Monthly Archives: January 2017

Thoughts from a Pro-Life Feminist

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Crooked Kingdom

There are few books that I love so much I need to read the sequel immediately, but I loved Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows that much.

Six of Crowsin case you’ve forgotten is an amazing sci-fi/fantasy, heist YA novel about six misfits who become a team.  The sequel, Crooked Kingdom, is the best love story I’ve ever read.

Okay, obviously, there is a new heist.  At the end of Six of Crows, the team gets screwed out of a payday and Inej is captured.  Kaz intends to get his money and his girl, and so we have a sequel.

The rest of the team has problems too: Nina is fighting withdrawal, Jesper’s father shows up, Wylan’s is looking for him and has been hiding his mother for years…  Meanwhile, the rest of Ketterdam – and the whole world it seems – has turned on them.

This is why it’s a love story.  In the first book, Kaz pulled the team together.  In the sequel, they pull together themselves.  They don’t stay for Kaz, they stay for Inej…and then each other.

Usually, I hate stories that “pair everyone off,” but this one is done so well, I can’t object.  Mathias is still prejudiced but is fighting it, not necessarily for Nina, but with her help.  Kaz gets Inej back and has to decide if he can keep her and protect her simultaneously.  Inej is incredible (and a role model for all of us) because she wants him but refuses to betray herself to keep him.  And Wylan and Jesper…god, Wylan and Jesper…

But that’s not why it’s the best love story I’ve ever read.  The couples are perfect for each other, but the true love story of Crooked Kingdom is the family the six of them create together.  Back in Ketterdam, with everyone against them, they learn to rely on each other and become the family they’ve all lost.  They learn to trust each other and compensate for each other’s weaknesses  In Six of Crows, they ere a team; in Crooked Kingdom  they become a family.

Don’t get me wrong: the heist is exciting.  With Kaz’s ingenuity (and the other’s talents) they con the whole city and finally bring don Pekka Rollins, Jan Van Eck, and even Per Haskell.  It’s very satisfying to see them pay for their crimes, but it’s even more satisfying to see the characters you come to love in Six of Crows grow during their performance in Crooked Kingdom.

Obviously I advocate for everyone to read Six of Crows first, but Crooked Kingdom is worth reading.  Even if the first book as a quarter as good as it was, I’d suggest people read it for the sequel’s sake.  In the first, you fall in love with the characters; in the second you fall in love with the family.

All that to say…you should read Six of Crows.  You will then feel compelled to read Crooked Kingdom.  You’ll enjoy every minute of it and wonder where these characters have been all your life.  I promise.

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Picking Battles

Last year, when my contract at BB&T ran out, I went on this massive road trip.  (You may have read about it.)  One of my motivations was that I was so tired of being angry all the time.  That was fine.  That was time for me to take care of myself.  Now it’s time to be angry.

  1. Flint, Michigan is still without clean water.  It’s been almost three years.  The state government was ordered to give the residents bottled water but refused because it’s “too costly.”  And they still expect residents to pay for the bad water.
  2. There are 1.6 million young people (teenagers mostly) who are homeless in America.  Almost half of them are LGBTQ community and a lot of them are in that situation because their parents, many of whom are religious, have kicked them out of their homes.
  3. Pretty much everything Donald has done since being sworn in.  His Cabinet nominees are, for the most part, as unqualified as he is.  The Press Secretary has already lied to the American public and is more focused on defending the president’s ego than on actually informing the public.  They took down all the pages on pertinent issues like global warming, disabilities, and the LGBTQ community.  Furthermore, they’re using this to distract the public from actual policy work they’ve been doing, the same way they used Pence’s “rivalry” with the Hamilton cast to distract you from Donald’s settling a fraud lawsuit for $25 million.  And I’m still pretty pissed that we have such an antiquated system like the Elector Collage in place so that a person who lost the popular vote by over 2.5 million votes still gets to be president.  Don’t you tell me we should have voted instead of complaining now: we DID vote.
  4. The fact that this is a thing.  And this.  And this.  And…one more.  Xenophobia is not okay, and it is not “just another point of view.”  It is dangerous.

It is important to take time to take care of ourselves…but it is also important to draw a line and say “This is important to me, and I’m going to fight you on it.”  Picking your battles is a self-preservation method.  I don’t judge anyone who needs to step away from politics and social issues to protect their mental health.  As for me, it’s time to get in the game and pick a couple fights.  These are the ones I intend to prioritize.

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A Series of Unfortunate Events, Pt. Final

I know what you’re going to ask: no, I didn’t finish rereading A Series of Unfortunate Events.  In fact, the last one I told you about (number nine, The Carnivorous Carnivalwas the last one I reread.

I’m okay with that for a few reasons.  First, nine books in two weeks is still hella impressive.  Second, I only chose to reread them now because of the Netflix series, which only goes through book four so far, meaning I’m ahead.

Since people have asked, I have watched the Netflix series.  I could start and end with “it’s better than the movie,” but I’m going to ignore that atrocity and talk about the new show as an adaptation of the books.  It is a bit different, and this is NOT a spoiler-free zone.

So far, each book got two 43-minute episodes apiece, leaving enough time to tell the individual book’s story, set up the longer mystery at play, and add a new related storyline.

The song that opens each episode is reminiscent of the letters on the back of each book, and each new pair shows the book’s dedication, which will end up being important if they get through all thirteen books.  Lemony Snicket, played by Patrick Warburton, narrates with the same style I loved so much in the books: defining words in context, urging the viewer to stop watching when something bad is about to happen and, most importantly, respecting his protagonists despite the fact that they’re children.

The main plot, over eight episodes, is Count Olaf trying to steal the Baudelaire fortune.  Neal Patrick Harris perfectly balances humor and horror as Olaf.

In the first four books, that is the only plot that matters because it is told entirely from the children’s point of view.  The show is told from a wider lens, allowing the view a more thorough understanding of what is happening.  As such, the mystery of their parents’ secret organization is introduced earlier than it is in the books.  We see some of the gears working with characters who aren’t in these books, like Jacquelyn and Gustav, and even with characters who are in the books but whose secrets were revealed until later, like Uncle Monty and Aunt Josephine.  The subplot with Will Arnett’s and Cobie Smulder’s characters ties it all together and prepares the viewer for the next season.  It’s also just really entertaining.

These are the threads tying the episodes together but each third episodes is based on a new book and introduces new characters and locations.  The format allows them to fully develop all of them, even Olaf’s henchmen who are flat in the books.  I had more fun watching the first season than I did rereading the books it is based on.  I can’t wait until they get to the books I actually enjoyed the second time around.  The Netflix show was exactly the right format to bring these books to screen.

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Friday, the United States is going to have a new president.  I’m struggling to find words to explain how upset I am by this development.  It’s one thing to defend someone else’s view of Donald, but to proffer my own is a different matter.

He isn’t even president yet, and I can’t see how the next four years are going to go well.  Everyone he has picked for his Cabinet has been almost as unqualified for their position as Donald is for his.  Is he really going to kick the press out of the White House?  That doesn’t look good for transparency.   In fact, it seems like he wants to oust anyone who disagrees with him or paints him in a bad light.  And, speaking of transparency, why won’t he release his tax returns?

Further, I’m severely distressed by the fact that he got this far at all.  The fact that a man with pending rape charges was allowed to run for the highest office in our country sickens me.  And since the majority of Americans – over 2 million more, in fact – chose Secretary Clinton to be president, I don’t understand why we still have a system in place that makes some votes more valuable than others.

Other things I don’t understand: why so many Americans are so hell-bent on keeping immigrants out of our country when this is a country built on immigrants; why “my health care is more than I want to pay” is a more convincing argument for getting rid of the ACA than “without this health care, I would literally die” is for keeping it; why ANYONE needs an assault rifle and why so many people are still adamant about keeping the damn things legal when so many people have died.  Why are there so many people desperate to keep Social Security around but angry at people collecting unemployment, considering both are things we pay into as we work?  Why is getting an education considered such a privilege that people born into poorer families have to practically sell their souls in order to get it?  Why why why.

I have far more questions than answers these days, but here’s one that still bugs me: Donald says he’ll make America “great” again – when’s the last time it was great?

My vision of a great America is not a country where people with curable diseases have to die because they can’t afford their health care.  It is not a country where those born into poverty are kept there because they can’t crawl out of debt.  America will be great when achieving that elusive “American dream” does not require stepping on someone else to do so.

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A Series of Unfortunate Events, Pt. 2

Oh yeah, I have to accomplish something today.  Oops.

I’m still rereading A Series of Unfortunate Events.  While I haven’t made it as far as I would like (I’m on book 9 of 13, not including the two supplemental books I also wanted to read, and I really hoped to be finished tomorrow), nine books in two weeks is still pretty impressive.  More importantly, once I reached book number four, The Austere Academy, I began enjoying them again.

Two important things happen in The Austere Academy: the Baudelaires meet the Quagmire triplets and are introduced to the initials V.F.D.

Like the Baudelaires, the Quagmires also lost their parents in a fire and are alone in the world but for each other…which is why they bond so quickly and become friends.  The Quagmires are the first people the Baudelaires can truly trust.  They believe them about Olaf and even try to help, despite it being incredibly dangerous.  Having friends makes the Baudelaires’ situation more bearable, both for them and for the readers.

Unfortunately (spoiler alert), the Quagmire triplets are captured by Count Olaf at the end of the book.  As they are driven away, they try to tell their friends about the secret they discovered about Count Olaf and V.F.D.  Doubly unfortunate for the Baudelaires, they don’t have time to give them any information about V.F.D. and what it stands for, sending the siblings on a quest for answers.  For books five through thirteen, they are chasing information on this organization.  I enjoy these last books more because I know what the books are heading towards.

I do still love Snicket’s writing style: amusing and easy to understand without being condescending.  I especially love how he defines words based on context more than the dictionary definition.  He also makes it clear he respects both his readers and his main characters, despite the fact that they’re children.  And I love them too: the Baudelaire children are clever, kind, and good-natured.  I’ve also noticed that Snicket did hide some fun references for his adult readers, like referring to a poet as “Sappho” and using the phrase “le petite mort.”

I’m looking forward to the Netflix series more than I was at this time last week.  Hopefully I’ll finish the reread in time.

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Talking Back

I spent a year on The Daily Tar Heel and decided journalism wasn’t for me, but the way our country is going I wish I had stuck with it.

Sunday, at the Golden Globes, Meryl Streep made an impassioned speech about outsiders, holding people accountable, and using our power and privilege wisely…and many people weren’t happy with it.  You have the right to complain, but I have the right to tell you that you’re being ridiculous.

First off: if you think Ms. Streep was disrespecting Donald by saying this, can I ask you…what is your problem?  Are you one of those people who thinks we should back our leaders 100%, whether we agree with them or not?  Did you do that for President Obama?  Ms. Streep didn’t denigrate Donald as a person.  She commented on one thing he did – a completely heinous thing, but just one thing.  If you are one of those people who justifies your homophobia by saying you “love the sinner, hate the sin,” this is a mirror of that.  Without saying anything bad about Donald as a person, she talked about what he did and why it was harmful.

“But we should never speak against our country’s leaders.”  First: No.  Second: Did you follow that policy for President Obama?  Second: …NO!!!!

You are the first to cry “free speech” when anyone’s homophobic or misogynistic comment surfaces and causes them trouble in the media.  Why is Meryl Streep exempt from that?  Why is she not allowed to speak her mind as much as they are?  Because she disagrees with YOU?

Franklin Graham commented that Sean Hannity called Hollywood “a bunch of hypocrites.”  Do you know what a hypocrite is?  It’s someone who “pretends to have virtues but their actions belie them.”  Like someone who claims to respect women but sexually harasses them and “grabs them by the pussy.”

I wish I had stuck with journalism because the next four years will be difficult for people like me.  A man with no experience is becoming president and he is bringing Nazis into his cabinet.  I’m praying someone talks some sense into him and forces him to consider the American minorities he’s been speaking against since he started.  In the meantime, I’m going to speak my mind.  I’m going to keep talking back.  People, even leaders, ESPECIALLY leaders, must be held accountable for their actions.  You can respect them while still asking them to be better.  You can respect a person while still asking them to listen to you too.  Asking to be heard is NOT disrespectful.

I could get away with saying “I respect Donald but disagree with him” but I don’t.  Until he treats immigrants, women, and minorities with respect, I won’t respect him either.  For SOME REASON, Donald will be president, even though MOST AMERICANS  chose Senator Clinton over him.  I can’t change that.  But I can speak up and talk back.  I can stand up for my beliefs.  You can tell me -and Meryl Streep- that we’re wrong to do so, but we don’t care.  We are exercising our right to free speech and demanding to be heard and holding our leaders accountable for their actions.  We refuse to be sheep obeying blindly.  We will demand better.

Will you?

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A Series of Unfortunate Events, Part 1

It is surreal – a word which here means “strange and mildly disturbing” – to take the time, once you are grown, to reread a book series you loved as a child.

For instance, when I was a child and reading these books for the first time, I was frustrated that the adults never believed/listened to the Baudelaires, making it more difficult for them to escape the clutches of Count Olaf.  Now that I am an adult, it pisses me off – a phrase which here means “it makes me want to bitch-slap somebody across the face because WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU???”

Seriously though: I wanted to reread A Series of Unfortunate Events before the Netflix series drops on January 13th and, so far, I am three books in.  In rereading books, it is sometimes difficult to be objective: am I attached to the Baudelaire orphans and infested in their well-being because the writer has developed them so vividly I feel like we’re old friends, or do they feel like old friends because I was a child when I read their story for the first time?  I do know that the writing style is still amusing as an adult reader without being condescending towards anyone involved, but it is hard to focus on that now that I am older and recognize other things about the story.

It is very clear, to anyone reading, that Count Olaf is a horrible person.  However, it’s different when the reader becomes an adult.  While I think any child reading will recognize him as “the bad guy,” it’s more horrifying being an adult.  You see what he does as the children’s guardian less as a “bad guy” thing and more as an “abusive guardian” thing.  It also becomes clear that bumbling Mr. Poe, ignorant Uncle Monty, and cowardly Aunt Josephine are borderline abusive in their own ways, if not for what they perpetrate directly then for what they facilitate indirectly.  And in recognizing such, I hope adult readers get angry.

I have ten books to go and, frankly, I’m almost dreading it.  There is so much pain in these books.  I wonder at a time in my life when I saw it sillier than it was sad…though Snicket’s writing, especially the letters on the back of the books, does lend itself towards silliness.  And I am torn between being afraid Netflix will treat it too lightly and the idea that the show ill be too dark for the children who are the books’ target audience.  I have decided that, if my children or my cousins ever want to read these books, it will be with the understanding that we are going to discuss them.  I almost feel like they would be more detrimental than helpful to children who are already experiencing abuse.

Past Book Three, we’re starting to get into “Kari doesn’t remember much about this…” territory, so stay tuned to see how well THAT goes.

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Day to Day

Here’s a thought:

New Year’s isn’t THAT big of a deal.

Time is constantly passing.  In many ways, a year is just a social construct we use to measure it.  The passing of one year into the next is only significant because we as a society agree on its significance.

That doesn’t mean it’s not important or that we can’t treat it as such.  I myself have been reflecting on 2016 and setting goals for 2017.  I know what I want to accomplish this year.  I fully intended to get started on them right away…but.

But I have a major application due on January 5th.  But I have spent most of the day so anxious I can barely make myself move.

Besides that, right after deciding I wouldn’t drink any soda for the month of January, I opened a Coke without thinking about it.  I’ve made bad decisions and lacked discipline and decidedly not gotten off to a great start this year.  And the year is only a couple of days old.

But here’s the thing: a year is not some magical reset button.  It is a unit of time made up of 365 days and there is not way to be completely on point for a full 365 days.  Furthermore, you don’t have to.

It’s important to look to the future and it is important to set long-term goals…but it is also important to be patient with ourselves and to do the best with what we’ve got.

I could get really upset with myself for drinking soda today, or I can let it go and try to do better tomorrow.  I will finish my Columbia application and then I can focus on the other projects on my list for 2017.

I am going to take the year one day at a time.  I will be patient as I work through my anxiety and towards my goals.  I will do my best in each moment and, at the end of each day, I will rest knowing I will try again tomorrow.

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