Friday, October 7, 2016

In Which I Rant Against Benevolent Patriarchy And Everyday Sexism

Warning: Rant Ahead. Do not read if you cannot handle feminism (i.e. the belief that women are people too).
Right now, I'm not disgusted with Trump after the leak of this video clip wherein he talks about married women as objects. After all, why is that really so much worse than all the rest of his talk about women? I think we all know what he thinks of women.
No, what's angering me right now is all these self-righteous men who've suddenly declared Trump over the line because of his comments about married women. Apparently, to them it was OK when he called other women bimbos and fatties and various other words that I think I won't type just now.
Get this tweet:

Mitt Romney Verified account
Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America's face to the world.

So lovely Mr. Morality Mittens is shocked... shocked! at Trump. But notice that Mitt uses POSSESSIVE ADJECTIVES about women? "OUR wives and daughters." Obviously, he's talking to MEN in this tweet -- because it's the MEN who OWN these wives and daughters who should be shocked! Mittens Dearest doesn't actually acknowledge women in this tweet -- because they are objects and cannot feel.
Benevolent patriarchy is just as sickening as Trump's sexist remarks. I loathe Trump, but at least he admits he has no real respect for women; he's fairly up front about it. Mitt, however, clearly thinks he's on higher moral ground because he doesn't use "vile" words; he doesn't even realize that speaking about women as objects owned by men is sexist and repulsive.
Then there's wimpy Gov. Gary Herbert. He just tweeted that he is shocked... shocked!... by Trump. And he will not vote for him. But in the same tweet, he says he cannot vote for Hillary. Of course not. After all, she IS a woman! Gasp!
So, he'll vote for some libertarian wacko ... and the vote will help Trump. Disgusting. He can't bring himself to vote for the most qualified candidate we've had in ..... well, really EVER (who else has been a senator, Sec. of State, AND a President's wife to see the ups and downs of the office? NO ONE else who's ever run)... because she's a woman. Oh, and a Democrat. Her other sin.
Sexist crap.
I'd seriously rather listen to Trump's sick tape than listen to these hypocrites pretend they're better that Trump because they don't use ugly words against women, when if fact they are clearly putting themselves above women anyway.
End rant.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Sequel to Nerissa MacKay is ready for beta readers!

I just finished the last pre-beta reader edit of Nerissa MacKay and the Secrets of the Seventeen Scrolls!
As soon as I can make a decent cover (this is proving difficult; I've taken hundreds of pics, and I'm not happy with any of them), I'll have a proof made up and send it out to beta readers.

Here's the blurb for the back.  Comments/constructive criticism would be appreciated:

 Just hours after her discovery of an ancestor’s workshop, Nerissa sets the whole town on fire with gossip by using a refurbished automaton to announce some long-hidden secrets during opening weekend for her Auntie Jane’s Haunted Zoo.  When the automaton is stolen and the wife of the sheriff might know too much about the crime, Nerissa goes looking for justice on her own.

Keeping her dalliances with witchcraft to herself becomes harder when she must turn herself invisible more often.  Does Auntie Jane suspect anything?  And just how well can that strangely pale Eric see in the dark?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: My Thoughts As I Read It For the First Time

Before beginning: I can't wait!  After nine years, Rowling has given us MORE to the story, a part we never expected to get!
Oh wait. It says she didn't really write it; it's based on a STORY she wrote, so, probably one of those plot summaries she's been putting on pottermore.  Hmmm... That's not so exciting.
Also, is it "Curs├ęd Child" or "Cursed Child"?  No one seems to know.  I like the former better.
Act I:
First few scenes:
This is like a skimpy version of the epilogue of Deathly Hallows, only they're changing details.

Several scenes in:
What is it with Rowling at ages of characters?  Amos Diggory is an old man in a wheelchair?  Why?  Even if we assume he was 35 when Cedric was born, then add 18 years for Cedric's life and the 25 years since Cedric's death, that still only make s him 78.  Why is in he in a care center?  Why is he in a wheelchair?  He's not THAT old!  McGonagall's got to be pushing 90 -- at least!  And she's still teaching at Hogwarts!
This is like the whole "What happened to Harry's grandparents?" bit.  Both James and Lily were born in 1960 and had a child at age 20.  If their parents had them that young, then their parents should only be in their early 40s by the time James and Lily are killed in 1981, yet they are apparently ALL dead.  Even if their sets of parents were older -- let's say the parents were 35 when  they had kids -- that still means that all Harry's grandparents -- muggle and magical -- are only in their late 50s when he becomes an orphan.  Why are ALL of them dead so young?
And now Aunt Petunia has died.  Her age is never specified in the books, but she can't be more than a couple of years older than Lily, based on her naive reactions to Lily's abilities and her own jealousies.  So, if Petunia was born in 1958 and we've now got the Cursed Child script up to 2020 when her death is mentioned, then she's still only 62 at the time of her death.  Why so young?!

Still in Act I:
Wait.  Is Hermione the Minister of Magic?  Cool!  Or wait.  Maybe she isn't.  It's not very clear.

OK.  This is lame.  Some scripts are beautiful to read: Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde.  Some less so but still with great depth of character: Tennessee Williams.  This stuff, however, is like reading really bad fan fiction.  I've seen junior high kids who can write more engaging stuff than this.  It's positively sketchy, and there is ZERO characterization.
It's like a cartoon.  No wait.  I think Scooby Doo had more characterization going on than this script has.

The only reason for its existence is that everyone's desperate enough for more Harry that we're willing to stoop to this.  I certainly hope the actors are talented enough to bring life to this miserable script.

More to come........ (I WILL finish this!  I will!)

UPDATE: 8/14/16
I put off reading this because I was so disappointed, but I have now finished it.
It did get a bit better, but not much. It was like reading fan fiction.  And all the magic was dead.
I'm pretty sure I wish it had never been written.  Bleah.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


As the school where I have taught for the last 28 years prepared to be absorbed into the local high school, there was a great deal of moving, and we teachers stacked unwanted items into our Large Group Instruction Room (Note: if you're older than 35, it's what a multi-purpose room is now called.).  We were allowed to scavenge out anything we wanted before the rest was sent to the DI (Deseret Industries, the LDS thrift stores).   Mounds of books were there for the taking, and I took plenty!
Among the books were some from our teachers' library, and I grabbed a large pile of crime novels by Tony Hillerman.  With the help of the local public library's filling in the gaps for the novels missing in the stack, I've now read the nearly the first 10 in the series, so I've got a good feel for the recurring characters and the setting, as well as Hillerman's style.
Overall, it's a pretty good series -- obviously, or I wouldn't still be reading it ten books in and prepared to read the rest.  But Hillerman, in trying to make Navajos always the heroes, goes a little overboard with racial stereotyping of every non-Native American race.
Mostly, whites are stereotyped.  The white characters in the books are usually either portrayed as foolish for their wannabe Indian ways or else angry and unappreciative of the desert or of other cultures.  This is forgivable, I suppose, as the whole purpose of the series is to make readers more aware of Navajo life and culture, so I guess making whites the "Other" works.
But one of the main things of which Hillerman makes fun in nearly every book is that white folks can't tell one tribe from another, that "all Indians look the same."  (OK, fair enough.  I'm not sure I could tell a Cherokee from an Iroquois, but Navajos are usually pretty easy to spot.  One gets to be familiar with their genetic traits when one sees them around in Southern Utah enough.) He really pounds this theme.
This is why I found it hilarious that Hillerman totally and completely misses his own stereotyping -- probably actually racism at this point -- of Latinos in book 9, Talking God.
In the story, a middle-aged man has been murdered and his body has been left in the brush near a train track.  All identification has been removed from the body -- even his dentures have been taken -- so that the murderer cannot be traced through the victim.
Hillerman's two protagonists, Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, are both working on the crime from separate angles.  Leaphorn learns from the Amtrack people that among the victim's possessions recovered from the sleeping compartment of the train were a couple of books in Spanish.  He also learns that the Amtrack employee who gathered up the victim's things is a man named Perez, who speaks Spanish and apparently had some conversation with the victim at a point or two before his murder.
Leaphorn, desperate for clues as to the victim's identity, grills Perez for two pages about everything the victim said or had in his room.  (Note: this book was written in the 1980s.  Apparently, it was not normal for people to have their names on their train tickets or to reserve sleeping compartments at the time, because Hillerman never has Leaphorn ask about that.)
Now, Leaphorn supposedly speaks some Spanish (later in the book he manages some fairly complex sentences, including the irregular formal command tense of the verb "to come"), but  he speaks only English to Perez.
Now, here's the irony: Hillerman, who for 9 novels has made fun of whites who think all Indians are the same, clearly thinks all Latinos (he calls them "Hispanos") are the same.  At no point does Hillerman have Leaphorn ask Perez or Perez volunteer his opinions as to where the murder victim is from.  Hillerman seems completely unaware that a Spaniard doesn't speak like a Mexican who doesn't speak like an Argentine who doesn't speak like a Cuban who doesn't speak like a Chilean (which is, incidentally, what the victim turns out to be, whereas Perez is likely to be Mexican if he's from the West or Puerto Rican or Cuban if he's from the East; either way, he'd have been able to tell by the victim's speech alone that the man was from Chile or Venezuela and from his looks that he was unlikely to be Peruvian -- as the victim was quite tall).  But Hillerman, he who makes fun of "all Indians are the same" clearly has "all 'Hispanos' are the same" in his own belief system.

Friday, June 17, 2016

It's Really Not All That Hard, Folks.

In the wake of the tragedy in Orlando (49 people killed by a gunman in a gay night club), the internet has been swamped with people talking about how to explain to their kids that gay people were killed -- presumably because they were gay or friends of gays.  This has also led to more discussion about whether or not schools should mention the existence of LGBTQ folks to children.
My thoughts?
Look, it's really not that hard to explain to kids, folks.  Let me give you an example:

It's 1995 and a gay couple in my dance group, Bart and Thom (both white), have just adopted an infant girl, Eliza (black).  Although I have been around gay men in various dance groups for years at this point, I have never heard of gay marriage before and have had no clue that a gay couple would even want to adopt a child.  (I will learn much in the years that follow.)  Nevertheless, I like Bart very much and try to like his (understandably, in retrospect) rather defensive partner, Thom, and I wish them happiness -- even as I wrap my mind around a new concept.
It's their 3rd time bringing their new daughter (some 5 or 6 weeks old at this point) to rehearsal, and I happen to be standing nearby as Thom is picking up her things, preparing to leave, when the 7-year-old son of a straight, white, Mormon man in the group stares at baby Eliza and says, "Where's her mom?  How come she doesn't have one?"
Thom looks up and our eyes meet.  He and I have never been super-friendly at this point (we will get over this in the future), never allies -- as he has too much resentment for Mormons and the Church's intolerance of gays.  However, I see he's a panicked new dad; he has not yet figured out how to answer this awkward question in the 1995 world of intolerance.  There is a split second of silence between us, during which I realize that my experience as a teacher needs to override his right as a father -- just this once, until his feet are more firmly planted in the role.
"Oh, she has a mom," I say confidently.  "Everybody has a mom.  But Eliza's birth mom knew that she would not be able to take care of her, give her a safe home and a good education.  So when her birth mom found out that Bart and Thom wanted a baby to love, she was very happy to know that her little girl would be going to a good home."
Immense relief floods Thom's face.  "Exactly!" he says, smiling.  (I can tell he plans to use my explanation the next time a child asks him.)
"Oh," says the boy, and he runs off to do something else.  He is satisfied.  He has no problem with the baby's having two fathers.  He has no problem with her being a black child of white parents.  He has ABSOLUTELY NO ADULT HATE OR HANG UPS over the situation at all.  That's it.

More than 20 years later, it's easier, not harder, to explain this stuff to kids.  Not everybody has the same kind of family.  It's not that hard, folks.  Stop getting so worked up about it, and just tell kids the truth on a level that's right for their age.  The 7-year-old wasn't asking about gay sex; he just wanted to know where the mom of the baby was.  An 11-year-old would probably have more questions and need more explanation.
So, how do you explain to kids about the tragedy in Orlando?  Well, you tell them there are scary people in the world, people filled with hate of those who are different from themselves or different from what they think people should be like.  And sometimes these scary people set out to hurt and kill.  This time, gay people were the target.  Yes, it's scary.  And, yes, we do need to be careful.  But we don't need to hate; that will only make it worse.

Hiding stuff from kids will only make them suspicious and afraid.  Just tell them simply and truthfully, but not hatefully.

Oh, and just so you know, Bart and Thom are still together now.  They live in a different state, so I'm not sure if they're married or not, now that it's legal.  But they raised Eliza and Andy (adopted a year or so later) into great young adults.  Their family -- which worked just fine -- was the main reason I never picked up on the Mormon hatred of gay families.  By the time such stuff began to be preached in Church, I already knew that a gay family wasn't all that much different from any other family, and certainly was nothing to fear.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Gosh, Do You Think They Copied Each Other???

I have the tedious chore tonight of grading Shakespeare packets.  The front page of these packets on which my 9th graders were to have taken notes for a whole term contains a timeline of 10 major events in the Bard's life.  One of the dates is 1592, which is the date I gave them as when we're sure he'd made it to London, as he was already being discussed critically.  I said -- but did not write on the board -- that critic Robert Greene had at that time referred to him as "an upstart crow."
I'm guessing that one kid in my 3B English 9 core class must have misheard that and copied it down wrong -- and then allowed at least one person to copy from her/him.
At any rate, nearly half the packets from that class period have labeled the timeline at 1592 as "Shakespeare writes 1st play, 'The Upset Crow.'"
Obviously, we will have a mini-lesson on the next B-day about how misinformation gets spread.  (I really don't want them all telling people, "But Ms. Shafer SAID that was his first play!")

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Book Review: The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters

I really liked Cat Winters' The Cure For Dreaming, so when I saw that The Steep and Thorny Way was a re-telling of Hamlet, done by an author I liked, well, I just HAD to read it.
My thoughts: meh.
It's very, very loosely tied to Hamlet. Very loosely.  Like, we get the dead father's ghost coming back and a few characters who have resemblances to Shakespeare's characters only in the most lax sense.  (Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern -- aka Robbie and Gil-- are treacherous, Laertes -- Laurie -- is hot-tempered, Ophelia -- Fleur -- grows flowers to remind us of the insanity scene and gets picked on by her brother.  But Greta -- Gertrude -- and Clyde -- Claudius -- don't follow the original much except that they marry, and the Horatio character -- Joe -- is so far removed from Shakespeare that his only resemblance to Horatio is that he is a confidant for Hannalee, who is Hamlet, of course.)  And no one dies except Hannalee's dad Hank.
The story itself works except that Winters made it so didactic that its MESSAGE is shoved right into the reader's face over and over and over.
Look, I agree that racism and homophobia are bad things, and I fight against them daily as a school teacher (along with sexism, which completes the Unholy Trinity of current political conservatism).  But this story reads like a white woman's penance for her racist ancestors.  There is no subtlety about the MESSAGE, no chance for the reader to discover lessons from history, no enlightenment.  It reads like a Sunday School story (except that Sunday School stories, at least Mormon ones, do not show homophobia and racism as evils).
The MESSAGE is good, but the book is so very much MESSAGE that it ceases to be a story.  Perhaps if the story had had some subplots so that there was more to the book than just the MESSAGE, I would have liked it better.

In response to a negative comment about this review on Amazon, I added the following response:

Yes, I prefer good writing as a method for making one's point.
May I suggest to you works that allow the reader to discover the point instead of preaching it to them in an off-putting way?  For works that show in a masterful way the ugliness of racism, try Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Scott's Ivanhoe, and Shakespeare's Othello and The Merchant of Venice.  Oh, and if you want YA that shows ugly, hateful racism and its consequences, try the Harry Potter series.  Other works which allow the reader to discover very powerful messages include Poe's "Ligea," "The Cask of Amontillado," and "The Tell-Tale Heart" (showing that psychotic murderers aren't always obvious to other people), Hawthorne's "The Birth Mark" (showing that domestic abuse is horrifying and deadly) and "Young Goodman Brown" (showing how life-ruining hypocritical religiosity can be), and O. Henry's "A Retrieved Reformation" (showing that sometimes rules need to be bent a little).
Winters did much better at subtlety in The Cure For Dreaming.  I expected the same of her in this book, but I was disappointed.  Had she taken the time to write Thorny more skillfully, it might have been a powerfully moving book for teen readers.  As it is, it's preachy.  Teens are turned off when someone preaches to them.