Sunday, November 2, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014 and Personal Power

I'm participating this year in a different way than previous years. This year is pantsing the experience: no outline, no character templates, the skimpiest of plot ideas. Yesterday the writing flowed. In the spirit of not flow this morning, I watched a TED talk on Dan Gilbert's research. Talked with a friend about what makes a book interesting. And how complicated humans are. Tried to find the quotation "far from the works of man," and realized again how the internet is not organized around what I think I want to know. I did remember where "it ends with a journey," came from. Shakespeare in Love. But I may be misquoting. It starts with a journey? Life starts, continues and ends with a journey. Human beings are as changeable as they think they are fully formed. Life's journey is the tug between the ease of memory and the difficulty of imagining. Experienced a couple of revelations that may help the writing, even though these were repeat revelations - concepts it is hard to keep in front of me day to day. All control is illusion. The diametrically opposed realities of power and power over. All of which reminds me that there is a difference between writing a strong woman lead, and writing a kickass female superhero. A strong woman lead digs for, finds, and uses her personal power, often without believing in that power to begin, even if it doesn't always pull a rabbit out of a hat for our hero. *I love the Rocky & Bullwinkle" preview. Bullwinkle says "Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat,' and Rocket J. says "That trick never works." A kickass female superhero uses many of the same methods that the power-over practitioners use: superior physical strength, guile, and a utility belt chock full of alien artifacts. Personal strength is for everyday wear. Every day heroes. A woman's road trip story must begin and end with that. The journey of personal power.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Three Story Life: CSI Family

Yesterday, back from the grocery store and setting dinner on the table, I noticed the faucet (which the plumber just affixed pointing to the bigger sink section, because no, it was not built to swivel, and my brother had uncoupled it from the countertop forcing the swivel) was twisted over the other bowl. Who moved this? I asked. My father said, I didn't. And Scott didn't. I turned around from the sink to look at him expecting to have the phantom culprit revealed. I thought of my mother who, when no one in the house admitted to doing something, would say, then it's the ghost again. Nothing. Dad stared, silent. I had to ask, then who did? The cleaning people. During dinner I thought out loud - I don't remember putting ketchup away. I bought ketchup. Maybe it's still in the car, Dad said. I waited for more information. What is this - a police procedural? Psychic revelation? He just kept staring at me. I had to ask, why do you say that? He said because the car door's still open. ! I never finished taking the groceries in. When was he going to tell me? Tomorrow? When snow piled up on the passenger seat? And I wonder why I think I'm going crazy. It's a remake of Gaslight.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Interstellar Trailer: Women and Movies

Interstellar opens November 7. Christopher Nolan is writer/director. Thought I liked his work, but this week after checking, I like Batman Begins for the cinematography, so Wally Pfister is the appreciated one. Watched the Interstellar trailer and in less than 3 minutes got the gist of this storytelling. The trailer is a microcosm of what is egregious about the automatic treatment of women in movies. Fade in: Earth is a dust bowl. Check. Need to find another planet to f--k up. Check. Enter Our Hero. Socially responsible dad. "Now go out there and save the world." Seated demurely behind him on the journey is The Damsel. She may have been crying. On the distant planet there are the mountains seen from the sea. No, wait. Not mountains, waves. The woman is in the water, don't know why. Our hero is in the ship. She says "I'm not going to make it." Cut to hero in the ship. "Yes, you are." It would take more time than I'm willing to donate to check off the many things that are wrong about this trailer. The damsel is clearly defined as the weakling, and it took only 2 minutes and change. I don't really care about the guy. I do care how easy it is to position the man as strong, socially conscious, good parent AGAINST the crying, I can't make it female. And I'm furious and offended. The trailer makes no pretense of even trying to trick me into watching this film. To balance, I send appreciation and encouragement to the person/persons attached to this project who thought of women viewers and what they might think.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Patriarchy on the Windowsill

I awoke today from a dream saga that set me sitting on the side of the bed, wondering what the heck just happened. This was a trip through decades. There were pieces of my life story, but it felt like an everywoman journey of struggle and pushing back. Against hostile bosses, thwarting spouses, patronizing colleagues, indifferent others – and I was awakened forlorn. Sitting on the edge of my bed in despair and confusion. That's not my normal setting. I can hit the reset mood button just as all women have to regularly in a world with entitled masculine energy paramount. The long dream felt like a trip down memory lane through the centuries, the way female humans have experienced it. I had to shake it off, and it was lucky to talk with a friend who called. I use humor as a survival mechanism and it works most of the time, but the conversation was necessary today to rise out of the melancholy. There's just some shit that's not funny. Humor comes from that pile. Humor is the other face of tragedy (which explains those theatrical masks, although separate isn't entirely accurate.) I made a commitment for next Sunday to go to a standup comedy coaching thing in Ypsilanti at The Mix. Caregiving is a rich environment for comedy. At the core of my caring comedy/tragedy is a golfball with 10-27-96 on it. It's the day my father got a hole in one. It's the day I was diagnosed with cancer. For 10 years I've lived with this golfball on the windowsill. You can see that when I'm struck with the date, I use my soapy hands to try to obscure the day. It took me 7 years to work around that pain of understanding that his pleasure trumps my pain: the crux of patriarchy. I switched the date to the back – he switched it to the front. Yesterday I noticed that he 1) managed to find the permanent marker without asking where it was, and 2) used it to write the date anew on the reverse. Rotating the ball won't help now. Doing some standup comedy, overcoming that fear, definitely will. And maybe it will help some other women, too.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Three Story Life 2014

Another Caregiver Ninja week featuring ambulance, hospital stay, care coordination and a diminishing sense of who and where I am. Seems that each crisis is easier in the coordination of, and harder in the emotional aspect. That isn't what I mean: it feels like I'm untethered from Self and drifting farther away from help and safety. Think Gravity with better underwear. We had that talk about DNR with my father and maybe we're closer to discovering what he really thinks. Specifics were discussed. Yes, 911; no vasopressor and intubation. Disturbing to find out that regardless of what is on file at the destination hospital, staff will go through the steps one by one. My own end of life preferences get in the way. Dad takes a myriad of meds, has had surgeries and procedures and dozens of machine tests. My journey is different. Three stories of end of life emotions, tactics and the overwhelming experience of it all. I told Dad his job for the future is to appreciate. Each day, the color changes, good meals, a fine night's sleep, calming memories, warm socks, hot coffee, a returned phone call. I'm trying to take my own advice.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Reality of Women and Movies in Dollars and Sense

Hollywood had a tank summer at the box office. We predicted this would happen because we watch and we hope: not for industry failure, but for the money/power brokers to get that leaving women out is a bad investment. Best example this year - Hercules vs. Lucy. Dwayne Johnson is a box office winner in action films, but Scarlett Johannson ate his lunch. Industry brokers credit the dismal women numbers in leadership creative roles in a dizzyingly wrong array. Women can't carry the overseas market where pre-sales (and investment $) are paramount. Wrong. Women films don't make money. Wrong. Even Amy Pascal, a studio co-head can't come up with a good answer - because they're wrong. All wrong. Statistics prove the lies (a recent 538 article covers the data well). Frozen, with Bechdel test-passing women in the lead roles, and Jennifer Lee as co-director, and screenwriter, may make the top 10 grossing movies of all time. What we need now is a better look at the money the big studios are missing. Grandmas take kids to movies. The older crowd in this country has more loot than it's had in decades. And they're staying home in droves, and keeping the younger potential audience at home with them. Playing with their apps. Movie money is being siphoned off by women gamers. Did we hear that? Women gamers will soon be half the market. The potential movie going audience of women outnumbers male moviegoers. There are more women than men in this country and within this decade, in the world. Women writers, directors, game coders, media professionals are not just underrepresented - they're missing on purpose. What's different this year; what's exciting and encouraging, is the numbers continue to prove the lie. Women can and do direct, write, code, put out a money maker, carry a film in a leading role. And we know how to call out the falsehoods that keep us out of any industry we are qualified to be in. Will it make a difference? Maybe. A Women in Media study (pg. 38) shows that where there are women in the film industry, those women are producers, and unfortunately, the more prestigious the producer, the fewer women creatives are on board. Check The Hurt Locker. Directed/produced by Kathryn Bigelow. Everyone else in a creative role is a man. Heaping praise on the people who are showing us reality, start with Barbara O'Leary's compiled lists of women directors, cinematographers which bury the lie that women don't want to direct or photograph. People who are publicly claiming what women don't want as an excuse for excluding females won't have much cover going forward. We know the truth, and now we've got numbers to prove it.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Woman on the Edge of Time

Marge Piercy wrote this extraordinary book. The lead actor is Consuelo Ramos. We meet her in her mid-30s, as her niece knocks on the door, bloody from a beating her boyfriend pimp Geraldo gave her. Geraldo, who is several steps behind to beat on the same door and the women who are never safe behind it. Which continues a 30 year reign of beating on Connie. The family, the men, the system, the drugs, the circumstances. When you're done being beaten, when you swing back, you're incarcerated because you got no power. I'm just learning about women's science fiction - the fictional striving for a world without broken ribs and death via womanhood. Piercy beams a striking light on woman+culture, hard to look at with both eyes, but true, oh we so know it's true. Powerlessness runs like ditch water. We readers, shoeless and teeth grinding, follow Connie. Raging, hurt, battered, triumphant over the tiniest success, we are with her. Connie has a gift. She's a catcher, and someone in the future finds her. Finds her in the midst of an upswing in her treacherously brutal life, finds her in the institution her brother confines her to, finds her in the scared resentful heart of the mess of her life. She is the mutton in a psychomedical game of hasenpfeffer. When we feel most powerless, we must understand that there are millions like us. There is a choice: to die as others see our worth and our death, or to fight to realize our worth. My mother gave me a book for my 17th birthday. Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn. She wrote on the flyleaf "To Linda on her 17th birthday. May you read it in all good conscience." That was so close to 50 years ago. And here is Marge Piercy. Woman on The Edge of Time. May you read it in all good conscience. And then weep, wipe your eyes and move forward. The struggle for a good life goes on, for everyone.