Monthly Archives: February 2017

A short pep talk in case of rejection.

This is the playlist I’ve been using to keep me moving this year.

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Wonder Woman, Part 2.

Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman is an exciting exposé on the Amazon’s origins.  Part biography, part social history, Lepore’s book tells you everything you would want to know about Wonder Woman’s creator…and a lot you probably don’t.

Some comic readers these days get angry when people politicize their fictional heroes.  This book is here to remind you that politicization was the point all along.

Lepore starts by giving William Moulton Marston’s history, then ignores his story for a while as she gives the background of women Marston will eventually love and learn from.  These women include Sadie Holloway, editor of Encyclopædia Britannica, and Olive Byrne, niece to Margaret Sanger.  Byrne helped Marston with his lie-detector experiments.  That’s right: the man who created Wonder Woman also invented the “lie-detector,” so it’s no wonder she has a Lasso of Truth.

Jill Lepore does an excellent job of showcasing the good, the bad, and the strange.  She outlines Marston’s living situation (basically, he had three wives and was very into bondage) and his background in psychology to explain how his life affected Wonder Woman’s story.  She also manages to highlight the positive contributions he made to the women’s movement at the time while still describing the things he does that are less feminist than he claims to be.  Finally, she tells the story in an engaging yet mostly unbiased way.  It wasn’t just informative: it was entertaining, and even funny.

As nonfiction books go, it’s one of the best.  Besides being a subject that isn’t often explored, the book is expansive and enjoyable to read.  If you’re curious about why the inventor of the lie-detector machine turned to comic books, give it a go.  You may be scandalized, but you will never be bored.

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Nashville, Take 2.

I wanted to film a vlog in Nashville, but I need a better camera for that.  Next time.

I stayed at the Music City Hostel in the Vanderbilt area.  If you’re looking for a cheap place to stay, I would recommend it.  This place is clean, cozy, impeccably decorated and Tina, who manages it, is lovely to talk to.

I only went to one bar this time, Winners, and I went for Whiskey Jam.  If you want to see some up-and-coming music acts, this is the place to be on Monday nights.  But Tuesday is when I got into the real reasons I went.

That morning, despite the rain, I toured the Opry, an expensive activity but absolutely worth it.  If you enjoy the history and tradition of country music, this place feels like home.  Restored after the flood of 2010, it is also a testament to the passion and perseverance of the art form and the creators who still pursue it.

I also saw a show there Tuesday night.  I had been waiting for someone I loved (coughBradPaisleycough) to perform, but went instead for Valentine’s Day, knowing only two of the performers beforehand.  It felt like I had stepped out of time, with a live announcer and red On-Air sign.  You’re paying for that experience – the music is icing.  I suggest a seat upstairs so you can take in the whole sight.

And speaking of sights…the thing that actually took my breath away was the statue of Athena at Nashville’s Centennial Park.  The full-sized Parthenon replica is impressive, but at 42-feet and dressed in glowing gold, the Athena inside is its true appeal.

Reba put on a spectacular show, but I wasn’t as in awe of her venue, the Ryman Auditorium, as I was the Opry House.  Next time, I’ll take the tour and see if that helps.  I liked the Country Music Hall of Fame, but wasn’t as enthralled as the first time I visited.  I do suggest going once – and before May to catch the Brad Paisley: Diary of a Player exhibit.  This is another place the history and tradition of country music is kept alive in Nashville.

Meanwhile, I had a delicious breakfast at Another Broken Egg Cafe.  This isn’t some greasy spoon: I had an omelette with crab and cream cheese and a very fancy (and alcoholic) coffee.  It’s about a block from the Ryman and two from the Hall of Fame, so not a bad place to get your day in Nashville started.

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Wonder Woman, part 1.

I love female superheroes, and I think it’s important that young girls read and watch them. Boys have a variety of strong role models; girls are less lucky.  But in some ways it’s getting better, and Wonder Woman at Super Hero High by Lisa Yee is an example of that.

It’s a tie-in novel to the DC Superhero Girls cartoon.  When I first heard the synopsis, I assumed they attended an all-girl superhero school; that’s how bad representation is.  But these stories are set at Super Hero High, a school with students like Cyborg, Beast Boy, and Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, and yet focus on the stories of these girls.

I had a hard time getting into the book at first.  Yee needed to introduce the school and the world it’s in, where superheroes are so common there are multiple schools to teach them, and the story is a little slow while she sets it up.  Meanwhile, she is also introducing the characters, who are lovable and engaging and make the exposition worth it.  Once the story is underway, it becomes a fast-paced adventure as Wonder Woman works to fit in at Super Hero High, solve the mystery of who is trying to force her out, and figure out who she wants to be.

If you like the DC universe, there are a lot of fun Easter Eggs.  Wonder Woman meets Steve Trevor and learns what a crush is.  Amanda Waller is the no-nonsense principal, the Wall.  And a few of the more obscure heroes (and reformed villains) are the Super Hero High teachers.  It’s also a nice way to introduce kids to the universe, as it features most of the big players in one form or another.

There are also some lessons every kid should know.  Wonder Woman sees a counselor every week and has to learn to balance taking care of herself with her high-achiever personality.  The story is focused on team work and caring for others, not only physically but emotionally.

It’s a fantastic book and doesn’t take too long to read.  I can’t wait to read Supergirl’s adventure next.

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Mom asked Allison to come home this weekend so we could plan her (very late) graduation trip.  It wasn’t going very well because Allison can’t make a decision to save her life.  But as we sat there, going a couple rounds of “what do you want to do?” and “do you want a more active trip or more relaxing?” and she says, “I do want to see the circus!”

…that wasn’t really one of the options.  In fact, they had JUST been in Charlotte, and it was Ringling Brothers last year performing.

“Well,” Mom said, after a quick internet search, “They are in Greensboro today at 5.”

And that’s how we ended up driving to Greensboro at the last minute in order to see the circus.  Sometimes, my family does something that reminds me where I get half my personality from.

Last week I bought tickets to two concerts in Nashville and planned a last-minute trip there.  I wasn’t sure I should go because I still haven’t settled the “income” problem (related: if you sign up TODAY-Feb. 14th, you can still get a postcard from Nashville), but then I thought: What’s going to make me happy right now?  Especially being the first Valentine’s Day after the end of a serious relationship.

The drive back from the circus was stressful, with a 30 minute delay on the interstate, but the show was absolutely worth it.  The tigers were adorable and followed by a show of trained poodles (a BIG poodle actually ended up walking a smaller one – it was SO CUTE).  The tightrope walkers were impressive.  At one point, two of them carried a bar between them and a third sat on a chair balanced on that bar.  We had absolute nosebleed seats but that meant we could see everything.

I was most impressed by the control of it all.  They’ve practiced so often and timed it so well that each act moves seamlessly into the next.  They set up the next props while the audience is focused on the current act.

After 145 years, the show is ending.  If you have a chance to see it in one of the cities it’s still going to, you should go.  But I say yes to a lot of things.  Makes life an adventure.

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To Have and Have Not

Honestly, I have a hard time reading classics.  I don’t always understand the antiquated language or the story’s context so they can be difficult to get into.  That’s why I tend to give classics a longer chance before giving up on them.  Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not was different: it had me in the beginning, lost me in the middle, and didn’t come back around until the last few pages.

The main character of To Have and Have Not is supposedly Harry Morgan.  I say “supposedly” because the story opens on his point of view, tells how he got shafted by a rich guy who chartered his boat and then skipped out on his bill, and then explains that he began to smuggle contraband out of desperation.  That sounds like the makings of an interesting story.  But Hemingway ends the section and skips ahead to his next illegal job, dropping the reader into the middle of the scene without giving us the “Point A to Point B” explanation.

Once Morgan’s boat has been taken by the Coast Guard, Hemingway gives us a bizarre bedroom scene between Morgan and his wife.  While this would have been a great opportunity to legitimize their relationship so the reader will sympathize with them and understand Morgan’s desperation, that doesn’t happen.

Morgan goes to Freddy’s and Hemingway takes the opportunity to introduce us to the “haves” in this universe – rich tourists who are above these problems.  Their stories are sprinkled in between Harry’s illegal jobs and then take over after his last job leaves him wounded.  While he lies in his boat, shot and bleeding, these men are watching drunks fight and arguing with their wives.  This goes on for pages and pages while Morgan is dying.  When the story finds him again, he has died and his wife Marie is contemplating how she is going to take care of their daughters, since they had little money and she is “empty” without Harry.

And yet…I had no sympathy for any of them.  A byproduct of the style, perhaps, but none of the characters had defining features that made me like them.  If the point was that desperation drives honest men to do horrible things, I needed more proof that he was actually a good man.

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5 Ways to Take Care of Yourself Right Now

I’m taking a break from politics this week.

I know: you’re thrilled.  Don’t get too comfortable – I’m sure I’ll be angry again next week.  But if I’m going to survive four years, I have to occasionally take a break and do some self-care.  If you are also overwhelmed by politics, here are some of the things that have made me feel better this week.  Maybe they’ll work for you too.

  1. Watch some feel-good TV.  Personally, I recommend One Day at a Time on Netflix, which has this little bonus: feminist activist Elena Alvarez is always up in arms about something.  Let her be angry for you.  (Or you can shake your head and wonder why she’s always angry, like her grandmother does; that’s your choice.)
  2. Spend time with people who agree with you.  I’m not saying you should exclusively spend time with people who agree with you, but sometimes it’s nice to be with people knowing you aren’t one comment away from a “fight or flight” response.
  3. Watch for the helpers.  This story from New York City made me happy.  This AirBNB Super Bowl commercial was the highlight of my night.  There are people doing good in this world right now.  Let them give you some hope.
  4. BE a helper.  Protests are important and there are some big problems in the world you probably want to solve Right Now.  But these can be overwhelming, so take a break and do something small.  Give a couple dollars to a cause you believe in.  (If you need suggestions, I got you.)  Don’t have any money?  Some celebrities and organizations will give you opportunities to tweet or click in support of something and they’ll donate on your behalf.  The best way to find them is to follow people who share your values and concerns on social media.  You can even tweet your own idea and see if anyone picks it up, like this BRILLIANT woman‘s idea to pay off kids’ school lunch balances.  Every action you take doesn’t have to be huge and world-changing.  Doing a little something can help you feel better and help somebody else.
  5. Do things that make YOU happy.  Read a book.  Watch a movie.  Spend time with someone you love.  Go on a trip.  Unplug for a little while.  Don’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself.  You’re important too.

This blog is supported by Patreon.  You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

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Talking as Fast as I Can

Gilmore Girls has been important to me for half of my life.  I’ve always had a soft spot for Rory, but only since seeing the reboot have I realized how much Lorelai has influenced me as well.

In light of this, I was excited about Lauren Graham’s memoir release, Talking as Fast as I Can – what the Gilmore girls are famous for.

Lauren Graham isn’t Lorelai Gilmore, but she’ just as inspirational (if no more so since she’s, you know, a real person).

I was a little concerned about reading it, since my mom (who read it first) was clear that the book wasn’t entirely or even mostly about her experience filming Gilmore Girls.  But it is about following your dreams, and that was enough to make me enjoy it.

Much like Scrappy Little NobodyGraham’s memoir was formatted as a collection of personal essays, each centered on a particular theme.  Graham’s personal essays are also organized chronologically, showing her development as a person and actor in a similar fashion to a novel’s main character.  She starts with her childhood on a houseboat and goes on to describe some of the things she did to further her career and live in New York City before detailing her latest projects, including this book and the Gilmore Girls reboot.

Overall, Graham’s message is to be true to yourself.  She makes it clear when she was happiest and when she was miserable and the difference is whether or not she follows her own gut.  She writes about aging in Hollywood and how she still has to make choices and keep her true self in mind.  And in the  midst of it all, she talks about Gilmore Girls.

Talking as Fast as I Can feels like a conversation, like someone you know has connected you to Lauren Graham and she is trying to mentor you as best as she can, by telling you about her own successes and failures.  If you like Gilmore Girls, you’ll enjoy it.  If you’re struggling to follow your dreams, you’ll love it.  Even if you’re just looking for a comfort read and for someone to tell you everything is going to be okay, this is the book you should read.

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