ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

Sunday

21

August 2016

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COMMENTS

Nerve by Jeanne Ryan

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Two Stars

Nerve

I usually reserve two stars for really bad books (the coveted 1 star remains, I believe, only awarded to that Cinderella mess from a couple years back). But this year when I look back on the books I’ve rated as three stars, they are all better than this one. So keep that in mind.

I picked this up because the Pajiba review of the film that came out earlier this year was pretty good. I’ve just gone back and re-read the review and it looks like the filmmakers took the names and premise from the book but changed pretty much everything else. Probably for the best.

In case you don’t know the premise, here it is: there’s a real-time live action game show that involves individuals signing up to complete recorded dares for prizes. Vee, tired of being outshined by her best friend, decides to sign up.

But let’s back up. The book starts out with a prologue that – spoiler alert – is never resolved. I mean, we figure out (sort of) what happens, but still. Not great writing.

Anyway, you don’t know the prologue never gets resolved until the end of the book. So yay for that. But the next glaring problem is that a 17-year-old in Washington state would be able to sign up for this game without parental permission. Moving past that, the naiveté of the main character is sort of mind boggling. I suppose it’s necessary for the plot, but I’m not sure.

It all takes place in Seattle over the course of I think three days, so the action is compact. The dares increase in difficulty / awkwardness / danger, until the ‘grand finale’ dare, which is so ridiculous. Like, I get that some young people make poor decisions, but come on.

Also, there’s this weird storyline about how maybe the main character tried to kill herself at some point, which doesn’t really totally get resolved.

Then the book ends, there’s an epilogue sort of (which again doesn’t address the prologue at all – it’s like it never happened), and then it’s over. I read it in a day, and I’m not mad I read it, it just wasn’t good.

Saturday

20

August 2016

0

COMMENTS

How Not To Be An Asshole When … Mocking Politicians

Written by , Posted in Politics

Last week, statues of Donald Trump popped up in a few locations. One was Seattle, and I saw a few people linking to the main article in the Stranger about it. I caught myself giggling at the allegedly comment by the NYC Parks Department about not allowing any ‘unauthorized erections, regardless of size’ on their property. But then I realized I was laughing not at Trump, but at the idea that tiny penis = bad, and that Trump believes this, and so saying he has a tiny penis will hurt him.

Others have covered this topic as well, but I did feel the need to comment, because it was a reminder to me of how I’m still figuring out how to set aside old, easy (and shitty) ways of expressing my anger and frustration. Ha ha! Trump is fat, so he’s bad. Ha ha! Trump has a tiny penis, and we know he’s super sensitive about that, so he’s bad.

Ew. No. He’s bad for a whole lot of reasons, but having a human-shaped body with some form of genitalia is not one of them.

Rich Smith said in the Stranger:

“I’m not personally offended by any of these things—the body-shaming, the backhanded insult to the trans community and to women, the gender restrictive expectations for men—but it’s easy to see that nearly every element of the statue rests on harmful stereotypes. All stereotypes are cliches, and cliches make bad art. The piece fails on its own terms. It’s made using Trump’s sense of humor, Trump’s aesthetic texture, Trump’s sensibility. It makes us all into Trump supporters. (Side note: If that’s the point of the work, then I take everything back—it’s WAY more sophisticated than it appears.)”

I actually am personally offended, because body shaming and ideals of masculinity and femininity are all kinds of fucked up and affect everyone to some degree, but setting that aside, I like the rest of what Mr. Smith says in that paragraph. This is lazy art meant to get people laughing and not thinking.

It’s like when people make jokes about Chris Christie eating a donut. Yes, the guy is fat, and he may or may not like donuts. But him being fat is not what makes him abhorrent; his policies and his statements to other human beings are what make him abhorrent. Actually naming the issue with these vile politicians, instead of falling back on jokes that do nothing but insult people who share similar physical characteristics, is a way to call out what they are doing wrong. Donald Trump isn’t horrible for this country because of the size of his waist or his penis; he is horrible for this country because he would do things like require purity tests for people who want to immigrate here.

The Establishment (are you reading them yet? you should be) has an even better take, adding much more to the discussion:

“Additionally, ridiculing Trump and his base doesn’t make marginalized people safer. In fact, such open ridicule of Trump can have violent consequences for Black people even if they aren’t the ones doing it. Just this week a Black man was stabbed in Olympia, Washington, by a Trump supporter who felt like he needed to fight back in the midst of increasing racial and partisan tensions. Escalating these tensions through mud­slinging doesn’t serve any political purpose. It does, however, have the potential to endanger the most vulnerable people in our communities. The only people who can engage in such meaningless and potentially lethal “joking” are those whose bodies enable them to feel relatively safe in a world where Trump supporters roam freely.”

 

Thursday

18

August 2016

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COMMENTS

New Adventure

Written by , Posted in Uncategorized

Tomorrow is Friday, and I don’t have to go to work. If you know me, then you know that isn’t that odd; for the last few years I have worked a flex schedule. By working eight nine-hour days and one right hour day, I could have every other Friday off. Most of the time those Fridays involved chores, movies, and seeing friends.

A few months ago, Austin and I talked about how I didn’t really have enough time or energy to write. Not enough time to work on my book proposal, and not enough time to put together other essays, or pitch articles. So we agreed I would ask my boss for a reduced schedule.

My boss knows I write. She is supportive, which is awesome. She hesitated at my proposal of an 80% schedule, but gave the go ahead to 90%. So starting this week, I work 36 hours, and get every Friday off. It’s only an extra four hours, but coupled with evenings on occasion, this will give me the chance to get even more into my writing. To really try to make a go out of it.

I’m lucky we can afford to cut about 5% on our income to let me try something different. I’m also proud if myself for trying to get my life to match more what I want it to be. I didn’t know working FL time but only four days a week was an option; I’m pretty stoked to make it work.

Of course it means i have to REALLY focus at work the days I am there, but knowing I have three days off coming up will make that pretty easy to do.

Fingers crossed this works out!

Sunday

14

August 2016

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COMMENTS

I Used To Run Half Marathons?

Written by , Posted in Adventures

This morning I ran my first race – a 10K – in four years.

I used to run a lot. Starting in late 2008 I began training for half marathons with some friends. I wasn’t a runner, but my friends convinced me that with training, anyone could run 13.1 miles. I mean, I wasn’t going to WIN any half marathons, but I could train myself to finish one.

My first race was a 10K in the middle of training for that first half marathon. If I’m recalling correctly, it was in October, and I finished right around an hour. That was followed by a drizzly Long Island half, followed by one in Brooklyn that ended on the Coney Island Boardwalk.

I’ve run the NYC half (in damn near 80 degrees – never again), the Royal Parks half (about a week after moving to London), the Birmingham (England) half, the Vancouver half (where I set a personal best and finished under 2 hours!) and two in Seattle (the Seattle half the day after Thanksgiving, and the Rock and Roll half the day a good friend had her baby).

I also ran a half marathon in Paris, which was freaking amazing. Seriously, running past the Bastille, and ending in a gorgeous park? Amazing. But it also had it’s challenges, and that one toenail hasn’t really ever properly recovered.

The only time Austin and I have raced together was at what I think was my last half marathon, in Portland. Austin had some training issues due to injury, and switched to the 10K last minute. During the race his knee really acted up, and although he did manage to finish, it wasn’t what you’d call fun. Since then, injuries – and life – have kept me from pursuing another half.

Today we got up at 6, took the bus to Lake Union, and joined a couple thousand folks for a 10K run/walk. It’s a gorgeous route, circling the Lake and ending at the same start. I didn’t feel any pressure to do anything other than have fun – I’ve been training for three months, so I knew I could finish. And in the end, I did. At just over 1:05, Austin and I ended up crossing the finish together, which was pretty sweet. He’s got a cold though, so who knows if that will ever happen again.

But oof, was I tired. I mean, I know I have been training, but the longest run I’ve done in years is 7 miles. When I passed the 4 mile marker today, all I could think was “I used to run races with NINE MORE MILES at this point?!” That just seems absurd right now.

I don’t know if I’ll run another half marathon. Maybe. But I think these 10Ks are definitely fun ways to see different parts of the Sound.

Next up – Beat the Blerg, a 10K in Carnation that includes cake at each aid station. Yes, you read that right. Cake.

Friday

12

August 2016

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COMMENTS

How Not to Be an Asshole When … You’re A Man Encountering Me in Public

Written by , Posted in Feminism

Earlier this summer, when walking home from work, a man approached me with his hands out as though he were going to grab my breasts. He got maybe a foot from me before I told him to fuck off and he giggled and walked away. I really wanted to kick him in the balls, but since he hadn’t actually touched me, I figured I’d be the one to get in trouble. But I certainly considered it. I was tired, and that wasn’t the first time that day that I’d encountered an asshole man who thought I existed for his pleasure.

I get talked to, creepily stared at, or even shouted after often. Not daily, but weekly at least. It’s worse in the summer, and it can make me dread my time outside by myself.

It’s shitty, because I love to walk around this town. I walk to and from work every day, so I spend at least an hour vulnerable to these pricks.

Two nights ago, on my way to class, a man flipped me off from his car as I looked at him when he started screaming at a woman in front of him for having the gall to not turn left into a crosswalk full of people. I am 100% certain that if I’d been one of the people in the crosswalk, he would have ‘jokingly’ driven his car right up to me to teach me a lesson.*

On my walk to work this morning, I stopped at a crosswalk to wait for the light to turn. I had been looking at my phone, but saw that there was some construction work going on across the street, and that the sidewalk on the other side of the street was closed (they also had a sign to that end).**

When the light changed this morning, I crossed the street and then turned to make my way across the other part of the intersection, because (as indicated by the sign, as well as the large truck and cones in the road ahead) the sidewalk was closed. A male construction worker approached me with a pissed off look on face and said “We put that sign up because the sidewalk is closed.” To which I responded “I know, I saw, that’s why I’m crossing the street here.”

That should have ended the encounter. In fact, there should never have been an encounter. I think he expected that I had only found myself there because I was reading my phone; in reality I’d stopped at the light, saw the situation, and figured out how to safely make my way across the street.

You know, I applied my 35 years of experience walking to the situation. Shocking!

Then the light turned and I started to go on my way. Not content to let logic win, the man started yelling at me to pay attention – even though we’d just established that I saw his sign and adjusted my movement accordingly. I get that he was probably tired of people giving him shit (they’d shut down a major arterial’s sidewalk and one lane in the middle of rush hour), but all I’d done was be a woman who followed the street signs on my way to work. If he’d wanted the crosswalk closed, then he should have closed the crosswalk. But he didn’t, and perhaps he was now realizing he’d fucked up.

Either way, that’s his issue to sort out, not mine. I just continued to cross the road, content that I’d been more than polite in indulging this stranger’s need to puff his chest in an attempt to exert authority in this bizarre little scene playing out. I got maybe 10 feet from him when he chose to start screaming “Ma’am. Ma’am. MA’AM” like three or four times, still demanding my attention.

I didn’t turn back, because fuck that guy. Given the experiences I’ve listed above, along with myriad others, I don’t trust men who speak to me when I am outside, especially when they have already demonstrated to me that they aren’t entirely clear about how to interact with other human beings. I just don’t. It’s entirely possible (although HIGHLY unlikely) that he was screaming at me not because I’d bruised his ego, but because a Mack truck was about to run a red light and flatten me. But the thing is, I would have been hit by that truck, thanks to all the men over the years who have made me feel unsafe when I leave my home and dare to walk anywhere.

When I first started to write this post, I thought I was being oversensitive, and that maybe this wasn’t a great example of how unpleasant it is to navigate this world while being a woman. But then I realized it is the PERFECT example. Because it isn’t the typical cat calling – it’s something that theoretically could be innocuous (although in this case it was super patronizing), but because of my 20+ years of encounters with shitty men in public, EVERY encounter with a man I don’t know in public raises my stress levels.

In daylight, I worry I’m going to encounter men who get angry if I refuse to engage with them. I worry that the man who is trying to make eye contact with me is going to complement my dress but then expect me to fawn over the words that mean nothing to me (I genuinely could not give less of a shit whether a random dude at the bus stop likes my style). I worry that, when I’m on the bus, I will once again be shown a wad of cash as a rider attempts to buy time in my presence. I worry that I’m going to be touched, grabbed, spit on or just made to feel even more unsafe in the world than I already do.

Nighttime is a different story, but not that different, because when men are assholes to me during the day, no one steps in then, either. They aren’t obligated to, but my goodness it’s kind of amazing how quickly people will pretend to have no peripheral vision as soon as a man starts to verbally assault a woman on the street. Sure, at night I’m a bit more afraid of physical assault, but I still have a stress response every single time, whether the sun is out or not.

In case it isn’t clear, I fucking hate a society that produces so many assholes who think that women own them their time. A man stopping me on the street to complement me isn’t a complement – it is a moment where I’m not sure if he is going to continue on his way or threaten to fuck me up when I refuse to smile. A man approaching me from a construction site – even if his message is an attempt to keep me safe – needs to understand that literally decades of experience has taught me that what he is about to say to me is going to be condescending at best, and threatening at worst.

In all of these interactions I’m going to try to be as neutral as possible – not overly friendly (lest you think I’m flirting with you) and not overly bitchy (lest I wound your deeply fragile feelings), but I’m going to extract myself from them as quickly as possible.

So, the takeaway here is how not to be an asshole when you’re a man talking to a strange woman in public? Don’t talk to a strange woman in public.

* That happened to me in Manhattan once; the guy actually tapped my calf, which was a bad idea, considering I then stomped on his bumper, denting it and causing a friend of mine to muse that I was really fitting into my new life in New York.

** That’s right, I read and walk. Sometimes I’m reading my phone, and sometimes I’m reading a book. I have figured out, over the past 18 years of doing this, how to do so safely. I’ve tripped once (which, frankly, is much less than I trip when I’m doing nothing but walking). I stop at every curb, and put away what I’m doing to cross the street. I get that a lot of people get so annoyed with people who walk and look at their phones, but honestly, I’ve been doing some version of this since I was in college.

Monday

8

August 2016

0

COMMENTS

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

I voted for this for the CBR book club, because it’s been on my to-read list for a couple of years and I knew this would be the motivation I needed. And I’m so glad it was selected, because this was really a great book.

I didn’t entirely know what to expect, but I think the chapter early on (was it the second one) really set the tone. He talks about the worst thing about being poor wasn’t being hungry; it was not being able to take the dog to the vet when he was sick. That was just a big slap in the face of reality, and let me know that this wasn’t going to be a generic young adult book (not that I was expecting generic from Mr. Alexie).

The book follows Junior, a Spokane Indian who is motivated by a teacher to get a better education by attending the white high school 20 miles outside the reservation. The book somehow manages to address poverty, racism, opportunity, motivation, success, fear, alcoholism, and relationships with equal parts humor and depth. The book sounds like it could be the inner thoughts of a 14-year-old boy, and I mean that in the best way possible.

Really the only issue I took with it was the liberal use of the gay slur that starts with the letter f. I get that he’s trying to give us insight into how adolescent boys talk, but it was so jarring and I thought wasn’t necessary.

Sunday

7

August 2016

0

COMMENTS

Spark Joy by Marie Kondo

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

4 November 2015; Marie Kondo, Author and Organising Consultant, Marie Kondo, on the Society Stage during Day 2 of the 2015 Web Summit in the RDS, Dublin, Ireland. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE / Web Summit

4 November 2015; Marie Kondo, Author and Organising Consultant, Marie Kondo, on the Society Stage during Day 2 of the 2015 Web Summit in the RDS, Dublin, Ireland. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE / Web Summit

Remember last year, when everyone you know – and everyone they know – was reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? I was one of those people. My husband and I really pared down out belongings at a serendipitous time; not a month later we received notice that we had to move, so it was much easier to pack our two-bedroom apartment up with 11 days’ notice after having taken over two carloads of belongings to Goodwill.

We continue to tidy following this method, for the most part, but we’ve moved into a new house, which came with many more places for stuff to accumulate. When I saw this sort-of-sequel was being released, I figured I’d want to read it. And I *think* I’m glad I did. But I’m not sure.

My hesitation is that I’m not entirely sure this book is necessary. It does have some good tips, and some cute illustrations (the little bunny in the pictures is adorable). But I think that a lot of this could have been worked into the original book. I totally get it; she struck gold, and her publishers likely wanted to capitalize on that. They got me, and as we go for another round of making sure we’re really sticking with only keeping things that ‘spark joy,’ this will probably come in handy.

Friday

5

August 2016

0

COMMENTS

Just Like Us by Helen Thorpe

Written by , Posted in Politics, Reviews

Three Stars

This was another choice for my office’s equity and social justice book club. I’m really happy that it was picked, as it covers the topic of immigration to the US. Specifically, it focuses on the challenges those without documentation face as they make their way out of high school and try to figure out what options are available. I think I would have preferred a book written by one of these women, though, which factors into my three-star rating.

Author Ms. Thorpe is a journalist who was also married to the mayor of Denver while writing her book. This is relevant because much of the book focuses on the broader policy and political issues focused on during the immigration debate, and her husband often found himself (or put himself) in the middle of those discussions. Ms. Thorpe decided to follow four young women from their junior year of high school until they were in their early 20s. Two of the four women had documentation; two did not.

Some of the challenges are ones you could probably imagine – how do you go to college, for example, if you have very little money, don’t qualify for any financial aid, AND have to pay out-of-state tuition since you can’t prove residency? But others might not be top of mind to everyone – like how to handle the stress of knowing your parents could be arrested and deported at any point.

I appreciate the skill and research necessary to write this type of book that covers nearly seven years in the lives of many people, but I also think that people can best tell their own stories. Additionally, I often find myself annoyed with this book as Ms. Thorpe bends over backwards to appear neutral and give time to ‘both sides,’ but the ‘other side’ of the debate is often quite hateful. I do think there are real policy issues to be sorted out about how to address the needs of those who are here without documentation, but so many people who are so vocal about it seem to have really screwed up ideas about immigrants in general, and (in the case of at least one prominent politician), choose to think of their own immigrant ancestors as totally different, since they were European.

I also found myself cringing at times when she would use the term ‘illegal’ to describe the women or their families. I fall firmly in the camp that no person is ‘illegal.’ And of course I cringed whenever the author spoke of or with Tom Tancredo. Because ugh. That guy.

I do think I got a lot out of this book, but reading it also made me more interested in reading Diane Guerrero’s “In the Country We Love.”

Sunday

31

July 2016

0

COMMENTS

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Five Stars

I couldn’t be happier to hit my cannonball with this book. Well, play/book. I am Harry Potter’s age. The character was born in the same year I was, and even though I was not the target audience of the books (I didn’t start reading them until I was in college), I adore them. I love the world Ms. Rowling has created, and I was so excited to read this latest story in that world.

When the sixth book came out, I went to a book release party, picked up my copy at midnight, and promptly stayed up until 4AM reading most of it. I’m older now, and so waited until this morning to get my (pre-ordered, because of course) copy. Three hours later, I’m done, and still a bit mystified at how she was able to create another story that makes sense, fits so neatly with what we know, and allows us to step back into Hogwarts, the Ministry of Magic, and parts beyond.

I don’t want to provide any sort of synopsis or spoilers. Just know that the epilogue of the final book still holds as we start this story. The first few acts move through time rather briskly, and then things … happen. I was a little unsure in the very beginning, as we were getting to know some new characters, and I wasn’t certain that a script would help us get to know these characters well enough to care as much as we care for the ones we saw grow up, but I shouldn’t have worried. Obviously. Ms. Rowling knows what she’s doing, as do the playwrights.

The feelings I had for the characters before – they are still there. I haven’t connected with this world in a few years, but man, it all came flooding back, and I was right there, refusing to put this down even as I heated up an afternoon snack, snapping (kindly, of course) at my husband as he attempted to engage me in conversation. I’m reading the new Harry Potter – unless someone is on fire, please leave me be.

If you can get your hands on a copy, go. And if you live in London and can see the play, please do so. And then report back to us.

Saturday

30

July 2016

0

COMMENTS

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

I think Good Reads is a great site for many reasons; one of which is that it lets me know when authors I have read (and enjoyed) are releasing a new book. I purchased Ms. Moriarty’s latest tome (seriously, it’s over 400 pages and has pretty small print) on Tuesday after receiving such an alert, started it Wednesday, and stayed up way too late finishing it last night.

I enjoy Ms. Moriarty’s books a lot. She has, for the most part, a formula (I say most part because I *think* What Alice Forgot strayed from it a bit). There are three or more parties. A Thing Has Happened, but we don’t know what, so we go back and forth in time. And there are twists, and you probably won’t figure them out, but they are never (at least in the four books of Ms. Moriarty’s that I have read) absurd. If you were to reread the books with all the information, they still make sense. It’s awesome.

The only reason I’m not giving this book five stars is because I really feel that it could have been shorter up front. It took way longer – or at least it FELT way longer – to get into. I still enjoyed the first hundred pages or so, but my goodness, every chapter felt like it ended with some variation on the “everything changed after that day” sentence. Like, I get it. Everything DID change. But my goodness, please show, don’t tell. It felt a bit like when Ryan Seacrest would say “and the winner … will be revealed right after the break.” Except you’d come from break, and he’d immediately do it again. And again. For like 15 minutes.

That said, for me this is still a four-star book, and one that I would recommend to anyone interested in a fun, clever read. I really appreciated the dynamics around how friends with children interact with friends who don’t have children – the mutual judgement, the lack of understanding of each other’s lives. I think Ms. Moriarty captured a lot of that quite well.