cap kneeling

Bagels, Work, and Weeping to Congresscritters....

 OMG.  So, this is an activism first. I ended up breaking down into tears while calling my state House Representative Erin Murphy.  There's a bill that was introduced to the MN State Legislature, HF1183, which, if passed, would allow health insurance companies to deny health services related to gender transition to trans folk.  I was doing pretty well on the answering machine until I got to why this is important to me.  This is LITERALLY what the friend of a friend killed herself over--a fear that something like this would come to pass and she could no longer get access to the things that are critical to her life.  Two of my other friends have considered (and attempted) suicide over the same thing.

So, I started balling.

I'm sure Erin Murphy's office will remember the call.

I was lazy with my Project 1491 project. I was supposed to call Senator Franken (who is, of course, on the committee that hears this) about S.J. Resolution 13, which, if passed, with give states the authority to defund Title X programs, which is just the Republican hating on Planned Parenthood some more. I wrote him a postcard on my fancy new post cards that I purchased just for this reason. (Bummer? The card is shiny and slick on BOTH SIDES, which actually made it really hard to write a letter that didn't look like it came from a crazy person.)

Otherwise, I put in 4 hours at Shoreview. Today was labor intensive... but I survived because of our usual Tuesday bagel.

I just finished reading LUMBERJANES Vols. 1 -5, because the library had them.  I will probably write a review here in the next couple of days.  Generally though, I enjoyed them.  Good clean fun, as grandma used to say.  Today I checked out a couple of books about Montana because Mason would really like to plan a summer road trip there.


cap

Door knocking in North Branch for

A friend and I drove up to North Branch today to door knock to get out the vote for Laurie Warner, who is running in a special election (Feb. 14, Valentines Day) for MN House seat 32B. We all met at the candidate's house, listened to a few speeches and were handed a clipboard with a map and a list of registered Democratic voters.  At this point, we really weren't expected to try to change minds or convince voters to do anything more than show up on Valentine's Day to vote.

Democracy is cold, tiring work.

We probably had about forty houses on our list.  We knocked on all the doors, left literature at most, and maybe talked to a half dozen people?  The responses ranged from "Yay, Laurie!" to vaguely annoyed people who used their barking dogs as an excuse to take the literature and shoo us off.  No one was openly hostile, however.  Face it, even *I* don't like it when strangers show up at my door--especially when one of them is holding a clipboard.  So, I feel it went as well as expected.

I was very glad we weren't knocking on every door, only ones already left leaning.  The whole thing was a huge flashback to the weeks or so that I worked at various "activist" jobs: Clean Water Action Project and ACORN (both jobs I quit very quickly because I HATED the work. It was all the hassle of door knocking and phone banking PLUS having to ask for money.) On the other hand it was also the sort of thing I grew up watching my parents doing... so the circle is unbroken.

At least the weather was fairly decent and this was yet another one of those things that makes me feel less anxious.
more renji art

2017 Minnesota Writers Workshop

 Today was the 2017 Minnesota Writing Workshop. I was a guest critiquer, which meant that I got about 10 pages of a manuscript to read and review ahead of time and 10 minute slots in which to give the good news/bad news to the submitters.  It was a very... intensive process, even though I only had three.  (Four writers had submitted, but one decided not to show/couldn't make it for whatever reason.)  All of my critiquees left with a smile.

Long ago--actually it was my first Loft class, one I took, no less, that's how long ago--I learned something important about critique.  No matter how far along you are in your career, it's more... palatable to hear about the things you did right, that excited or thrilled the reader FIRST. After you get a little praise, then it's a lot easier to open your ears and really listen to what didn't work, where you need improvement, the GLARING HORRIFIC PLOT HOLES, etc.  So all the people who got critiques from me heard how much I liked the sassy heroine's witty repartee or the depth of their world building, etc., before I doled out the bad news.  One person was so happy with my critique that her mom sought me out afterwards to give me a giant bear hug.

:-)

I found out later that wasn't really the typical tone.  I poked my head into a workshop called "First Pages," where the first pages of anonymous contributors (presumably at the conference?) were read aloud and given an on-the-fly, off-the-cuff critique by a panel of about seven agents/editors (who also had a paper copy in front of them). My friends.... it was brutal. I don't think I would've submitted the first page of my published novels to this group! It was like "American Idol" only more vicious!  To be fair, I think it was all accurate and excellent advice.  I don't think people were being mean for sport or gratuitously.  But, it definitely was hard core.  No one was pulling punches.  

Writing is a tough business, no doubt. If you can't handle blunt, albeit constructive criticism then, yeah, maybe this business isn't for you.  BUT... I tend to try to be more sensitive.  I believe in honest critique, but I have made my writers' group stick with the strengths first model because I really believe it works to... well, not soften the blow, but to be more receptive to it.  The point of critique is to really listen and try to honestly consider what's not working in your piece, right? 

But, some people like the other method. For them, it feels more 'honest' if you go for the jugular right out of the gate (just to mix my metaphors.) In fact, at lunch, when I was talking to the other agents and editors who were doing critiques and hearing pitches, they were saying that a lot of people were saying to them, "No, I want you to hurt me."  

Indeed, one of the critiquees that I was the most kind to told me that she had come prepared to listen hard and take copious notes. She'd steeled herself for the "this is going to take a lot of work" speech.  I was like, "Nah, girl, you're good. Send it out." (Hence the hug.)

The conference was in the Riverfront hotel in downtown Saint Paul which was a nice venue. There was a nice lounge area in the middle of everything for hanging out and recharging phones.  It was much smaller than I expected. I think because of the number of writers I know, I assumed it would be packed. But, I think it was fairly expensive. I only saw one local author I knew (probably most people were out at one of the three big protests today--there was a rally in support of Planned Parenthood, a #BlackLivesMatters march, and Caravan of Love - marching in support of immigrants and refugees.) I told all my critiquees that, if they lived near here, they should really be attending local science fiction conventions. I also plugged the heck out of WisCON's writers' workshop too.  Hopefully, we will see a few fresh faces at various cons.

A good day.

The other funny thing about the workshop was the fact that in pretty much all of their correspondence to presenters they mentioned "there is no coffee available on site!" I took this dire warning very seriously and stopped at Claddaugh's Wee Shop on the way in. Undercaffinated critiquing seemed like a really, really bad idea.

Oh, yes! The other nice thing that happened is that I reconnected with a former student of mine who has gone on to co-found a publishing company called  Wise Ink.  We made a date to get together for coffee. So, that's cool.

me

Aggressive Self-Care Day

 The revolution will long and hard, my comrades, so I have followed the advice of every columnist out there and have chosen Thursday as my "Aggressive Self-Care Day."

What this means is that, for the most part, I try to stay away from political news.  I say "for the most part," because it's fairly impossible to miss all of it and I don't actively stop listening to the radio shows that give me comfort like "The Stephanie Miller Show" (because humorous) and "Democracy Now" (because solid, steady.)  Both of those are highly political, but neither of them TEND to stress me out.  What tends to stress me out is the all-caps frenzy of social media.  

Basically, I take a day where I stay away from Twitter and Facebook, and where I actively consider doing things that refresh me: reading, writing, drawing, practicing Japanese, and watching shows. Downtime things.  The fun downtime thing I've been enjoying lately is watching "Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories" on Netflix.  

Do you ever have things that get recommended to you on various venues? "Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories" was one of those things for me.  Sometimes, it works out badly (see my review of Tokyo Ghoul on MangaKast,) but this time I've been really enjoying That Thing That Got Rec'd a Bunch. As I told another friend, the simple, sweet stories are a perfect antidote for this political climate.  The only drawback? Every episode makes me hungry. Basically, the set up is that somewhere in Tokyo there's a small, one-man show diner that opens at midnight and stays open until 7 am.  Our proprietor has a simple menu, but he'll make anything his customers request, so long as he has the ingredients for it. Each episode is named for a customer's custom order and the food, in some way, features in the story.  As I say above, the stories are simple and mostly end happily... certainly with the promise of happiness. Then in a typically Japanese way, there's a weird, short omake at the end where everyone kind of breaks character/doesn't quite break character and silliness (and probably puns I don't understand) ensue.  The episodes are anime length--about 30 minutes each.  PERFECT for washing dishes.

Also there are several food ordering, food related vocabulary words that come up a lot, so I can pretend I'm also practicing Japanese while watching.  

Today, I was supposed to be at Shoreview again, but Mason woke up with a stomach flu type thing. I bailed in favor of taking care of him.

How's you?
ichimaru gin

Faith: Vol. 1 "Hollywood and Vine" Houser/Portela/Savauge

 It's been a long time since I reviewed a comic book here.  But, when I was working at Shoreview today, I saw that they had the first collected volume of FAITH.

(Light spoilers. Not below a cut, because none of the spoilers touch on the plot of the novel much at all.)

Don't know if the picture thing is going to work, so I will describe the cover: Faith is a plus-sized white woman with blond hair. She's featured on the cover sitting on a telephone wire surrounded by confused-looking pigeons while she types something on her thinly-disguised Mac Book (the actual Apple logo is not there, but there's a perfectly round bit of light where it should be). She is dressed in a white outfit with a flowing train. Her cheerful face is illuminated by the blue computer light in the twilight. Her name, Faith, is in bright yellow almost comic sans font.  The comic is produced by the independent publisher, Valiant.


faith comic book cover


What I like about Faith is not her size.  It is refreshing to see a woman of substance doing the superhero-ing for once. It's even more refreshing that there's not a single lick of fat-shaming to be found in the title.  The worst that happens in that vein is that Faith's ex's new girlfriend mutters, "You sure traded up."

What I ended up liking about FAITH, though, is that it starts to struggle with real-world issues of being a hero.  As any of you who have read this blog for any amount of time (or who have heard me speak on comic book/graphic novel-related comic books) knows, I'm a big fan of this kind of thing.

I really like it when the concept of hero-ing is taken seriously.

In the second issue of FAITH, we see this dealt with in terms of collateral damage.  Faith has gone to investigate a missing person report and the bad guy minion she encounters in the abandoned house has rigged the place to explode. Faith is protected because she has a kind of telekinetic shield, but the houses on either side of the abandoned house ALSO CATCH FIRE.  I can't say you never see this sort of thing in comics because the Marvel Universe (both in the comic books and the MCU) have been very cognizant of the idea that superheroes are actually fairly hazardous to civilians, but I never get tired of seeing writers taking on this particular issue. Francis Portela does a great job showing the pain on Faith's faith in the aftermath.  Generally, I should say that as much as I like Jody Houser's writing, it is very much highlighted by Portela's art style.  (There also also funny imagined/day-dreamed asides/omake drawn by Marguerite Sauvage that were in a very distinct style that I also liked a lot.)

Also, FAITH fits a new trend in female comic lead characters. Like Kamala Khan, Faith is a fangirl.  The dialogue is chock full of geek insider references. Faith even swears in "Firefly" Chinese, at one point. As a day job, Faith works for some kind of web content place, like io9 or Mental Floss (though with a more celebrity gossip bent, since this takes place in LA). Her colleagues are all pop culture nerds, and they have no idea she's a superhero in disguise.  Did I like this or did it feel like it was trying too hard to appeal to the base?  I'm not sure.  Goodness knows, I appreciate any fan fic references.

The other issue FAITH addresses is the extent to which having a secret identity is socially isolating.  I'm not sure how often that idea has been touched on before, but I found it very compelling here.

The last thing to know is that Zephyr/Faith has a history as a Valiant superhero.  I'm not a big Valiant reader so I have to trust Wikipedia on this one, but apparently she was part of a superhero group (referenced in this reboot).  Apparently, she was a walking fat joke (she was known as Zeppelin--she's dressed all in white and can fly) in a group called Harbingers (or maybe that was the title and her team was the Renegades?) At any rate, some of that bleeds through into this issue, but I can attest from experience (or perhaps LACK of experience) that it's not necessary to have read any of her previous appearances to appreciate this reboot.

I give is 3.5 out of 5 stars.  My hesitations mostly hinge on the fact that I'm not sure I really needed all the nerd-sassy references, and that some of the issues touched on could have gone deeper, IMHO.
more renji art

Dialing for Democracy

So today's calls were much more successful.  Project 1490 alerted their subscribers about a specific bill that was introduced to the Senate (S.291) which is intended to strengthen oversight of the National Security Act. Basically, it's a 'kick Bannon off the NSC table' bill.  I called Betty McCullum's office first and talked to a wonderful young staffer who let me know that McCullum was actually a co-signer on a similar bill (HR.804) for the House. So, go Minnesota!  (I actually checked the cosponsors of S.291 because I thought Franken might have been listed.)  I was able to get through to a human at Klobuchar's DC office and he told me that Klobuchar has not yet made a statement about S.291 (of course she hasn't, the wanny-woo.)  Fanken's office was still swamped, but I was able to leave a message.  

Yesterday, I wrote personalized emails to my Senators about the Session's appointment to Attorney General (I've called them already about Sessions when he was first nominated--probably more than once. I did call Franken's office to thank him for taking part in #HoldtheFloor over DeVos and let him know I was watching and supporting--I managed not to tell him 'I love you' but it was pretty close!).  Alas, we all know how well the Sessions thing going, what with the silencing of Sen. Elizabeth Warren.  

And, of course, yesterday, DeVos was confirmed by an historic tie-breaking vote. I'm devastated by what she will mean to our country's public education system, but I'm heartened to see all the Democrats holding the line, for once.  I keep telling Klobuchar that this is what's required of her. She really ought to step up and lead some of these charges, but, at the very least, pledge to stand with her Democratic colleges.  I don't have a lot of faith in her, however.  I did listen to her speech against DeVos while the Dem's were holding the floor, so she did her part, at least I did note the tone of surprise when she was called to the podium.  There was this uptick whoever was announcing, like, "the senior senator from... Minnesota????" like they were shocked she showed up or something.

It's sometimes hard to believe that Franken is the junior senator. He seems to be on a lot more critical committees.  

I'm headed to North Branch to door knock to get out the vote for Laurie Warner on Sunday.  Talk about on the ground democracy.... It's going to be a busy weekend for me, since I have an all-day writers' conference on Saturday.  But, the resistance never rests.
cap stamp

Literally Live-Streaming #HoldTheFloor

Tonight the Senate Democrats are holding the Senate floor for 24-hours as a last-ditch effort against the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education.  I'm literally sitting here listening to the live-stream.

I read a short piece in the Washington Post that suggests that all this does is show how weak the Democrats are to stop this (or any) nomination. I object to the idea that it matters that they win.

Democrats are doing two things that I have wanted from Democrats for a long, long time. 1) STANDING TOGETHER and 2) Fighting out loud and in public forum.

As I have been saying in all of my messages to Franken and Klobuchar, this is literally the most risk-free thing they can do. Voters know that the cards are stacked against Democrats. We know they don't have the majority needed to stop anything.  Standing up and speaking out is risk-free right now. This is the time to show us who you are. Show us how strong you are on the issues and values.  It's literally the easiest time to be a radical as you are comfortable being, because no matter what you do, you are just standing there saying "No" while they steamroll their crap through.

That's kind of all that the constituency wants. To know you're trying to stand, trying to fight. Yes, of course, we want to win, but sometimes it's important just to have TRIED TO FIGHT evil.

What I'm learning listening to this is that not every senator is a firebrand public speaker, but they are ALL quoting numbers of calls and/or reading actual letters received.  it really does seem that the Dems got the message that we want to see this kind of action.  This is GOOD.  Even if they can't win.  Despite what the Post thinks, this alone *is* a win.

So, in other life news, I work three days this week, starting tomorrow.  I'll be working Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday all at Shoreview, all during the day.  My boss really wanted me to work tonight, too.  I begged off, though, because I was anxiously working on my critiques for the 2017 Minnesota Writing Workshop (you have to scroll all the way down to see the critiquers.) I managed to get those done, so I feel pretty good.  I'm all set now for my part in the workshop this Saturday.  Yay!

It's a busy work week for me, but money is a good thing, especially since we're going to need a new used car sooner rather than later.  *sigh*

If you don't hear from me, though, it's because I'm spending my daylight hours at the day job--you know, like most people out there. ;-)
more renji art

Good Will Fabric Run

 Shawn has been low on fabric for her rugs, so we did a Good Will fabric run today. We live very close to the Good Will outlet, so we drove over there and hunted through the bins. The outlet is kind of neat in that the stuff that's out in only minimally processed. Shoes, shirts, luggage, swimsuits... all the clothes stuff is all together.  Plates and household stuff in other bins.  Whatever you find? Is paid for by the POUND.  I can't remember how much per pound, but we filled a shopping cart with fabric and paid sixty bucks.

I am attempting another photograph.  In case this one does not show up, it is a pile of clothes and our curious cat, Buttercup, sniffing around the edges.
good will haul
 

Otherwise today has been fairly low-key.  I just finished making a batch of chocolate chip cookies for Mason to take over to Rosemary's house tonight.  This morning I got up bright and early and met my friend Michaela for coffee and to practice Japanese calligraphy.  That was nice. Michaela is someone I don't know terribly well. I mostly know her wife, Anna, from conventions. (If you've ever seen me in my shinigami cosplay, the uniform is actually Anna's. I borrowed it YEARS ago and have never managed to get it back to her.) Anyway, yay for spending time with new-ish people and doing art-type things.

With Mason out of the house tonight, Shawn is insisting on her favorite dinner: homemade pizza.  Mason, who would like to have my chicken curry in a hurry EVERY NIGHT, has explained that he is officially sick of my homemade pizza.  I'm just glad that I'm a sufficiently competent cook that both members of my family have favorite meals I can make them with ease.  

This is the thing. I've had some clashes with friends/family of mine about vegetarianism. I tend to get really mad when half-way through a meal I discover that I've made something they can't eat.  People always assume I'm grouchy because I have something against vegetarianism or vegans of vegetarians themselves.  I don't.  What gives me the greatest pleasure as a host is seeing people so enjoying a meal that they stuff their faces and beg for more. To me, that's success.  When someone is left out or is unhappy because the meal excludes them in some way, I'm cranky.  I want everyone to be full and happy, you know?  Rosemary has decided to be vegetarian. I don't know the extent to which she's "out" at home, but I've been desperately trying to accommodate her when she eats over her.  Only, it turns out that she hates all meat substitutes.  Of course, I find this out by failing her.  And, I know it's tough to offer suggestions to the host when you're only thirteen, but... ugh.  

ANYway.

This weekend has been low political action for me.  Mason and I were scheduled to attend a protest on Friday night at the airport, but we decided last minute not to go.  I might have nudged him, but I've been in need of an aggressive self-care day.  I pretty much avoided the news (except a little from social media about the "Bowling Green Massacre.")  So, it was absolutely fine with me to keep on with the day's theme and just leave the revolution to someone else for the day.  It's far from over, so I am conserving my strength for the long fight.  

cap on the move

No More Dementors

 Yesterday, I had to work.  For the entire month of February, actually, I'll be working fairly regularly at the Shoreview branch of the Ramsey County Library.  Shoreview just had a huge remodel, which is good in a lot of ways. The old place... well, I think I wrote about it here before.  I used to actively avoid working there, because once I was call to the carpet for "having too much fun." Seriously. I was told to stop enjoying myself--(I was listening to music and dancing a little in the stacks.)  I mean, maybe it was distracting because I'M JUST THAT AWESOME, but, seriously, I felt like the joy was sucked out of me.

After that, I decided that that particular branch was haunted by Dementors.  Any time my boss called to ask me to work there, I had to wash my hair or pretty anyTHING else.

But the new building has a lot of windows and sunshine and that has seemed to, so far, kept the Dementors at bay.

It helps, too, that there's a new person in charge.  No more Umbridge.  (The previous branch head had a very shrill 'no problem' that had a passive-agressive subtext : "YOU SCREWED UP!" She didn't exactly have the pink kitten sweaters, but she did have that sweet smile that was totally hiding pointed teeth, if you know what I mean.)  So, I think I should be fine.  I'm a little bummed because the schedule I agreed to interfere with some of my favorite socializing, but mama needs a new pair of shoes, as we say around here.  We're going to need a new car sooner rather than later and so we need to put some money in the bank so that can happen BEFORE the emergency break-down.

I also ran into David Lenander, which was a nice surprise.  I think that David makes about four fandom-friends that I've run into at various library jobs.  In some ways, I'm surprised I don't see more.  Then, again, my hours and locations are very random and sparse, so maybe it's more impressive than it seems.

This morning I called my Senators.... again.  Lines were swamped, but I was able to leave a message with Franken's office... and went off-script to enthuse to him about how happy I am to see him being fierce. I accidentally signed off with "Love ya!" Oops. On the other hand, my goofy message probably more enjoyable than whatever hate mail he might be getting.

Klobuchar was nothing but a busy signal, so I sent a fax. (As I was telling a friend, I kind of adore how quickly people are coming up with work-arounds to Republicans turning off their phones and/or busy signals. I'm not accusing Klobuchar of blocking calls--she is a Democrat after all--but it's still a good solution when I can't get through.) The nice thing about that was that there was no way to go off-script and I was able to remind her that it doesn't matter if we win. It's not about winning any more, it's about being seen STANDING UP.

Though it was funny. While I was composing the letter, I literally forgot the actual format of a written business letter. I had to look it up!  And, I'm old enough to remember actually taking CLASSES in how to compose business letters!!

Sheesh.

Meanwhile, right now, Shawn is testifying in front of a congressional committee..... in the Minnesota Senate.  And, technically, she's just giving a committee information about how government records are managed by the state archives, but when she left for work this morning she was nervous, to say the least.  I listened to her speech (twice) last night, and I'm sure she'll do great.

I had plans to attend an airport protest on Friday, but I don't know if that's still on now that our attorney general has joined in declaring a stay on deportations, etc. I suspect people will still go. I mean, the Dump and his minions will keep pushing.  Like I told Klobuchar, it's our duty to keep pushing back.

No more Dementors.
cap kneeling

First Protest of the Day

First, I'm trying something new with the photos. This one is embedded. Hopefully, it will show up as a Facebook photo.  (Edited to add: nope, that just showed up as a big empty space for me.  I'm going to try another way.)

If you can't see it, I'll explain it. There were probably 50-80 of us outside of Senator Amy Klobuchar's state office today. Which, given that this protest was at noon on a Tuesday, I think we did pretty well. Apparently, this particular group does something every Tuesday.  Last week, as well as this one, the plan was also to take a group inside at around 12:30 to meet with a senior staffer of Senator Kloubchar's.  The organizer told the crowd today that they felt that the meeting was particularly effective.  They were able to get answers about Kloubchar's vote on Pompeo. Not, good ones, mind you, but questions were answers and objections to her response were voiced. Everything I've read makes it sound as though these kinds of in-person meetings are the number one, very best way to light a fire under your representatives.  So, even though I didn't sign up to do that this time, I'm glad to have been part of a group that the organizers could point to and say, "all these people want answers."


The funniest thing that happened while we were doing our usual chanting and sign-waving thing was that some Trump-supporting yahoo yelled out his window for all of us to "Get a job!"  I turned to one of my fellow protestors, many of whom had clearly been doing this sort of thing since the 60s, and said, "He forgot to say 'get a haircut.'"

I was also really torn about what a person should yell back. I mean, some of the people were clearly retirees, who maybe didn't have a job.  There were students, though, too.  This was also planned for the lunch hour on purpose.  Then there's me, who, in point of fact, has three jobs--all of them super part-time (teaching at the Loft, working at the library, and writing/other freelancing/book reviewing.)  But no one was organized enough to shout back, we just alternatively gave the guy the finger or a peace sign.

I ended up leaving after only about a half hour because my hands got cold.  I had originally thought that the plan was to occupy her office, indoors, so I was not quite dressed warmly enough.  The weather is really changeable today, anyway. I was almost hot when I went out earlier to Menard's to get kitty litter and then, at the protest, the sun went behind the clouds again and the wind picked up.  Tonight, when Mason and I go off to the Anti-Ban protest, I'll have to be sure to have scarves and mittens and hats in case it stays chilly.

Because some days are two protest days....

we the people

Sign says: "We, the people, are SPEAKING.... Listen!"