Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Long Road Home

In order to get to the house I grew up in, you have to go down a long, dirt road.  Actually, you have to take one of several long, dirt roads.  No matter which direction you come from to get to the house, it is only approached by long and lonely dirt roads.  But first, you have to drive out of the city limits into the county, and down the county highway.  All the roads and highways have similar names:  Old Highway 15, Old Sawmill Lane, Old Old Old.

Some of the roads may even be paved now, but I haven't seen them since the dirt days.  I think it's telling that it was old dirt from every direction to the house.  I frequently dream about the house, the neighborhoods, the roads.  And in every dream it is an ever-growing long road home, filled with dirt, sometimes brambles and bushes and wide ditches to the farmhouses on either side.  Sometimes it's winter, and we're slogging through feet of snow on the road and surrounding areas.  Sometimes there are barking, mangy dogs in the farmyards.  Sometimes there are other people or cars on the road -- maybe.  Maybe I'm just seeing the dust they're kicking up.  One time, I may have even dreamed a dragon behind a silo, but that's just silly.

I don't think in any of the dreams -- and I've been having them for well over twenty years now -- I don't think I ever reach the house.  Moreover, I don't think I ever want to reach the house.  The dreams are just filled with the loneliness of long dirt roads, brown empty fields, and the remembrance that yes, this was always a fucking long drive and even longer now that we seem to be forced to walk amongst dragons and dogs and dirt and ditches.

#6 Tompkins Drive is a sad affair; heck, it's not even called that anymore.  They've changed the numbers and road signs since "back in the day."  I once took a picture of it, years after moving out; I forced myself to make the drive over the long road home, to confront the dirt and the ditches, to figure out what was actually memory and what was dream and what was was.  It was pathetic then, and, thanks to Google Earth, I can see that it's pathetic now.

The house seemed so much larger when I was so much smaller.  I'd like to kick it in the shin now.  I'd like to say, "Take that, stupid house!  And that!  Not so big now, are we?"  The house's demons have also moved out.  It's not really the house's fault, but I'd kick it nonetheless.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Just a small
  beneath my shoulder
The doctor says it’s psoriasis.
I prefer to think that
  wings are coming

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Let's Talk Stalking

January 2016 is National Stalking Awareness month, and naturally, Leonard has something to say about that.  But first, a story.

Once upon a time Princess Leonard Leonora was cast in a show playing an actual princess.  The show came at a very difficult time; Leonora was in the midst of a very public, very messy divorce.  Leonora's ex had also been cast in the show; at the time of casting, they were still married.  Leonora's soon-to-be-ex-husband quickly dropped the show before rehearsals started, during the divorce process.  Leonora couldn't understand why.  Their characters barely had any stage time together, and when they did, they hated each other; where's the acting part?

The night immediately after said soon-to-be-ex-husband dropped the show due to impending divorce, I got a call (while performing elsewhere).  The caller was from one of my future cast mates suggesting we get coffee or lunch together sometime soon, since we would be working together.  It was at this time that my "silent alarm" went off, for a couple of reasons.

  1. People using the cast contact list for non-work-related reasons should be treated with suspicion.  One must have a very good reason to use a work distribution list to contact a near-stranger for something personal.
  2. For whatever reason, this man, this cast mate, gave me that knot in my stomach.  My inner alarm said, "DANGER WILL ROBINSON!"  And I should have listened.  But I didn't.
As I've written before, we (especially women) are too often taught to "give people the benefit of the doubt," even despite our gut reactions.  This man never once said the word "date," which was good because I had no intention of dating him, ever.  It's just a friendly coffee between friends, right?  Except we weren't friends.  I barely knew him.  It's possible that we could become friends during the rehearsal process, but we hadn't started rehearsing yet.  So against my better judgment I agreed to a coffee meet.

We had coffee on an afternoon, and it was weird.  I still had that silent alarm going in my head and gut, but I did my "due diligence."  I gave him the benefit of the doubt.  I had coffee; I was polite.  And I had no intention of ever doing more than that, besides doing a show together.

Now it's been some time since these events occurred, so you'll have to excuse me if they get out of order.

We started the rehearsal process, and this man kept paying me undue (unwanted) attention, but not always the positive kind.  One night during rehearsal he called a stop to the scene just as I was opening my mouth to say my line -- more than ten times in a row, at the exact same time every time, breaking character.  (Typically actors only stop when the director asks them to stop [or "hold"], and he was most definitely not the director.)

Before we broke for Thanksgiving, he brought me "gifts":  a sparkly glitter tiara that said "BITCH" on it and a copy of the book Even Cowgirls Get the Blues with the "instructions" that I should read it during our holiday break from rehearsal.

Once, he asked me if I could be backstage when he got done with a scene to help him "calm down" like "Alice would to Henry" (our characters' names).  I actually started to laugh out loud because I thought he was joking.  I, of course, said no; I was on the other side of the stage getting ready for the next scene (not to mention the outrageous creepiness of the request).

One night he claimed that the train of my dress was ruining the scene because it was in his way.  I offered to try to move it a bit out of the way, but we had a small 4x4 platform we were on; act around it.

During the rehearsal process, he started a thread on a local theatre discussion board about on-stage kissing, and then he forwarded to my e-mail all of the responses, first saying he was "just trying to give some advice."  When I asked him to please stop emailing me, he claimed (repeatedly) that I was "ruining the scene" (where we had to awkwardly kiss; the kiss was supposed to be awkward and brief).

One night at rehearsal he screamed at me from across a staircase (during a break):  "I'm just trying to discuss what's going on between us!"
To which I yelled back, flabbergasted, "There is NOTHING between us except air!"
"I'm just trying to be your friend!" he yelled.
"I'm friends with the rest of the cast, they don't feel the need to talk about it!" I said.

And that night he called my phone.  All of my phones.  My home phone, my cell phone, leaving a message on one, then calling the other when I wouldn't pick up, nearly non-stop for over an hour.

At some point during this, yes, I should have spoken up; I should have talked to our director.  But I didn't want to rock the boat.  I wanted a good show.  I didn't want to be accused of being a "diva," of being "hard to work with" (Princess Leonora no longer gives a shit about those things, especially when personal safety is on the line).  And I thought I could "handle it"; I thought he'd just go away.

Then a friend of mine lent me a book of his, Obsession:  The FBI's Legendary Profiler Probes the Psyches of Killers, Rapists, and Stalkers, and Their Victims and Tells How to Fight Back.  
I still get chills when I realize/remember that a book outlined, step by step, what was happening to me right then and there.  Here are some key points:
  • The giving of unwanted gifts is literally a textbook sign of stalking
  • Assuming there is a relationship where none exists is also a sign
  • Explosive, unpredictable behavior (what the rest of us might call "mood swings")
The final straw was during a performance, in the dressing room, when he called me a "cunt" in front of the rest of the cast because -- frankly, I don't remember why.  I don't think it matters why.  The man had problems "acting around" my dress; it's not like he was a stable entity.  The director called my home repeatedly that night to make sure I was okay; she was very worried when she couldn't reach me (I was actually sleeping elsewhere that night).  She told me to just try to avoid him as much as possible (which I was); the run was almost over.  But not before he also contacted my ex-husband via e-mail to complain about what a bitch I was.

My soon-to-be-ex-husband had to call me up to ask if this was true?  Was I being a bitch?  Was I saying horrible things about him (the ex-husband) in front of the cast?
My response:  "We're going through a divorce.  Of course, I'm saying mean things about you.  Who wouldn't?"  Then I proceeded to detail all of the shit this man had done and said over the course of the past couple of months, ending with "this probably wouldn't have happened if you had not dropped the show.  I doubt he would have done it in front of you."
An immature response?  Absolutely.  I'm not going to defend that choice, especially as it's not the point here.

The point is:  I should have listened to my gut.  I should have spoken up at any point during the above actions.  If you feel uncomfortable around a person, it shouldn't have to take them calling you a "cunt" for people (including yourself) to realize something is wrong.  Stalkers are real.  Stalkers exist. Stalking is considered a crime in all 50 states. It is a very big deal when someone does not respect the boundaries you have set.  And it is a very big deal when someone exhibits just one or two of the behaviors list above, let alone all three.

If you feel uncomfortable around a person, if they are beginning to exhibit stalking behaviors, please follow these steps:
  • Listen to your gut.
  • Document everything.  
  • Set firm boundaries with the person.
    • It's very possible a person you are required to interact with does not realize they overstepped a boundary.  It's still okay to set boundaries and to let them know they have overstepped them.  That does not make you a bad person, a bitch, a tease, or a cunt.
  • You have not overreacted.  It is a big deal, and if you don't speak up about your boundaries, no one will.
  • Speak up to the person(s) in charge, louder and louder until someone listens.
    • Go up the "food chain" if necessary.
    • Even if you are not asking for repercussions for this individual, people need to be aware of what has happened.
  • Remember:  it is not your decision whether or not the behavior is stalking.  You don't have to have the pressure to make that judgment call; that is the job of a law enforcement official.  It is your decision to realize that something is not right, that someone is overstepping your personal boundaries -- physical, emotional, or otherwise -- and to speak up about it.
  • Everyone has the right to feel safe at their place of employment, in their homes, and frankly, in everyday life.
Leonard has more stalker stories, but the above is one of the worst.  I also have another story from a former colleague, but it is not my story to tell.  I can tell you that the part that made me livid was when our mutual supervisor (also a woman) basically told my friend to "not worry about it," that it "wasn't a big deal," to basically "just ignore it."

Fuck that shit.

Should someone tell you that, feel free to tell them that Leonard said "Fuck that shit!" I will happily send them a Strongly Worded Letter about it.

Friday, January 15, 2016

On the Subject of Hashtags

Oh, hashtags.  We have such a complicated relationship, you and I.  As a rule, Leonard tries to avoid them.  Hashtags, to the best of my understanding, are/were a way to categorize posts and things.  For instance, this post is marked with "labels," "social media," "hashtags," and "David Tennant," among other things.  (For the record, though, Blogger does not refer to them as hashtags; it says "labels.")

And I get that.  If I want to search for posts -- particularly on Twitter or Tumblr -- on a specific topic, tags are very useful.  I can find all the David Tennant fan fiction I could ever possibly want that way1.

But what about hashtags on posts on/in forums or social media platforms that don't really use that feature (read:  Facebook)?  And what about the hashtags we simply make up?  Is anyone really going to go searching for #thatmomentwhenItrippedinfrontofmyboss?  Or how about #sorrymythesisisshowing?  What is it we're doing with hashtags that we simply couldn't do with the text itself?

The last two examples -- hashtags we make up -- Leonard actively tries to avoid, on the principle that they defeat the purpose of a hashtag.  So why do we use them?  Is it like giving a subtitle to your post?  They are often funny, one-liners (or "one-phrasers"), something witty or clever or snarky, a rim shot or stinger to one's post (#askingforafriend and #sorrynotsorry are the only ones I can think of right now).  Sometimes they seem to be instructing the reader what to think or feel about that particular post.  So why use a hashtag to do that?  Why not use the text of the post itself?  I often stop myself when there is an itch to use a hashtag and ask, Why am I doing this?  What am I trying to accomplish?  If the post isn't funny without the hashtag, or if the reader does not come to the intended conclusion, then I'm doing something wrong in my writing.  (Usually2.)

Do hashtags in their current form accomplish something rhetorically or textually that we couldn't otherwise do?  These are the the things that keep Leonard up at night -- that, and acid reflux.  Please weigh in with your thoughts regarding hashtags.

1 Not really.  Maybe.  #AskingForAFriend
2 Or maybe you're just reading it wrong!  Leonard does sometimes give in to the hashtag temptation.  C'mon, the hashtag #DroidsMoisturize is funny!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

365 Days; 52 Weeks

*patiently waits for everyone to finish humming "Seasons of Love" from Rent before carrying on*

When I first read this story about 365-day projects, I thought, That's cool.  I should do that.  That will take a lot of discipline.  But it was towards the end of the year, so I thought, I should start this next year.  Nowhere, of course, do the project rules state that it must take place in one calendar year, but for whatever reason, that is how my brain interpreted it.  And so I filed it away.

Lo and behold, it was January 9th, and I had been reading a friend's daily haiku on Facebook and realized, It's a 365-day project!  I was going to do this!  Crap, it's too late now!  Again, my brain seems convinced that 365 days = 1 calendar year.

Upon further reflection, I think I realized that attempting to do something (extra) once a day, every day would just be setting myself up for failure.  Look at previous attempts for a reading list or even NaNoWriMo.  Leonard does not have a good history when it comes to follow-through (don't even get me started on the broken-hearted failure [or at least postponement] of the Hobbit project).  So attempting to do something new, every day, in addition to a full-time job and being a professional actor and, y'know, having four animals and a partner and making sure we don't just sit around in our own filth,....it may be asking too much.

But doing something once a week -- that sounds reasonable.  So my proposal is this:  at least one new blog post a week for 52 weeks (all year long).  The rules are these:
  • It must be something new (no recycling of old material or simply reposting links to old things)
  • It must be at least once a week; it's very possible that I will post multiple times a week, but that doesn't mean I'll be "off the hook" for the following weeks.
  • I'm still of two minds regarding Blogger's "schedule" ability; I can schedule posts to be published in the future.  Will those scheduled pieces "count" for the week in which they are published?  Or do I still have to do something?  Some things are time sensitive, some need to be on certain dates.  Like I said, I'm of two minds about this (feel free to give your opinion in the comments).
Wish me luck!

We are burdened with glorious purpose and words.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn't, the Mummy That Was, and the Cat in the Jar (Book Review)

The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn't, the Mummy That Was, and the Cat in the JarThe Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn't, the Mummy That Was, and the Cat in the Jar by Gail Carriger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was delighted to find this little gem from the Parasol Protectorate universe, especially for only ninety-nine cents! It is a quick read (and satisfies the "a book you read in a day" requirement for my 2016 challenge). Even in this short story, Carriger maintains her kid-glove grip on the "free and indirect discourse" style initiated by Jane Austen; her use of language and tone is always spot-on for the time period.

That being said, I was a little surprised at how violent and, well, douche-y Alessandro Tarabotti is. Perhaps it's been too long since I read all of the original Parasol Protectorate, but his (spoiler; click here to read review in its entirety)  Granted, we know very little about Alexia's father until her trip to Egypt -- like I said, it's been too long since I've read that book.

Carriger's blog says this story takes place approximately ten years before The Finishing School series, and it also ties in nicely with the first of Prudence's books, too.
And extra points to Carriger for longest short story title :-)

View all my reviews

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (A Review)


Did you watch "The Abominable Bride" when it premiered on January 2nd?  Leonard did!  GAAAAAHH!  We don't have "regular TV" of any kind (not even PBS), so I had to settle for the live-streaming PBS promised.  Apparently, so did millions of other viewers as I was plagued with network errors, especially in the very beginning to I missed the set-up of why we were in Victorian London.  However, before we go any further...

Spoilers Below!

Thank God for dear friends who are also watching live and have no problem texting you answers to your questions for things you missed!  And who also offer hilarious commentary via text.  Liz and John told me that our set-up to Victorian London was simply a "alternatively" tagline, and then ta-da!  There we are.  That is a little disappointing.  I want a reason for being there, besides the obvious fun of dressing up and putting the show back in its original era.
But don't worry.  Leonard did, eventually, get a reason, a very good reason.

If you've not yet watched the episode, it's airing again on Sunday, January 10th -- and for the last time, here come spoilers!

As Liz said, "It's so meta!"  And that's about the best word I can use to describe Moffat's twisting, turning, there and back again, past-present-future Christmas special.  There is a reason for the Victorian twist, more than just cosplaying fun.  There are layers, people!  Dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream layers (see also, "Last Christmas," the Doctor Who Series 8 Christmas special, also written by -- surprise, surprise -- Steven Moffat).  Layers, like an onion.

I can't explain it better than that.  Like some fiction, it simply is; if you try to look past that initial feeling you get, the first mind-blowing, ohmygoditallmakessensebutmybrainstillhurts sensation, it crumbles.  Any textual or rhetorical analysis has to tread carefully (like when dealing with magical realism), or the whole thing shatters under the pressure.

When alternative-reality-Mycroft ("Holy shit, Gatiss!  Way to throw your dignity into the creative furnace of accuracy," says Liz) says, "an invisible army, always at our elbow," I knew.
I knew exactly who/what he meant.  I didn't know how it was going to take shape or all the details, but I knew.

I knew thanks to James Triptree, Jr.'s short story "The Screwfly Solution" -- rather, the radio play adaptation I was in back in October.  Mycroft's lines sounded nearly verbatim from that script:
"The Devil has walked beside us this whole time.  The Devil cooks in our kitchens.  The Devil sleeps in our beds.  The Devil watches over our children!"
No?  Well, perhaps the phrase "the Angel in the House" rings a bell?  It is the Victorian ideal that the wife is always there, silent and subservient, attending her husband's needs cheerfully and quietly.  And in "The Abominable Bride," those quiet, submissive women strike back.

Moffat has often been accused of being sexist in his writing, particularly where Doctor Who is concerned (hello, 50+ years of having white straight men [usually over 40] being in charge!).  For me, the reveal of the "invisible army" that Mycroft mentions feels like a partial apology from Moffat, or at least an acknowledgement of his sexist shortcomings in his previous writings:
"I get it.  Women are important, too.  I'm sorry they're always playing secondary roles to a whole bunch of straight white men.  I'm trying to improve!  Will you help me?  Here are some suffragettes as an offering."

Do I think Moffat will improve/suddenly become less sexist?  Probably not.  Did I enjoy the costume-porn-time-traveling-suffragette-twist of "The Abominable Bride"?  Abso-fucking-lutely.  I will try to watch the episode again during its encore airing because I feel like I'm missing some of my original analytical thoughts here; although, my initial reaction to the whole episode was simply, "ALL THE FEELINGS!"

Grumpy Cat lies.  Of course we did!

Please Note:  Leonard has not once, ever, read any of the original Sherlock Holmes stories.  Worst. English teacher. EVER.

Another Year, Another Failure

Subtitle:  Stop Judging Me, Goodreads!!!

I failed my reading challenge again.  I even said I was "only" going to read 25 books this time around -- super easy, right?  Wrong (apparently).  I was seven books shy of my goal.

This year, instead of going for quantity, I think I'll go for type of books, as indicated by this list:

I found this list on Facebook, via at least two other friends.  And it's "only" twelve books.  I think this will work.  Maybe.  Some books may satisfy more than one requirement (a book that I've previously abandoned was probably both published before I was born and something I should have read [or finished] in school).

By the way, if you are a Goodreads user (Leonard is), what do you do with books you didn't finish, but you definitely stopped reading?  Because you didn't really "finish" them (especially in terms of a reading goal), but you can no longer waste your time on their insipid prose.  What then?  Just curious.  Leonard tried starting a shelf called "dead files" for them, but they are still listed on one of Goodreads' main shelves (read, to read, currently reading) that users cannot get rid of.  Please leave your answer/suggestion in the comments.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Review: Ant-Man (Updated)

Leonard has finally seen Ant-Man!  Woohoo!  I'm not sure the spoiler warning is entirely necessary as my Unit and I were probably the last two people to see the film for the first time, but here it is nonetheless:

Spoilers Below!

I'll start off by saying that I did very much enjoy it.  I had heard some differing opinions after it first came out, so my only expectations were to be entertained by more Marvel goodness, and the movie did that.  It is definitely more of a comedy than some of the more recent Marvel films.  The Avengers universe has been getting fairly dark lately, with bits of comedy and funny lines tossed in; Ant-Man is comedy and funny lines with semi-dark bits tossed in.

My Unit and I both agreed that we like Paul Rudd as an actor.  He's funny, and his "boyish charm," as they call it, works well for this particular kind of comedy.
My Unit:  "I like him.  He's a good actor."
Me:  "Me, too.  He's very 
likable on screen."
Her:  "Which means he's probably a huge asshole in real life."
After seeing the movie on opening weekend, a friend of mine commented on the dialogue.  She said it was pretty cheesy and at times she couldn't believe someone was paid to write it. I kept an ear out for that, and there was only one bit of dialogue that rang false when it happened.  It was during the scene with Hope and Scott in the car, and he's explaining to her why her dad (Dr. Pym) won't let her do this job (more on that bit in a moment).  When Rudd says, "I'm expendable," it just sounded flat and fake to my ears.  I'm not sure if that's a dialogue issue or an acting issue, but those handful of lines did not ring true.

Speaking of the car scene:  I saw it coming -- this is the "dramatic moment" where we convince you we're right, your dad is right, that a person has to fight for the right thing to do, yadda yadda yadda.  You know these scenes; they happen in every superhero movie (and sometimes in Ocean's 11).  While I'll admit I wasn't expecting the "I'm expendable" bit (I was only expecting Scott to tell her why her dad wouldn't let her go, not why it's okay for him to go instead; there's a difference), the whole scene felt a bit drawn-out, as in:
Your dad isn't letting you go on this mission because he already lost your mother; he can't lose you, too, Hope!!!  Are you new here?!?  This has been implied since the first flashback scene in 1989 where we heavily airbrushed your dad!!!

I was surprised that it took over half of the movie for someone to say this out loud because it was subtext (and barely "sub") in almost every fucking scene.  C'mon, Hope!  Get it together!

The movie also reinforced Leonard's creepy talent for saying lines (verbatim) before they're said on screen in things we have never ever seen before.  Either the writing is just that predictable, or Leonard is just that creepy and clairvoyant -- probably some combination thereof (see also True Lies, Prison Break, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Bones, and Lewis Black's stand-up).

Edited to Add:  Oh my God, I can't believe I forgot this part in the original review!  Ant-Man reinforces Leonard's theory that if a character is bald, they must be evil.  Laugh if you will, but check out:

  • Captain America:  The First Avenger
  • Iron Man  
  • Iron Man 2
  • Daredevil
  • Superman
  • Avengers:  Age of Ultron
  • The Harry Potter series
That, of course, does not mean that all villains are bald (helloooo, Loki!).  But if you are bald, you have a 70-90% chance of being evil, unless your name is Jean-Luc Picard.

The other piece of criticism comes from my very astute Unit.  When Scott and the Pyms realize they have to "expand their team" and their bring in Scott's criminal friends (who are, admittedly, kinda funny), my Unit says, "I'm kind of uncomfortable with the racist stereotypes they're portraying here."  And she's right.  The criminals without Master's degrees in Electrical Engineering are our only non-white named characters:  a black who is the get away car driver, a Hispanic guy with a van that plays "La Cucaracha," and a vaguely Eastern European guy with a thick accent who believes in gypsies.

Wow.  When you type it out like that, it's kind of disgusting -- not to mention the fact that all three are used for comic relief.  And while I know actual individuals with the same senses of humor and speech patterns of these three characters (minus the criminal element), it's a pretty good (read: "horrible") example of continued racism in Hollywood.

With all that being said, will I still purchase the DVD?  Yes, I will.  Will I continue to watch it and laugh at the funny stuff?  Yes, I will.  Am I a horrible human being?  Sometimes.  Depends on the day.

Just remember:  Baskin Robbins always finds out.

Friday, January 1, 2016

First Rant of 2016

I can honestly say that I've never thought to myself, Now would be a good time to load this piece of weaponry and shoot it randomly in celebration.  Granted, I'm not a fan of guns to begin with, but WTF, people?!?  For starters, it's a waste of ammo.

So many effin' gunshots last night, so very close to Leonard's house.  As a friend mentioned, who remembers the old PSA's "What goes up must come down.  Think before you shoot"?
I remember the first time I read one of those billboards in this city.  I was so confused.  I thought maybe it was a joke that I wasn't getting.  People really need to be told that?  People really shoot their guns at New Year's Eve?

And Leonard grew up in the Midwest, people!  Often, out in the "country," and still no random gunshots to "celebrate" things.

Leonard does not understand it, and it just adds to the idea that most gun-owners are morons who shouldn't be out and about, let alone with weapons.  But hey, now we have a pretty good idea who is armed on this block.

Image courtesy of TIME Magazine, 2011