Our plans for this evening are to do the usual handing out of candy while we watch some spooky movies. The movie plans are Young Frankenstein and The Three Stooges in Orbit. I usually pick out three movies, but Michael never stays awake for the third. And at midnight I’m supposed to start NaNoWriMo (even if I can’t stay up very far past midnight, since it is a work night), so we’ll probably stick with just the two. We’ll see. It’s not as if it’s very difficult to pick another movie out of the 970-or-so that my hubby has uploaded into our digital library from our vast disc collection…Because of the weirdness happening with our building being sold, we had been asked not to do some of the outdoor decorations that we usually do this time of year. This has had a dampening effect on my mood, so I haven’t even put the plastic light-up jack-o-lanterns in the windows, let alone any other decorations. I need to shake the funk soon–at least before Christmas decorating time!
I hope we get a few more trick-or-treaters than last year. I realize I’ll increase the odds if I manage to get at least some decorations up before sundown. I’m currently planning to slip out of the office early to make sure I’m home before then, so there is still hope. Some years we get a lot, but usually it’s a few handfuls. One of the problems is that a lot of other folks on our street don’t do the candy thing and/or their houses have no decorations so our whole block often looks gloomy and deserted.
Though truthfully, as long as we get more than we did the year a neighbor parked a huge U-Haul truck in front of our place and spent the evening trying to get moved out of their apartment (we got exactly one person – my godchild, who doesn’t live in the neighborhood, but would be brought to our place and to the homes of some relatives of their other godparent who lives nearby).
I love handing out the full size candy bars. And I love seeing kids in costumes. Especially the younger ones who get so, so excited when I kneel down and hold out the bowl packed with big candy bars! As my husband likes to say, “Fun size isn’t!”
Anyway, if you celebrate Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve, or the Day of the Dead, I hope that it is a great holiday for you. And if you’re feeling a little down, enjoy this clip from the Woodland Park Zoo of an otter and a jack-o-lantern:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
Even Republicans are saying this is crazy: Former Ethics Counsel to Bush Files Complaint Against FBI Director for Latest Disclosures on Clinton Email Probe
But really, this says it all (red insertions by Judd Legum based on actual known facts):
And for once I’m agreeing with a bunch of pundits: Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Resignation is too good for James Comey
But part of the reason I filled out my ballot as soon as it arrived (and let me just say again that I am so happy my state went all mail-in some years ago) was in hopes that I would stop obsessing quite so much at all the outrageous things going on in the world. I have a couple of important writing goals to finish before NaNoWriMo starts. I have hefty writing goals for NaNoWriMo itself. This is the third year in a row that one of my goals for the year is to spend less time and energy being outraged and more time writing and enjoying life.
This horrible year just keeps getting me wound up so much that some days I can’t seem to get anything done. And I’m not the only one (don’t just read Scalzi’s post, take a few moments to read the moderated comments to that post).
It’s not just about deadlines. I have stories to tell, stories I think need to be told… Read More…
I confess I was a bit freaked out once we got there. It was a neighborhood we hadn’t been to before, and they hadn’t warned me that almost everyone waiting in line for the show would be in costumes. Many of them oddly sexual costumes. They also hadn’t warned me that it was an R-rated show. It was only after we had sat down, and the lights dimmed that Jim handed me a newspaper and told me to hang onto it, “you’ll need it later.” So they also didn’t warn me about the audience participation that was about to go down.
The original Rocky Horror Picture Show was released on film in 1975. The show had started as a musical stage play written by London actor Richard O’Brien, who poured all of his love for schlocky 40s and 50s muscle-man movies, horror and sci fi films ranging from the 30s through 70s, and rock and roll into the show. It played first in a small 60-seat theatre, but well enough to quickly move to bigger venues, and then the play’s director, Jay Sharman, secured funding to make a movie.
O’Brien’s original script focused on the unintentional humor of the older sci fi and horror film, with only a sprinkling of references to the homoeroticism found in films such as Hercules Unchained and Duel of the Titans. But as they developed the play, and the actors (particularly a young Tim Curry) figured out how they wanted to play the characters, the pansexual and transsexual elements become much more important.
The film didn’t do very well, at all. Mainstream audiences just didn’t understand it. But a studio executive, noting that the movies Pink Flamingos and Reefer Madness were making money in midnight showings, had the idea to get some theaters to show it at midnight (the first showing on April Fool’s Day 1976). And then the show quickly gained a cult following, with people showing up in costume, and then fully costumed local casts re-enacting the show just in front of the screen as it was playing.
I was totally unprepared. People in the audience started chanting “Lips! Lips!” before the movie started. People were singing along and shouting things that I couldn’t quite understand. And then the cast started mimicking what was happening. The one time I asked my friends what was happening they just shushed me and said, “it’ll make sense eventually!”
I was very uncomfortable and confused and a little bit angry at my friends. I couldn’t always understand what was happening on screen because of the shouting from the audience.And then, with a big build up of rising music (and the audience clapping in time with the bass beat), suddenly Tim Curry was there, in the corset and fishnets belting out, “How’d’ya do I, see you’ve met my, faithful.. HANDY-man…”
It was like a punch right in my chest. And a rush of adrenaline (and other hormones) as he prowled and pranced while belting out “Sweet Transvestite.”
I was completely closeted. This was at least seven years before the first moment I would say aloud (very anxiously) the words “I think I might be gay.” I was still living in a small town attending a conservative evangelical church. I sang in an evangelical touring choir! At least 99% of the people I could categorize as friends were members of either the choir or very similar churches. I lived in a state of constant fear of someone not just calling me a fag (which happened all the time at school), but of deciding that it was actually true. I was constantly monitoring myself, trying to stop myself from saying things that didn’t conform to people’s expectations, trying to stop myself from doing things that didn’t conform, from admitting to liking things that people didn’t think a normal guy should like, and so forth.
And there, on the screen (not to mention sitting all around me) were people flaunting and reveling in nonconformity. Specifically sexual nonconformity!
It blew my mind.I was pulled into the movie. All the audience participation, the local cast, and everything that wasn’t happening on the screen just vanished for the rest of the movie. It didn’t matter. I just wanted to know what would happen next on screen.
I tried to talk about the plot of the movie with my friends during the drive home after. They were immensely amused that I actually followed the show for the plot. They insisted the movie was just an excuse for the audience to yell and leer. “It doesn’t really have a plot!”
I didn’t see it again for several years. But by then I could sing along to most of the songs, because I’d gotten hold of the soundtrack and listened to it about a million times. The audience participation bits had changed in those years. And when I saw it in a theatre one more time a few years later, they had changed further. I am a huge Rocky Horror fan who doesn’t know most of the audience participation stuff.
The movie is meant to be a parody of all those schlocky sci fi and horror films particularly of the 50s and 60s. The story isn’t meant to be literature. But the film isn’t, really about the story. It’s about taking what was subtext everywhere else—coded homosexual relationships, homoerotic tension (whether intentional or not), sexual relationships of all kinds—and making it manifest. Frank N Furter builds a man for the express purpose of being his sexual plaything, for goodness sake! Several of the characters are casually bisexual or pansexual, but the fact that traditional romances also involve sex (which films and stories before that virtually never acknowledged) is also shoved front and center.
The film doesn’t just poke fun at convention and conformity of all kinds, it dresses convention up in fishnet stockings and makes it sing and dance about why noncomfority is great.
Over the years I’ve watched the film many, many times at home, thanks to availability on VHS back in the day and later DVD. I’ve also attended a couple of live performances of the stage version, as well as really, really enjoying last year’s Rocky Horror Show LIVE by the BBC. I was thus really hopeful about the Fox remake of the film starring trans actress Laverne Cox… and I was sorely disappointed. They were both too timid and too slavishly committed to imitating the 1975 film. There were good moment. I’m happy to see that Tim Curry is able to work, despite the severe stroke he suffered a few years ago. And Adam Lambert rocked the Eddie role, but many of the other casting and design choices were… well, not good.
The BBC version of the live performance (with rotating actors playing the Criminologist–Anthony Stewart Head among them) is available in its entirely on YouTube. I quite enjoyed streaming it to my TV via the YouTube app on my Apple TV last week after watching the Fox version. And the original is available in many formats.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a parody of many sci fi and horror movies, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t sci fi itself. Particularly if you define speculative fiction the way that my new favorite author, Nisi Shawl sometimes does: fiction that de-privileges the status quo. Rocky Horror does that, in spades, while celebrating the outsider, the misfits, and the freaks (and showing that there’s at least a little bit of a freak inside everyone). I wasn’t ready to come out after watching it the first time, but it was another step down the path of realizing that this queer sci fi geek was not alone in the world, and that it isn’t enough to just dream it, you have to let yourself be it.
I felt much less awful after a couple of days, but didn’t begin to feel actually well until this last weekend – about eleven days after it all started.
And now, I’m just dealing with hay fever. I’ve written (many, many times) before of my frustration at being unable to distinguish a really bad hay fever day from the early stages of a head cold. This is a slightly different frustration. I’m just finally feeling well, except I’m not feeling great because my head is stuff up, I get random sneeze attacks, my eyes are watery… you know the drill.
Yes, it’s fall. Yes, it’s getting cold and most of the trees are losing their leaves and there are very few flowers in sight anywhere. And the pollen count is pretty low. But the pollen count never seems to include fern spores. And here in the Pacific Northwest we have ferns growing naturally everywhere. They’re a more primitive plant and they don’t pollinate, they spore. So every year this time, when the pollen count is dropping to almost non-existence, I get a round of bad hay fever symptoms while the ferns are going crazy.
And next month is mushroom season!
Pass me another box of tissues, please?
Face the Nation did a segment this weekend where they interviewed some Trump supporters and it was… special: Trump supporter tells CBS: He will make America great again like it was before ‘the homosexuals’. We’ll come back to the bit that made it into the headline. I’m just continually confused by people like these (and a whole bunch of my rightwing relatives), who keep insisting that Trump is the Christian candidate. Insisting that Trump is going to lead the country to a place of morality (with the corollary claim that the country is deeply immoral now).
So they want to elect a serial philandering racist tax cheat who scams retirees out of their Social Security checks with a fake university, breaks contracts and refuses to pay his bills without a hint of remorse, and brags about walking into dressing rooms filled with naked fifteen-year-olds.
I just don’t quite understand how anyone can make a statement with a straight face, as the woman in the Face the Nation video does, about a time “before abortions and the homosexuals.”
Humans have been performing abortions since ancient times. There’s a section of the old testament (that gets mistranslated rather hilariously), which instructs husbands who believe their pregnant wives have been unfaithful to take the women to the temple so that the rabbis can abort the baby, for instance. Abortion was happening in the U.S. at an alarming rate in the 1950s and 1960s when it was illegal, for instance: 200,000 to 1.2 million per year, resulting in as many as 5,000 American women dying annually as a direct result of unsafe abortions.
What she and people like her really mean, of course, is not a time before queer people existed, but a time when queer people weren’t treated as human. When we could be fired, thrown in jail, and so on just because of who we loved. When there were arcane laws that made it illegal for a bartender to knowingly serve alcohol to more than one homosexual (yes, the laws actually said it was okay to have one fag in your bar at a time, but no more!).
But it wasn’t just that queers were beaten to death with impunity and subject to jail time and fines for who they loved. In many states and towns it was literally illegal for women to wear pants in public or for men to wear a dress (one of those laws in a town in New Jersey wasn’t overturned until 2014, by the way!). And the laws were usually pretty vague. It was a crime to appear “in public a clothing not belonging to his or her sex.” Which makes me wonder about the sort of suit jacket thing the woman in that video is wearing, no?
Remember it was also illegal in most states for a woman to refuse sex to her husband until such laws began to be repealed in the 1970s. Note: even if a couple were in the midst of a divorce, legally separated, and the husband broke into the home the wife was staying in and forced himself on her, she couldn’t charge him with rape. Heck, under current law some states there has to be proof of physical violence of an aggravated level before it can be called rape.
And it was a time when it was illegal in many places for people of different races to marry.
And these things are all related. There are reasons that abortion rulings were referenced in early court cases about sodomy laws. Ultimately, laws about abortion, homosexuality, marriage, and even how people dress are all about making sure that some people’s bodies (women, racial minorities, religious minorities, sexual minorities) are under the control of other people (white Anglo Saxon Protestant men). In that time before The Homosexuals, America was not a place where woman could dress as they wished, where woman could kiss or refuse to kiss who they wished, or where anyone outside of very narrow definitions or situations could love or get intimate with another consenting adult.
It wasn’t a better time for anyone who wasn’t a straight, cisgender, white guy… or a person considered under their protection (control).
An expository dump (or info dump) is a “a very large amount of information supplied all at once, expecially as background information in a narrative.” That’s a rather academic definition, and like most language definitions, it contains subjective terms. Exposition is simply text that explains something. Narratives need a certain amount of exposition to work. What I object to is large chunks of explanation that stops the action of the story. For example, a few years ago I wrote about a fantasy novel I stopped reading because the third or fourth chapter of the book consisted entirely of one character lecturing another about the history of the world. That’s sloppy writing, at best.
I don’t have anything against exposition, per se. There’s a lot of expository writing in some of my favorite novels. Just earlier this week, for instance, I was reading in Nisi Shawl’s novel, Everfair (which is a non-eurocentric steampunk novel, so far), a description of a small train. The description gave us some hints of how the fictional world’s technology differs from our own history, gave us a sense of not just the look of one of the supporting characters, but his personality, and also had hints about the social strata of the country which the viewpoint character was visiting. But this wasn’t a long passage. It was only two paragraphs. And rather than prattling on for pages about the history of the country, it gave us a few tidbits of information from which we could infer more. And it isn’t just description. Something is happening: a supporting character is arriving to some anticipation of the viewpoint character.
In my own writing you will find very little exposition. To me, the heart of any story are the triumphs, failures, hopes, and fears of the characters moving through it. Yes, I’ve done a lot of world building. If you ask, I can go on an length about all sorts of things in the history of the fictional world where my fantasy novels are set. I have to know all of that stuff to tell stories. But most readers are interested only in a fraction of it.
No one wants to read a scene in which one character prattles on about how ten years ago when the previous emperor died, a group of traitorous nobles assassinated several of the heirs in an attempt to grab the throne for themselves, including the motives of each of the conspirators, who died and who survived. When it was important to the plot I’m writing now, I had one character mention “the succession crisis in the capitol year ago.” There was another point where that history was relevant to the reason one character was hostile to another, and was able to have just a few lines of the argument between those characters give a few more details. But those lines also moved the plot point that was happening right that moment along, and gave the reader some insight into the personalities of the two arguers (as well as a couple of other characters who were trying to get them to stop arguing and deal with the problem at hand).
I do that because I trust that readers are smart enough to put pieces together and build their own picture of the world. I don’t need the reader to visualize exactly how the stitching on a character’s clothing looks, or the precise shape of the filigree on a particular piece of furniture, or to keep track of which pillows are round and which are square in order to follow the story.
If I wanted to tell the story of the succession crisis, I would make the crisis itself the story. I’d pick one of the characters involved as my protagonist and tell the tale. But if it’s backstory, we don’t need all the details. Sure, it’s handy to know that in the present timeline, one particular vampire-like character was one of the failed conspirators who was cursed by someone who loved one of the murdered heirs (hey, it’s a fantasy universe, why can’t we have a good curse every now and then?). That tells you how the character wound up an evil parasitic undead, and gives you some hints as to how trustworthy he is going to be to his alleged allies in the current story. It may also help the reader understand his motives at later points in the tale. But I was able to convey that in a couple of lines of dialog and keep moving on with the current tale.
Not everyone is as comfortable without all the details as I am. I understand that. And there’s a part of me that always worries that I haven’t given readers enough clues. So sometimes I do something like write a whole chapter worth of flashback, which I read and re-read and argue with myself about whether it’s really needed and do I really want pull the reader out of the current story.
And eventually I usually figure out that if I tweaked some dialog over here, and add a small scene where two characters who weren’t aware of the past events find some of the aftermath, and realize that yes, I should trust the reader to figure it out and move those flashbacks over into my big file of background information that the reader is never going to see.
Because part of trusting the story is trusting the reader to not just to follow it. I want the reader caught up in the story I’m telling right now. I want the reader turning the pages as quickly as they can, breathlessly asking, “And then what happens?”
I love autumn. I love the leaves changing colors, the final blooms on lots of flowers, fruit forming on trees, cool drizzly mornings… not to mention decorating for Halloween, planning for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and other fun things.
I don’t like hot weather. Most anyone who knows me knows that. And I also really dislike snow: specifically having to slog through snow, deal with the way many drivers behave in snow (and how some seem to think that snow and ice give them permission to ignore pedestrians altogether), ice-slippery walkways, and so forth. And twice every year, when one of the other of those disliked kinds of weather are happening, and I say something about it, someone (whether it be a reader of my blog, some random twitter commenter, or even a long time friend), will exclaim in utter disbelief. “How can you not love winter? I thought you hated hot weather!?” Or, “How can you complain about this warm weather when you were bitching about snow six months ago?”
It’s like they think it is a binary: you are allowed to hate either heat or cold, and if you dislike one you must love the other. That’s nonsense. What I hear when they decry my supposed inconsistency is, “Why are you objecting to being stabbed in the heart? I thought you despised poison!”
I grew up in the central Rocky Mountains, which is ski country, and where snow season runs from mid-October to mid-May. Every memory I have of going trick-or-treating on Halloween as a child involved wearing snow boots or galoshes, a heavy coat and gloves. Sometimes we skipped whole blocks of houses because the snowplow had been through to clear the street, and the sidewalk was completely blocked by an eight-foot-tall pile of snow, ice, and slush embedded with copious amounts of gravel and asphalt.
Those big plow-drifts were a favorite source of snowball-material for the kinds of bullies that I was always the target of. So while it would be an exaggeration to say that snowball fights are triggering for me, the imagery evoked by alluding to snowball fights is never pleasant for me.
My point is, I have experienced snow. I have literally, as a child, walked to school in minus-fifteen degree weather. If I never have to be in snow again I’ll be perfectly happy.
Yet, I love Christmas and specifically decorating for Christmas. You will see snow-speckled ornaments on many of my trees. I can sing more harmony parts to “Let It Snow” “Sleighride” and “Winter Wonderland” than you can shake a stick at. I’m able to separate my dislike of trudging through snow from actual fun activities one can have in such weather.
Similarly, with hot weather one problem I have is that I come from a long line of pale-pink-bluish freckled people. My skin does not know how to tan. It knows three hues: the pale pink with blue highlights, searing bright red covered with blisters, then when that peels off, pale pink-bluish with orange freckles. Also, I come from a long line of people who develop sun-induced skin cancers (and have even had a small one myself!), so I’m under doctor’s orders to stay out of the sun. Plus, my body just doesn’t deal with high temperatures. I just want to sleep through the hot parts of the day, but day jobs aren’t conducive to that, so I’m cranky, listless, and miserable when it gets hot.
Knowing about how much I hate heat waves and snow, it really should be no surprise how much I love autumn weather. That doesn’t mean that I don’t find some things about the transitions of autumn occasionally inconvenient, annoying, or just startling. Most years, for instance, I don’t switch from my medium-weight jacket to my coat when I ought. I’ll wear the medium jacket for a few weeks and everything is fine. Then one day during the walk home from work, it will be way colder than it had been in the morning, and I’ll wish I’d switched to my heavy coat.
A bit over a week ago I was walking home from work and turned a corner, and was startled at how dark the sidewalk was. When I’d left the office, it had seemed to still be full daylight. The sun was actually at the horizon, but since the first bit of my walk is between tall buildings, I didn’t actually see the sun setting. Yeah, I knew how late it was, and I know that sunset gets a minute or two earlier every day during the fall, but I was thinking about other things (listening to an audiobook, as I recall). Over the course of the walk the sun sank slowly, the light very gradually getting dimmer. By the time I was nearly home, it wasn’t really dark out, yet, but the sky was definitely closer to indigo than azure. And the particular section of street I was turning onto, just a few blocks from home, has a lot of trees on it plus to the west were a pair of taller condominium complexes, casting long shadows over the whole street. It still wasn’t dark, but it was a significant change walking into those shadows, particularly when my mind was in another time and place because of the audiobook.
I literally stopped for a moment, startled at the sudden dimness. It only took a millisecond to realize that I just hadn’t been paying attention to the deepening twilight and the shadows. But it was the starkest reminder I’d had that sunset was getting a lot earlier than it has been. Sometimes it only takes a well-timed turn to throw a gradual change into stark contrast.
When I mentioned to a friend how early sunset was getting, they responded with a bit of a shrug. They weren’t blowing me off, but it felt that way. To be fair, I didn’t give them all the context of how I hit that mark.
But it reminds me that we aren’t all paying attention to the same things. I’ve been watching the slow but very steady embrace of racist, xenophobic, sectarian bigotry by leaders of the Republican Party for the last 36 years. I have called out and warned about the consequences of encouraging voters to blame people with different accents, skin color, religious beliefs, et cetera for the real economic pain that people feel. I have been decrying the stagnation and then contraction of wages, while giving bigger and bigger tax cuts to the wealth. I’ve been pointing out the dangers of dismantling labor unions, giving corporations more and more legal rights. I’ve been watching the slow slide. I’ve been trying to tell friends and acquaintances that the Republican politicians are the very people picking their pockets while placing the blame on immigrants, brown people, queers asking for equal rights, and so forth.
So I am well aware that voting for Romney was voting for all the same bigotry and economic inequality that Trump embodies. Just as voting for McCain was, and voting for Bush, and so on. I have been watching the gradual shift, well aware that the exact same bigotry underlay the policies the Reagan espoused, just more subtle and coded before. So when lifelong Republicans are reacting with horror to Trump, yeah, I’ve been pretty dismissive, telling people they had to be blind or delusional not to have seen this coming; not to have seen that they have brought it on themselves (and the rest of us).
When in fact, they just weren’t paying attention to the same things I was.
It doesn’t change the fact that, yeah, they made this bed. But I shouldn’t be quite so mean that it has taken them longer to notice at least some of the hate and ignorance.
We’ve taken a turn into shadows and muck that that have been gathering and deepening for decades. Now that a few of you have seen it, would you mind grabbing a shovel, and helping those of use trying to clear a path back to the light?