My Relationship with the GBBS

So…I have entered into a serious relationship with the Great British Baking Show.

I realize I’m behind the times and many of you have watched the GBBS for years, but it’s all new to me.

How We Met: One day, Netflix suggested I might like the GBBS and pointed out Season 6 had just dropped.

“Hmm,” I thought. “I like cooking shows. Maybe I should check this one out.”

What Was Your First Date Like: Honestly, I enjoyed the very first episode of Season 6 but I didn’t know how serious we’d get. I mostly thought, “This is soothing, these baking challenges are neat, I’m interested, I’d watch this again.”

When Did You Know It Was Serious: After a few episodes, I found myself thinking about the GBBS during the day and longing to get home to it. I felt connected to the bakers, the hosts, and the judges. One day, I realized I gasped out loud–an audible, thrilled gasp accompanied by a hand flung to my chest–when Paul shook a baker’s hand. This was it. I had fallen hard.

What’s Your Favorite Thing About Your Partner: I love that the GBBS is so different than most US reality shows. Most US reality shows try to showcase/manufacture interpersonal conflict and drama between the contestants. I do quite enjoy the show Chopped, but the little bios and quotes from the chefs are always things like, “I’m the best, the world’s best, and I’m here to show everyone I’m better than everyone, and no one else has a chance, take that, you losers.” On the GBBS, bakers genuinely seem to form a bond and root for each other. Sometimes they help each other out–lending a sieve or moving cookies to the final plate when time is running out. They often hold hands when the Star Baker and the losing baker are announced, which is SO DAMNED SWEET. Like, the biggest drama is whether Paul will choose to give a handshake or when something actually related to the baking goes wrong–someone puts in salt instead of sugar, a cake topples, a biscuit breaks.

I love the three very different challenges each week, two that can be prepped and then the absolutely surprising technical challenge.

I love the accents and “biscuits.” I love how soothing it is to watch things get mixed and to watch dough proof. I love the artistry of the show stopper pieces (and many other items).

Where Is Your Relationship Going: We’ve moved on to the next phase. I’m now watching Season 5. After finishing Season 6, I chose Season 5 primarily because someone told me one episode had bakers making a biscuit board game–and you know how I feel about board games. After Season 5, I’m going to watch the Holiday Show. After that, I’m probably going to go back to Season 1 and watch the rest of the seasons in order.

My primary plan for winter break is to watch a LOT of the GBBS.

What’s Something Special About Your Relationship: This weekend, my 18-year-old KitchenAid stand mixer bit the dust. The motor began to sound like a dying, growling creature.

It’s cookie-baking season and I’ve been watching a ton of the GBBS, so you KNOW that I could not wait long to get a new stand mixer. I hopped right online and ordered one on a great sale. I happen to love purple, so I ordered the Boysenberry model.

The next day, I watched the first episode of Season 5. Guess what? The decor of the tent in Season 5 features several colors of KitchenAid stand mixers INCLUDING BOYSENBERRY. Some of the contestants are using the very same mixer I now own.

Can you believe it? The GBBS and I are linked for life.

Or at least for the next 18 years or lifespan of my mixer.

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Picture of the gorgeous KitchenAid mixer in Boysenberry.

Urban Fantasy and Social Justice

Did you all know there’s a website specifically dedicated to urban fantasy and social justice issues?

(Take a moment to revel in the glories of this thing we call the internet, where all interests have a voice.)

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Fangs for the Fantasy recently posted a 4.5 Fang review of Waxing Moon–you should follow the link and check it out! While you’re there, click around on their website and read a bit. They have some REALLY great perspectives on books, movies, TV shows, etc. I love their attention to diversity, representation, and equity–these are issues I hold central in my mind while I write. I have joked that Waxing Moon is actually a social justice book. With Werewolves.

My favorite part of their review of Waxing Moon is this discussion of Eliza:

“Loyal, supportive, passionate, determined, a good woman AND WRONG. Because you can be a good person and still be part of a deeply flawed, prejudiced system; you can be a good person and perpetuate inexcusable things within that system and being a good person doesn’t make it ok. That’s a nuance that is far superior to the simplistic narratives we see elsewhere.”

I know not all readers will like my work and not all readers will even think much about the social justice messages wrapped up in my Werewolf stories, but how lovely that SOME READERS GET IT! ❤

When we write fantasy, we write our ideal worlds. How important it is for such worlds to contain as much diversity and representation as our real world! If not more. And it may be easier to think about discrimination, stereotypes, and power structures when we dress them in the guise of humans, Werewolves, ‘Manders, and Witches. Less threatening to our sense of self and society? (Unless we happen to be Weres…)

Interested in fantasy written with social justice in mind? Here’s some authors you might want to check out:O9M8L

  • Octavia Butler
  • N. K. Jemisin
  • Ursula LeGuin
  • Margaret Atwood
  • China Miéville
  • Jim Hines – lots of writing about disabilities; he’s new to me!

This anthology is on my reading list right now: Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements. 


Updates from the writing trenches:

  1. I plan to have a decent draft of book three (working title Rising Wolf) done by the end of November.
  2. Right now, I have four stories out on submission at various places. Swim strongly, my little babies, and impress the editors!
  3. I also took a side step and wrote a creative non-fiction essay about being a care partner. That’s also on submission to an academic journal in the field of disability studies. We’ll see–this essay came pouring out of me, for better or worse.

This blog doesn’t have enough pictures. Um. Here, have some cats.

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Adorable kitten poking her head through a cardboard box

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And one more time, my favorite gif of all time!

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Ents and Why I Adore Them

When I’m besieged by stress or sorrow, when I’m overwhelmed by life and all its suffering, I turn to The Lord of the Rings. J. R. R. Tolkien is my respite, my comfort, my solace. His characters are my old and dear friends.

I’ve read the series countless times, mostly in autumn. Perhaps it has become a bit of a fall ritual for me or perhaps autumn–my favorite season–is also the one most often full of troubles. I’m not sure how many times I’ve read the books. At least twenty, perhaps closer to thirty.

Every section of the book brings me its own joys, but this read-through, the Ents are a larger-than-life, realer-than-real anchor for me. I love Tolkien’s use of language when describing both the Ents and Fangorn forest. I love the ways the Ents themselves use language–their rolling, poetic Hoom, hom, ha, baroom, ta-rundas. I love that Ents’ names tell their stories, I love how they are slow to rouse, then terribly fierce when angry. Would that more of us followed that pattern, instead of flying off the cuff in quick-tempered ire over the slightest of offenses. I love their expressive eyes, their limbs, their feet that step toe-first in great strides. I love their love for the trees. Has anyone ever loved anything as much as the Ents love their trees? I wish I could meet the Ents and spend time in their forest. I wish I could bring into our world their fierce dedication to preserving and defending their trees. I wish we each had a tenth of their poetry in our language.

Listen. We all need to listen.

Treebeard: “For Ents are more like Elves: less interested in themselves than Men are, and better at getting inside other things. And yet again Ents are more like Men, more changeable than Elves are, and quicker at taking the color of the outside, you might say. Or better than both: for they are steadier and keep their minds on things longer.”

Treebeard: “He [Saruman] has a mind of metal and wheels; and he does not care for growing things, except as far as they serve him for the moment.”

Merry, on Ents: “Somehow I don’t think they are quite as safe and, well, funny as they seem. They seem slow, queer, and patient, almost sad; and yet I believe they could be roused. If that happened, I would rather not be on the other side.”

“Quickbeam often laughed. He laughed if the sun came out from behind a cloud, he laughed if they came upon a stream or spring: then he stopped and splashed his feat and head with water; he laughed sometimes at some sound or whisper in the trees.”

Quickbeam: “And these trees grew and grew, till the shadow of each was like a green hall, and their red berries in the autumn were a burden, and a beauty and a wonder.”

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The Joys of Halloween and Urban Fantasy

I wonder if there are any fantasy lovers who don’t also love Halloween. Today’s a day we can all allow our imagination to roam freely–want to be a Werewolf? Want to be a ghost? Want to wear your green lipstick? Want to delight in the scary or the fantastical or the funny? Here, enjoy Halloween.

(Spoiler: I LOVE my green lipstick and love getting to wear it to work. I figure I have two chances to do that: Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day.)

 

I love Halloween for the same reason I love urban fantasy. I love imagining our world with a twist. I love working out real issues by turning them on their end, warping them, and seeing them through a new lens.

I’ve been silent on this blog for a while and you may have wondered why. (Or you may not have noticed–whichever!)

I’m working on a number of projects: book three of Calling the Moon, a new novel project called Marked, a middle-grade project, and a few short stories that I’m polishing and sending off to various magazines. So…I’ve been busy!

Happy Halloween, everyone!

War for the Planet of the Apes – Um. Well.

So….if you’re a die-hard fan of this movie and you want to hear no ill of it, this is your moment to click politely away from my blog.

Gary and I were really excited to see this one, after loving the first in the reboot (and not much liking the second). It’s gotten good reviews! It has 93% on Rotten Tomatoes! People have said it’s the best of the three!

I’m not sure who those people are. Seriously. It was horrible. Like. Ludicrously horrible. In fact, I enjoyed it immensely, because it was so bad that it was really humorous. I would love to see an MST3K of this one.

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The CGI and the motion capture were amazing, mind you. But the plot holes were big enough that the entire Redwood forest could have fallen into them.

Let’s start with something that’s kind of minor, but I couldn’t stop thinking about. The movie had a huge gorilla named Luca galloping around on a horse. Not a draft horse. Not a huge horse. A regular-sized horse. I googled after the movie and gorillas average about 350 lbs, which would be a hell of a burden for a smallish Thoroughbred-type horse. And in one scene, the gorilla grabbed another large ape and pulled him up behind him to ride double on this poor horse…this horse that in real life would have collapsed or struggled to gallop along with like 500+ lbs of ape on its back. I was all OMG, THAT HORSE, WTF, NO WAY.

We also have this idea that the Simian flu virus has mutated in a way that turns humans mute, which is somehow equated to turning bestial and losing all humanity in the movie? Even though the only character we see whose had the virus and been turned c81685d65334d304c9ba898b52b659bc-cotton-throws-emojimute does not seem like she’s become bestial? In fact, she seems to have kept all her intelligence and bravery and caring. (Well. Except for when her father is shot to death and she doesn’t seem to care much or shed a tear or hold his death against his killers. You know. Not that much caring.) Anyway, I kept wondering why the lack of speech = bestial, as if vocal speech is the only thing that separates humans from animals, when we’ve already seen the importance of sign language, writing, etc. Like…I am pretty sure that mute human beings are still human beings. If there was supposed to be some other transformation that took place, we sure didn’t see it in the movie.

This movie had more Moses, Jesus, God, and Caesar archetypal references and cliches shoved into it that if it were a boat, it would sink. At one point, the Colonel literally said, “I had to sacrifice my only son to save humanity.” Like. He literally said that. I know, because that was the moment when I pulled out a bit of paper and started taking notes, so I wouldn’t forget some of this stuff.

Neither the apes nor the humans–both groups involved in WAR, mind you–seem to know how to post a guard. People basically saunter in and out of the apes hideout and a little girl walks right into the human militia compound without any guards ever seeming to notice. Also: the humans apparently haven’t noticed that there’s some random network of tunnels literally under their compound, with apparently like 3 inches of dirt the only barrier to apes popping up and down. So. That’s special.

I also think it is an awesome strategic choice to know your military compound will be attacked by missiles, helicopters, and gunfire, but to have no qualms about building your major defensive site right next to an immense tanker that is literally marked “DANGER FLAMMABLE LIQUID.” Like. What’s the worst that could happen, right? It’ll be fine!!

This movie has all the tropes: the villain bringing the hero in to talk at length and expose their plans; the bad guys deciding not to kill the hero who’s leading a revolt of his people (Why should we kill him? Let’s keep him around!); the angel-like white, blond girl with the largest blue eyes in the world; and much, much more.

For some reason, both apes we know are female also wear jewelry or have long “hair”/fur framing their face. Does that mean literally every other ape we see is male? Like. What is up with that? Is the director just super concerned we might not realize they are female? I’m frankly shocked they didn’t have unnaturally long eyelashes, lipstick, and pink circles on their cheeks like female animals in kids cartoons.

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So…let’s go there. Let’s talk about gender for just a moment. We did have two female apes: the mate of Caesar and the mate of his oldest son. They signed, so they were characters with lines. We had the little angel blue-eyed girl who mostly looked around with her blue eyes, gave an ape a flower, held a doll, and walked right into the military compound to bring Caesar food and water. Maurice the orangoutang said that she was very brave…either that or stupid, right? That’s the entire list of our female cast. OH, I saw one female extra who was in the military. There might have been more, but I only saw one. That makes literally 4 characters who were visibly female and only one–angel child Nova–who had much of a role to play.

The movie is really heavy on Sons, Sons, Sons. Like. And more sons. And fathers and sons. I started wondering if Matt Reeves, the director, has some unresolved father-son issues? Or insecurity about passing his legacy down through his son? Or something? Because Caesar has three kids, all sons. Two of whom die and one of whom, frankly, Caesar pretty much deserts. And the Colonel talks on and on about his son, his only son, who he had to kill. Yes. We get it. Fathers and sons and more sons. Does no one have a daughter? Does everyone have to be male?

Speaking of. Okay. I’m not asking for the movie to go full on Pom Poko (do NOT click that link unless you want to watch a lot of magic tanuki testicles, yes I’m serious). But we have three whole movies with naked apes and there’s really no indication that any of them have any type of genitalia. I get it–ratings. I bet they can’t show any ape genitalia and have it rated PG-13. And I’m probably bizarre for thinking about it–and perhaps I’ve seen Pom Poko too many times–but I thought I’d just throw that in here as an interesting side note.

By the way, you should totally watch Pom Poko. The tanuki (Japanese raccoon-dogs) and their magic testicles are worth it! MUCH better than War for the Planet of the Apes. I’ll take any Studio Ghibli movie over that, any day.

(Below, the absolute mildest image of the tanuki.)

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Planet of the Apes

Yes, I’m really posting about Planet of the Apes. Gary and I wanted to see the new POTA movie, but neither of us had seen either of the reboots: Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apesapes

This weekend, we had a bit of a movie marathon (is two a marathon?) and watched them both in preparation.

First: we both LOVED Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Now, I did have a few suspension of belief issues (Really? A laboratory of scientists and no one notices Bright Eyes is pregnant? And after she dies, the lab guy extracts the baby with no one noticing that either? And Will just raises this chimp for years at his house and the neighbors and others know, but that’s not a legal issue?). But I can forgive the movie all of that, because it did such a damned fine job engendering empathy for the apes. I loved the apes! I hated the humans! I imagine every person in the movie theater rooting for the apes to completely overthrow humankind. We deserve it.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, though? Blah. Different director and producer. Fighting, fighting, fighting, and some more fighting, and did I mention there’s a lot of fighting? And very static characters–almost character templates–who you don’t really care about one way or the other. Yeah, some are obviously “good” and some are “evil” and I nominally liked the “good” ones better. But I didn’t really care. Even Caesar, who I loved in the first move, turned kind of meh in the second.

And here’s the other thing. The second movie was so fighting blah blah flat fighting meh fighting that it really highlighted something true of both movies:

Where are the women? Like…do we need to fill out a missing person report? In Rise, we missing_person_flyer_two_pictureshave the love interest, who’s also a veterinarian (one point for STEM field). I believe she might be the only woman with a speaking role in the entire movie. No–WAIT. There’s the two women/sex interests with beers in the zoo/prison. I think they say a few words.

That’s literally it. None of the scientists or lab workers are women. None of the military or police people are women. There might be some other women floating decoratively in the background, but…

In Dawn, we have the nurse/mom-figure/wife–who, by the way, I couldn’t stop thinking of as Elizabeth from The Americans and I kept wondering why she didn’t just go solve the whole problem by herself, because Elizabeth is BAD ASS. We have Caesar’s wife, who might have a name? And might have signed a couple of things?, but primarily gave birth, got sick, and then got better. None of the human leaders are women. None of the human fighters with speaking roles are women. None of the human tech/science people are women.

Lack of gender inclusion and representation doesn’t mean a movie has no value. Look–I said I loved Rise. But it does make me wonder: How can directors and producers be so blind to the fact that they’re producing something that ignores the actions/subjecthood of half the population? What’s up with that? Why is the male the norm, still, in 2017?

We’re going to see the new movie soon. I’ll let you know what we think.

FLGSs (Friendly Local Game Stores): Our Travels

I’ve been quiet on my blog first because I was dealing with a family health emergency, then because we were on a long and wonderful vacation to northern California and southern Oregon.

And what does my family do on vacations? THAT’S RIGHT! We check out all the local game stores we can find. I thought I’d share something we found in one of the southern Oregon stores…

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…this AMAZINGLY COOL table that lives at Castle Hill Games in Grants Pass, OR. This table was one of the coolest, geekiest things ever I’ve seen. The store owner said that it’s made from multiple layers of epoxy resin set around dice. The crafters used a blow torch and a needle to get every air bubble out! They made it in a dust-free “clean room” and it took months. The edges are d6s; there are dice of every shape, size, and type. The pictures do NOT do it justice.

Castle Hill Games had a great selection of games, a huge number of MTG cards, and a great miniature war gaming area. They also sell dice rings made by CritSuccess…which three members of my geeky family bought, including me.

The owner was super nice, so if you happen to live by Grants Pass, check out the store.

Southern Oregon also houses Astral Games in Medford and FunAgain Games in Ashland, which also seemed like great FLGSs. Among other things, Astral Games features a room with tall tables dedicated to miniature wargaming with a wide variety of scenery, terrain, and other bits & sundry that help your scenario. FunAgain Games has nifty seating including old booths and they have cute demo stations for some games–like the type you’d see at GenCon. Both stores have lots of regular seating for board gamers and MTGers.

We saw lots more on our trip, of course–not JUST game stores–but I really wanted to share that table with you!

 

A Wonder to Me

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Like many others who’ve written about the new Wonder Woman movie, I was blindsided by the strength of my reaction to the movie. During the early scenes on Themyscira, I blinked away tears caused by the visual impact of a screen full of women focusing on what their bodies can DO, instead of how their bodies LOOK. I eagerly absorbed every moment of Diana’s idealism, her integrity, her compassion, and her code of ethics that refused to let her turn away when she could DO SOMETHING TO HELP.

What a message.

In Diana, we see a person whose tremendous compassion is a source of strength and resolve, instead of something that makes her overemotional, incapable, weak, or naive.

At the end of the movie, I found myself wracked with sobs–literally unable to contain my tears. My husband Gary said, “Are you okay? Are you…are you that happy?”

Yes. Yes, I was that happy. This movie stars a woman who stands for idealism, caring, a belief in love, a belief in the power of beliefs–things which, personally, I have been MOCKED for (and I’m not alone)–and turned those things into a portrait of strength, empowerment, and respect.

This movie showed a beautiful woman and focused on what she can do, not how she looks. I have never been so conscious of the male gaze as I was when watching this movie where it was ABSENT. We see no lingering shots panning Diana’s body. We have no shots up her skirt or down her cleavage. We have no shots framed between her legs. These things were simply not part of the movie–and they are such a commonly-used sign of “here’s your sex object” that we barely notice them, until they are removed. When Diana leaps into the air during the final fight scene and slams back to ground, landing on her feet in victory, her thigh shakes with the force of impact. Unedited. The movement of her thigh, her force, the importance of what she just accomplished–the reality of her body–all these are highlighted, instead of transforming her into a sex object.

We’re trained to think the male gaze is just how women are seen–until they’re not. This movie’s focus on empowering and respectful visual images dismantles any possible argument that objectified images of women are somehow natural or unconstructed, that the camera simply records what is, that the vision BEHIND the camera doesn’t influence what ends up on the screen.

I finally watched a superhero movie and saw myself on screen.

wonder-woman-movie-artworkAnd it was so powerful. SHE was so powerful–not in the sense of possessing power over others (though she kicks a tremendous amount of ass), but in the sense of being completely empowered within herself and respected by others because of who she is and what she does.

Representation matters. Representation creates possibilities. Representation affirms what’s important.

Some people may pick apart Wonder Woman and they may have valid points. I’m not saying it’s the best piece of cinematography ever created.

But I’m saying it’s perfect. I’m so very thankful.

“So I stay, I fight, I give for the world I know can be.”

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