this year it's a LOT MORE OBVIOUS that Sousa IS the romantic endgame here, which perversely makes people who DON'T ship it angry that the showrunners are trying too hard to FORCE him on Peg, which makes me miss the days when I could say "See that guy? He's perfect for Peggy. I bet he's the one she eventually married," and it was a theory based on good judgment of character, not because THE WRITERS ARE TRYING TO SET IT UP AND UGH, THEY'RE WRONG. Which, no, YOU are wrong, Louise* Sousa-haters, HE IS SO PERFECT FOR HER, I think I explained why last year, not to mention gorgeous and apparently a very good singer. Anyway so I'm happy with the chances for my team, but other people like other matches better and suddenly it's the SHOW'S fault if the show doesn't agree?
4. Nobody's saying Peggy NEEDS a man. PEGGY sure isn't saying she needs a man. But it's already canon that she eventually does marry one, because she mentions him in Winter Soldier. So it's not like she's going to stay single forever, either. She's totally over Steve now, she can date whomever whenever she wants, and it will IN NO WAY WEAKEN HER FROM THE AWESOME CHARACTER THAT SHE IS.

Returning to the subject of tropes. OMG TROPES. These come up frequently in online critical discussion, but it's never about "How was this trope incorporated?" It's instead "THAT trope showed up. And THERE's an example of THAT trope. This show keeps using all these tired tropes!" GUYS, STOP. Stop trying to name tropes. Tropes are not automatically cliches that should be eliminated. Tropes are basic storytelling threads that show up again and again through the WHOLE COURSE OF HUMAN HISTORY (certain technological details excepted). It does not matter if a certain trope can be identified-- does it fit, organically, with this story? HOW does it fit? What do the writers, or actors, or set designers do to claim it as their own? What makes this piece of storytelling unique? Tell me that. Don't tell me it happens to HAVE a trope you don't like on principle.

It's like people are reviewing shows against an imaginary ideal in their head and getting mad when it doesn't meet those expectations.

To be honest, I realized my personal problem with this kind of criticism just about a year ago, when I read an article that pointed out that this grew out of lazy academic criticism. FLASH BACK to my second semester at college, when I went to my first English-major specific class, Literary Analysis. Guys, I SUCKED at it. Sure, I LOVE analyzing literature! I can do it nonstop! But apparently I was doing it WRONG. Lit Analysis was about looking at works through SPECIFIC LENSES, going in with a premade set of things to look for, and coming up with how that set matches up with the work, and then judging the entire work based only on those criteria. IT MADE NO SENSE to me. Why were we intentionally biasing what we said about a work in this way? Why couldn't the WORK ITSELF instead work on us, and then we could say how it managed what it did? These Lit Analysis methods seemed altogether BACKWARDS-- like telling a work "How well do you follow MY RULES?" instead of saying "Okay, art, what are you here to offer me?" My professor kept rolling her eyes at my idiocy and repeating the same seemingly nonsensical things over and over, certain that if she just said it again with MORE EMPHASIS I'd get it. But instead, I decided it was hogwash and changed my major to elementary ed, where our analysis of literature revolved around how well it worked for kids of various ages and abilities, which is much more the way I preferred to do it.

--anyway my point is, there's probably nothing wrong with the way other people critique shows, it just happens to be a way I find painfully antithetical to my own way. I AM SORRY, OTHER REVIEWERS. IT REALLY ISN'T YOUR FAULT. IT'S A WORLD VIEW PROBLEM. I cannot experience art by chopping it up and going at the pieces with a checklist. I don't like when the people who CAN AND DO insinuate that I'm wrong, so, defensively, I've been trying to turn the tables. Hypocritical, no?

But in defense of MY way, I think I get to enjoy myself more. I can experience the forest without harping on about how some of the trees are shaped. Remember my allusion up above to the Sherlock holiday special? MAN, that thing was WEIRD, and it had bits that weren't to my taste. But I utterly enjoyed watching it, 'cause I rolled with it. I decided to accept it as is and see what I got out of it, and I got a pleasant evening out of it that happened to include Martin Freeman doing narration, which is something I will always adore (not to mention, Martin Freeman as a WHOLE, but his doing narration is a thing that always sticks out for me). I'm not always going to enjoy myself with the roll-with-it technique. There will always be shows that turn out to have nothing good to offer me in the end. But at least I didn't go in with a checklist.

Okay, some final Agent Carter reactions: Speaking of rolling with it, when I heard Mrs. Jarvis would actually be IN THE PICTURE this season, I wasn't sure what to think. It was sort of a running gag that you never saw her before. But hey, roll with it, and of course she's wonderful. And what's up with all these villains you can't help but sort of root for? Dottie is so much fun in her sociopathic way, and Whitney Frost, I don't know, but I find I'm loving her more, too, the more horrible she gets. Shout out to the minor characters who are awesome, like Rose, or awesomely annoying, like Samberley. OH GOSH SAMBERLEY-- it's kind of fun having someone who is neither evil nor just a typical bigoted 40s white guy who is nonetheless completely unlikeable. And just because I'm a Sousa fangirl doesn't mean I dislike Jason Wilkes, he's quite charming when he isn't being completely messed up by Dark Matter. Actually the only bad thing about him is that, whenever anyone calls him "Jason," MY Jason ALWAYS feels the need to say "Yes?" and that does get irritating after awhile. And Jack Thompson. Dude. Why do I get the feeling you're going to be part of the reason Hydra ends up building itself into SHIELD from the beginning? I'm onto you and your ambitious ways, Thompson!

EDIT! I need to include my thoughts post-finale! The only part of what I said before that has been really changed by the last episode was, of course, JACK. OMG. The guy's a jerk, but he can't end this way! WHICH FURTHER NECESSITATES A THIRD SEASON! I need either closure or reprieve. Granted, I've seen at least one of the showrunners, in at least two different places, stress the ambiguity of his fate, just short of yelling "HE'S NOT DEAD!" at us. If he IS dead, I guess he doesn't have any hand in the Hydra infiltration. If he's not, the possibility still stands. But I'm glad he really does seem to respect Peggy now. The scene with the dinner orders was just THE BEST. And kind of heartrending in retrospect-- it's kind of foreshadowing, because his relationship with Peggy came so beautifully full-circle, it's like, should have known that'd be the end of him, we just totally closed an arc there! But it was awesome.
Also, I want Whitney's purple dress in THAT episode, too.
Also, I am so gloating about my ship, guys. Look, it's not even that I was THAT PASSIONATE a shipper. My favorite ship of the MCU is still the ill-fated half-season-long Coulson/Rosalind deal because I'm just weird that way. But there are still so many people that DO NOT APPRECIATE SOUSA PROPERLY that I just feel compelled to be all fist-pumpy in-yo'-face about that freakin' intense kissin' they had going on there. I CALLED IT GUYS AND IT'S CANON WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT.
ANYHOO. GIVE ME SEASON THREE OR I WON'T BE ABLE TO LIVE. Well, perfectly happily anyway.

In short, DO AS PEGGY SAYS. Or, support Agent Carter because it's way too good to get brushed away.

I think that's all I have to say. If not, question me about my omissions in the comments and I'll expound upon them there.

*Teasing. I'm only name-checking the one Sousa-...-disliker I can argue with in complete confidence that it's all friendly on both sides!
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
The Internet is very emotional today, which has made it hard to focus. Sure, I like both David Bowie and Alan Rickman a whole lot (and the former was JUST singing on my computer again a few minutes ago). But they don't hit a nerve quite as much as this NEW Star-Wars-Intersecting-With-My-Personal-Life post I wrote that just went up on GeekMom today,* and even that one hit the emotional wayside when I read my dearest friend Angie's post reflecting on the bullying she suffered in high school and how it's affected her since, because, I mean I can't remotely claim that her being bullied hurt me just as much, but it DID make me ragingly angry and determined to be an anti-bully a billion times more strongly than my OWN having-been-bullied had made me. If that sentence construction makes any sense whatsoever. So I've been like PEOPLE EVERYBODY JUST READ ANGIE'S POST and all emotionally-charged all day.

But basically it's been distracting me from something that's been bugging me for...months, really. I first thought I'd write about it, and my misgivings, last summer, but never got around to it. Then in the fall, I wanted to write about it again, but other topics got in the way. But now, while other topics are still getting in the way, I keep seeing reminders, and I know I've got to get it off my chest through more than just a long comment on The Mary Sue.

I don't know if you know this... no, I'm pretty sure you know it-- Exhibit A, B, and the number 3, as well as this blatant one: it's been my lifelong dream to work on Sesame Street? Okay, by "lifelong" I mean "since 11th grade," since before then I was actually kind of scared of Sesame Street. Don't ask.

But no, when I was far out of the target audience, I became obsessed with this show. It started with a research paper. When I was trying to come up with a topic for my next paper in my high school research writing class, a vision of Cookie Monster flashed through my head, and I wondered what I could do with the topic of Sesame Street. "What effects, if any, did Sesame Street have on early childhood education?" was the question I finally went with.

And boy, were there answers. I didn't know that kindergarten didn't used to be mandatory, and that what kindergarten classes existed were more like day cares. Kindergarten and preschool curricula directly changed as a result of kids learning from Sesame Street, and more and more preschools opened. Here, if you're curious, I've found and scanned my whole report-- it seems to be a next-to-last draft, with some editing notes and a couple unrelated reminders written in the margins-- and keep in mind it's written by a(n admittedly advanced) seventeen-year-old, but it's still full of interesting information and anyone who wants to double-check the facts can find even more in the "Works Cited" section. So if you want the nitty-gritty details, there you go and I'll get on with this post.

So, as other adults who didn't even watch the show complained that it "wasn't what it used to be," I rolled my eyes. No, Cookie Monster did NOT turn into a Veggie Monster. Yes, Elmo is annoying, but he wasn't the whole show: he co-opted the last twenty minutes for "Elmo's World" which was deliberately targeted at a younger audience than the rest of the show, because the heavy research indicated that the preschool-and-up audience tended to wander away by then and only the toddlers kept watching. I knew the show only made changes that they'd thoroughly researched, and I trusted it. And when my own kids started watching I was not disappointed. There was just that one falter, when Kevin Clash broke my heart, and I didn't blame the show for that, just him, like, DUDE, I totally dreamed of working for you, how could you?!

And then, last summer, they're handed off to HBO. "It's fine!" they assured us. "This gives us the funding to continue doing what we do! The new episodes will FIRST be aired on HBO, but after a 9-month hold, PBS will get them, too!"

Okay then. I'm willing to reserve judgement, because as long as the same people are putting it together and as long as PBS still gets the episodes EVENTUALLY (it's not like there's much of a timeliness issue involved), everything should be just fine! Except it just FELT wrong. The show was founded SPECIFICALLY to give a leg up to underprivileged kids. That wasn't an afterthought, or some kind of politically-correct posturing; that was the BASIC MISSION of the show. I was reading Street Gang at the time, and that point was made over and over. It was for underprivileged kids. Other kids could benefit from it, too, but that wasn't the point. So to have the show belong exclusively--even if only for 9 months-- to a premium cable channel that, heck, my family doesn't even have, let alone underprivileged kids? Just seemed... off.

But then, within a month, two of the most involved and longest-running writer-performers on the show, Joey Mazzarino (head writer behind the scenes, Murray and Baby Bear and a slew of other Muppets, um, UNDER the scenes) and Sonia Manzano (writer behind the scenes since the 80s, Maria on the Street since 1971) announced they were leaving. Could have been coincidence. Manzano is not only technically "retirement age," but her writing career has been taking off in the past couple of years so she's got plenty to occupy herself. Still, the timing felt... ominous. It didn't help when I found out one of my fellow new GeekMom writers had been a producer on Sesame Street until relatively recently. I was like "SQUEEEEEE HOW DID YOU NOT MENTION THAT OUTRIGHT, HOW WERE YOU NOT BRAGGING THAT EVERY CHANCE YOU GOT?!" but she seemed hesitant to talk about it...and that made me worry....

So now Sesame Street's first episode on HBO is Saturday. The New York Times covered the changes you'll see pretty objectively. The Mary Sue read it and had a few more questions. Vulture just jumped right into digging up the dirt, revealing, sadly, that Joey Mazzarino's departure was, indeed, not a coincidence (though apparently I'm a bad fan because I didn't follow him on Facebook so as to know this already. Hey, I DO follow Sonia Manzano on Twitter though and during the last Olympics we totally had a conversation about the gymnasts. I TOTALLY DID HAVE A TWITTER CONVERSATION WITH MARIA GUYS IT WAS AWESOME. *ahem*). And I managed to piece my thoughts together on the subject at last.

I don't like it. MAYBE it'll be fine, sure, MOST of the creative team is the same, and they're still relying on research, but it feels like they've relied on that research to sanitize it, make it safe for middle-class America, just like every other preschool show, instead of being that one safe-yet-familiar haven for lower-class kids. It's not like middle-class kids COULDN'T enjoy the show, even if its imperfect setting might have made them, God forbid, uncomfortable. But middle-class kids have ALL the shows, and THIS show was DESIGNED FROM THE START to be FOR the poor kids. It's like YA literature-- it's FOR TEENS. Lots of adults love it too and that's fine, I'm one of them, but it's FOR teens. Start writing it for the adults who love it instead of for the teens, and is it really YA anymore?

I think the real test is, though, not so much what the show is now, but what Sesame Workshop continues to do BESIDES the show. Will they continue to produce the show in other countries, countries where literacy definitely could use a boost? Will they continue to address just the right issues specific to each of those places? More importantly, will they continue to reach out to the underprivileged here in the U.S. with auxiliary programs like the ones they have for children with parents in the military or in prison? Will they serve the non-HBO-accessing kids through their outreach? Will they remember why this organization was created in the first place?

I wanted to work for them not just because the show is clever and has Muppets. I wanted to work for them because they made a real positive difference in the world. They weren't just any old preschool show.

But I realized recently that, whatever some TV-based organization in NYC is doing, I'm actually addressing the same goals right here, in my own little part of the world. I'm bringing literacy to underprivileged kids all the time. I bring them worlds in bags of books. I'm a public children's librarian and I'm proud of my job. Maybe I don't need to work for Sesame Street to be inspired to take up its original cause.

---
*Relatedly, every year I react to the Youth Media Awards on this blog (one year it was even on video), and no one ever seems to care one way or another. Well, THIS year I posted my reaction post on GeekMom, and still no one cares, but on the off-chance you ARE wondering where my reaction post has gone this year, here it is.
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
This format worked really nicely last year, so I'll stick to something of the same:
Long and Full of Pictures )

When I was talking about the GeekMom thing with some relatives on Christmas Eve, I said kind of bashfully that I shouldn't let my writing confidence be affected so much by how many people read and respond, because writers write even if only for themselves, but a couple of them said, No, it makes sense, because while that might be so, a written work technically isn't complete until it has an audience, because it TAKES A READER. So please, indulge me, and chime in in the comments with your opinions on any or all of the things discussed here, because I like being heard!

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