Sunday, July 19, 2015

Film Love

Light and shadow. Imagine night camp 50,000 years ago. The fire sparks and pulses as a storyteller rises to begin speaking the night's tale to the circle gathered. Perhaps the story tonight is the celebration of a birth. Or glorious victory in battle. A promised union happily joined; a quest begun this very day, the outcome unknown, inexperienced youth alone against a hostile world.

Your eyes widen, conjuring the marching legs of heroes in the smoldering logs, you hear the joyous cry of a new mother, see the triumphant arm of a youth raised to the sky as the sparks explode upward, touch the heat of passion with the palm of your hand outstretched.

Humans love story. Storytelling is how we identify ourselves, how we align ourselves with the cosmos, and the way we know what we know of human experience. For millennia the stories were mist and shadow; impermanent imagery except for the devoted storytellers who passed on oral tradition. Artist/storytellers drew scenes on rock cliffs and cave walls-early days of visual media.

Aristotle spoke of the camera obscura- sunlight through a tiny hole projected an inverted image on a surface in a dark room. Fast forward to 1545 when a drawing of camera obscura was published. 1558, Magia Naturalis is published describing a camera obscura with lenses and concave mirrors. 1816. Metal plates coated with chemical emulsion became Aristotle's darkened room.

1902-1906 Alice Guy Blaché directs over 100 phonoscènes, films made for Gaumont's chronophone, and the intriguing history of women peering through lenses to satisfy our intense ongoing hunger for drama, laughter, intrigue, pathos, chills and story, story, story through moving pictures begins with this remarkable pioneering woman's achievement.

The woman in the director's chair coordinates the collaborative forces that would animate the logs we saw in our prehistoric vision. She hires the youth with the raised arm, chooses and supervises the sound engineer who brings us the new mother's cry, guides the set designer for just the right number of stars in the sky and the correct angle of smoke, wrangles the producer, assigns the 1st and 2nd assists, all while seeing the screenplay's story and keeping her own vision true through to post production.

2015. We humans who love story will this year celebrate madly, wildly, lovingly that woman in the director's chair with the Directed by Women Global Viewing Party.

From September 1 through September 15, 2015 there is a party going on, and the world is invited! For those 15 days we will be celebrating women filmmakers around the globe by watching films, discussing filmmaking, and contributing to the knowledge base of women's roles in media historically and today. As of today there are 7,127 women directors listed on the Directed by Women website.

Engaging in this celebration can be as personal as watching a woman-directed film at home, hosting a viewing party with friends, texting afterward; posting photos on tumblr, instagram, Pinterest, facebook, tweeting films watched or film wish lists. Interviewing a woman director for your blog. On a community scale, coordinating events with your local library, school, college, film groups, cinemas. Talk about films directed by women, do some internet research, check out books from the library, encourage group discussions about the wonderful discoveries you make. Worldwide, you can find a viewing partner in a country you're interested in knowing more about and create an international film lovers' festival without leaving your house.

Directed by Women Global Viewing Party is a magnificent chance to awaken to and appreciate the voluminous contribution of women to film, visual media in all its storytelling glory. Let's make this year the beginning of the revelry, and rejoice in the synergy that brings together creative women filmmakers and their devoted global viewers.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

I Support We Need Diverse Books

We grew up with my mom who was outspoken about race. A lot of other things, too, but she corrected racist language used by other people and enhanced those corrections as teaching moments for her children. It didn't work well for changing other people's attitudes, but we were taught equality and came to adulthood believing all people deserved our respect. We moved in May this year, and I went through my mother's file cabinet. She wrote letters, asked questions, involved herself in all manner of important issues. I am more proud of her than ever. She's busy conducting protests in the next world, I'm sure. My siblings started having their own children in the 80s. I have nieces and nephews, and now a grand-nephew. For the first next generation, I borrowed an idea from my mother to collect tree ornaments - one each year - for the new babies. Mom did an add-a-pearl necklace for her goddaughter who wore that necklace to her wedding. I did add-an-ornament. I found out fast it was impossible to find any but a white angel. I was already the book aunt, loving books and wanting to share that joy. I bought books with animals, alphabet letters, colors - avoiding the all-white human representation on the cover and in the story. Books with cultural diversity in the 80s and 90s were hard to find. Now we have another generation. And not much has changed. There are ornaments now. But books have hovered in the same dreadful ratio for decades. Diverse books can be found by searching farther and deeper. One book I bought recently is Little Humans by street photographer Brandon Stanton, recommended by a friend. I gift Patricia Polacco books. She writes and illustrates culturally diverse stories (including In Our Mothers' House) and she is a Michigan author/illustrator. She also depicts older people engaging with young people: another missing human contact in mainstream children's books. We need more diverse books written and illustrated by people who have lived the stories. We need to see ourselves in print and picture. Stories are how we identify ourselves, how we understand each other in the beautifully diverse life of the cosmos. And in our homes.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Grow the Love Summer

Summer Solstice through my 40s was a party in my backyard. It was a pool party with the Gigantic Pool and No Yard. At my home in my 50s, it was in the Gigantic Yard with No Pool: one year there were 150 who celebrated the longest day. Next year 8. That's life. I switched to a Winter Solstice dinner and those 8 were the women who stayed with me. Summer Solstice this year in my mid-60s found us in a new house, my youngest sister undergoing back surgery, my beloved neighbor falling and now confused in a rehab center, my father wondering if this is actually the end of the repairs in the new house. Here's what's great: Directed by Women, my sister's speedy recovery and my father's adjustment to his new teeth and home, my brother's smile in his new room. It's Grow the Love Summer. I've claimed it as what life is about for decades, and it is this summer. I love movies, talking about, whinging, blogging, watching. Don't let my sister know, but part of being at the hospital at dawn was to sit with her husband and talk about movies. He's a geek. Bigger geek than me, which is going deep into film love. Mention a movie, he can name the composer, the cinematographer, the production designer and location trivia. This summer I'm about directors. Women directors. This piece of art was created to accompany whinges about the lack of women in film in all areas. This summer we'll talk about bounty. DirectedbyWomen has links to 6,815 women directors...and counting. And in September we'll be watching their movies in a global viewing party that begins September 1-15 and will never end. Never. So it's not only the Summer of Love. It's The Endless Summer.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Space Babe

Space Babe roams the galaxy obliterating outdated gender portrayals in speculative fiction. Proceeds from the sale of the temporary tattoos I got in the art room at WisCon39 go to the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. I donated my earnings from the essay published in the WisCon39 program back to Tiptree, too. A squishy goal (gelatin-like because I don't know how to commit well to it) is to have some more scifi finished and in the world by WisCon40. We're in the new condo, and I left for Madison with boxes unpacked and a cluttered mind. Feel upended, like Space Babe here. Without the ray gun or helmet.

Monday, May 11, 2015


10 years 8 months in this house. The longest time I've been at any address. And the place I've most not wanted to be. My father and brother have lived here since 1992. My mother died in this house in 1998. I've struggled with learning about the father who was my mother's husband, and my brother's father. And with me. Saturday my sister-in-law and her daughter helped me with packing. We spent an afternoon in one closet, sorting the picture albums. All the pictures my parents moved from England, Finland and their last house. A long closet, with the top shelf stuffed to the ceiling with pictures covering over 100 years. Six generations. This picture is at one of my marital homes, with a big pool and time with the nieces and nephews and the happy memories. The little girl in the picture is the woman who helped with the pictures. My sister-in-law (who's been 40 years in the family) said "ah, look at this," at most albums, and I said, "take it, or pitch it." She's been my family for most of my adult life, and I love her most for her compassion. My niece took pictures of the cousins and put them on facebook, and held the garbage bags open. I took 20 garbage bags to the curb today, and they were heavy. The photos we ditched were 1) people we didn't know, 2) trips we didn't take, and 3) all my mother's church stuff. Both my wedding albums went in the trash, and they were my albums. Did my mother have a photo album of my weddings? No. Did my mother have any albums of any of our weddings? No. Me, two. John. Paul. David. Susan. No wedding pictures. Were there 10 garbage bags of church trips? Yes. There were photo albums of funerals - my great-grandmother and grandmother in coffins. Bizarre! I remember yelling at my mother at my grandmother's funeral as she snapped away. "What's wrong with you?" My sister-in-law remembered, too. So, all in the trash. 20 bags. I saved the albums of Aunt Suoma and her friends. Carefree, happy, kick-line beach bunny girlfriends in the 1920s in America. And the pictures of my grandmother Saima, strong, how I remembered her. And my niece was interested to hear. She shot meat, skinned it, caught fish, kick-sledded where she needed to go, didn't suffer fools lightly and loved me. Like I love my niece. Fierce. And proud. I saved pictures of my mother for me. Pictures of how I would have liked to know her. Strong. Not the strong that she made up as she went along, but truly strong. There's one picture in the box I saved that I will take to my grave. In this picture, the wind is in her hair. She smiles with the knowledge that she is invincible. That whatever life brings she will conquer. Before I knew her: before. We're moving. It is the last move for my father, who still can't sort out why his mother died when he was 13. It never changed for him. I wonder if women get over it? My brother, who may have lost what sense of the world he had when my grandmother died. He has Alzheimer's disease. And me. Is this my last house? Dad and Scott and me will move from the house where we lost. For a while, I hope it will be the house where we gain.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Evolution of Women and the Revelation of Change

This is a eukaryote: artist's rendering found browsing my art files for this blog post about Women After All: Sex, Evolution and the End of Male Supremacy by Melvin Konner, M.D. He demonstrated how to pronounce it. You-carry-oats. My review on goodreads covers the basic info about how this book came home with me. This is about how glad I am. Dr. Konner steps on many toes covering biology, mating habits, leadership research–major tootsie squishing with the title alone. I loved it, mostly because I felt delighted to be reading. I am a feminist. Too much of the time I'm a discouraged, angry feminist, primarily because there is a lot of rage just in the discussion of what feminism is, who started it, whether 1st, 2nd or 19th wave, how inclusive feminism is regarding race, gender, age – it is daunting. Women After All is an opportunity to feel good. About our brains (bigger), our leadership skills (superior across domains and statistically significant female>male) and our opportunities in the near future. This book changed my body chemistry. I hope I can now bump into a discussion dumped into discord, and know that women's ascendancy will happen no matter if I get mad about it, if I push on it, or if I die tomorrow without seeing the outcome. While some of Dr. Konner's writing is densely academic, much is relieved with comedic reporting. Witness foreplay of the hemaphrodite red-tipped flatworm which lasts up to an hour and involves fencing (yeah, it's called that) with 2 - count 'em two penises each. Object: stab without getting stuck yourself. This behavior could be witnessed at any management meeting in any company anywhere in the USA in the 20th century. Or most episodes of Mad Men. I laughed, which maybe a red-tipped flatworm wouldn't appreciate, but I sure enjoyed the imagery. Flatworms in suits and ties. Snicker. Konner covers brain chemistry, history, the animal world today, and proposes that major change is happening right now, and an upheaval coming within 50 years. I like to think of it as a rebalancing. Weak yang for strong and equal yin:yang. How grand for our daughters, sons, granddaughters, grandsons! Hallelujah!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

PoetryArt Night in Milford Michigan

PoetryArt Night, an annual event during National Poetry Month organized by the Village Fine Arts Association of Milford, Michigan observed its 23rd year last night. The celebration of ekphrasis was begun by Thomas Lynch, poet and Suzanne Haskew, artist; both Milford residents. Our Sweetgrass Writers Group discovered the event several years ago. That year much of the poetry was borrowed from other sources. The art was, and is, original and current. Last night 88 percent of the poetry was original. For the last three years, we have submitted. I hadn't written a poem for over 40 years. My friend Geri is a beautiful poet and has written poetry continuously, quietly. We have all struggled with the idea of putting our writing out in the world. We received ribbons, and still we shy from other venues. Last year Geri and I brought home four poetry awards. We still hesitate to send our words elsewhere, for all the reasons every writer feels in whatever part of the body hesitation lives. Too personal, not good enough, why do it at all? Last night, Geri heard the poetry judge acclaim her poem, and next Saturday, when we pick up our accompanying art pieces, she'll take home a blue ribbon. I read my honoree, Once Upon a Timeless Sea. This year, for the first time, I sent poems to another venue - the spring anthology call for entries from Peninsula Poets. My poem Washing the Sun will be within. As a neophyte submitter, this publication acceptance feels enormous and lovely. I hope I'll be able to overcome those voices of too personal, not good enough and why more in the close future. I'm going to start with a baby/giant step and put the poems on my blog. Deep breath. Here goes.