"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Sunday, January 31, 2010

I had a really big thought

I wouldn't call the movie "Hook" one of my all-time favorites. I think it could have been a little shorter and less precious in that, famous-people-playing-dress-up way, but there's one scene that always sticks with me: Tinkerbell has a wish so big, it expands her from a tiny fairy to a full-grown woman (with wings).

It serves me as a metaphor for those times when I am considering an idea so deep and spiritual, so high and mighty, that I feel like an Amazon when I've thought it all out. Well, maybe a couple of inches taller.

In a recent book brouhaha, Bloomsbury Publishing published a historical fantasy, Magic Under Glass, with a dark-skinned female protagonist. Here's the 'aha' in the brouhaha: they put a white girl on the cover.

They have since replaced that cover with one showing a dark-skinned woman, and apologized for their "mistake", but here's the 'brou' part of the equation: they've done this before, with a book called, Liar. In the UK it had the appropriate cover of a biracial girl. When it got to the states, they had planned to make her a white girl.

In each case, the authors stepped up and stopped the madness, although Magic Under Glass still officially has the "wrong" cover on it (the last time I looked it up on Amazon).

The thing is, I don't think of Bloomsbury Publishing as white supremacists, out to undermine people of color everywhere. I think they are a business, like any other business, with a department of bean-counters, who looked at the market and said, "Gee, Chief, statistically speaking, covers with white people on them outsell covers with black people on them. We need to make money; ergo, we need a cover with a white person on it." The good news is they weren't thinking of race, they were thinking of money. The bad news is, marketing statistics aren't color blind - yet.

I don't care whether the book I'm reading was written by someone of any specific race. I care whether it's a good book. When it comes to covers, just give me something interesting, and for Pete's sake, don't try to fool me by putting a white girl on the cover if I figure out by the first paragraph that it's about a Chinese immigrant. It's just going to make me cranky.

The whole thing made me think about a color blind society. What does it mean to be color blind?

My husband is a black man; however, he's also an engineer, a coach, an athlete, a fisherman, a father, a lover of theater and books and art - oh, yeah, and of me. I love him because he's smart and funny and sexy and loving, but I don't love him because of his race. I also don't love him despite his race. I think of us as the luck of the DNA draw - we are what we are.

Does that make me color blind? Maybe, but wait...

Last week, I helped our school choir director with auditions for the talent show. A slight young Vietnamese boy came in and proceeded to blow us away with his beatbox skills. I remember thinking, geez, I usually see black guys doing this. He's really good for being a Vietnamese guy.

Am I color blind now?

That's when my big thought occurred to me: I don't want people to be defined solely by their ethnicity. I don't want marketing departments to segmentize us and skew our interests toward authors and TV shows and movies and foods of our own kind. But how much are we willing to sacrifice to be color blind? Can the black community admit Asian rappers? Can the Hispanic community handle a black mariachi band? Can white people accept an Arabic banjo player?

Oops, my big thought just shrunk a little. But you get the idea.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dino shoulda covered this

I know, I'm just one of those nauseatingly proud mothers who finds a way for every conversation to revolve around her kid. Well, maybe not, but I have to share this.

My son was a contestant in the Mr. VHS Competition on Friday. "VHS" as in Valencia High School. It's like the Miss America contest, only for boys. They model swimwear, evening wear, do a Q&A and perform some kind of talent. I can't really say Marcus' swimwear or evening wear portions were standouts, but his talent was. Check it out:

Doesn't this seem like the kind of song Dean Martin would have done? I thought so, too, but when I looked it up, it wasn't so. Nat King Cole did the most recognized version. I can't dis Mr. Cole - his vocal was like velvet on this tune.

BTW, my son was 1st runner-up, so if the winner can't fulfill his duties, Marcus will step in. Since the winner's duties are to wear a crown and get his picture taken for the yearbook, I doubt that Marcus will see much action.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Who do I think I am?

I don't play all the games on Facebook, but if they're easy to do and I have time, I join in. The first Profile Picture game this month was fun. Retro Week challenged you to post a picture from your childhood (or youth, whichever was the most misspent) as your profile. I have several pictures of me as a child, but chose this one:

"Queen Gayle graciously acknowledges her subjects before the beheadings commence."

For this week's game, we are supposed to post a picture of someone fictional who we think best represents our personality. The original poster said to "be creative."

Hmm... Who best represents me?

When I was young, I felt like this girl, at least on the inside.

For those of you who don't know Daria, this was a cartoon series on MTV. Daria was a smart, acerbic high school student, trying to find herself in that chaos called teenaged life. On the outside, I was too polite and quiet to compete with her snarkiness, but on the inside, she and I were identical twins.

This is a picture of the main characters. The pity of it all is that I wanted to be the girl on the left with the short black hair, Jane. She was Daria's best friend, a totally hip artist, unafraid to be who she is, plus she's tall and slender. Hell, I still want to be her.

Then, in my twenties, I felt a lot like Molly Dodd. Don't remember her? She was on a cable channel (don't remember which one), and was a kind, funny, single gal who was making her way through each day, trying not to be the one with her skirt stuffed into the back of her pantyhose.

On the inside, I'm a lot of people. One of my favorite's is Murphy Brown. In my youth, I was never allowed to blow my top in any way, and I'm afraid I have a hard time expressing my disappointments as an adult. But when Murphy aired, each week I lived vicariously through her funny, smart, temper tantrums. Rant, Murphy, rant and rave at stupidity! Ahhh, that feels good.

The biggest part of me is probably Auntie Mame. I saw this movie at an early age and never forgot its message, even if it took me a few (dozen) years to put it to use. "Life is a banquet," she says, "and most poor suckers are starving to death."

Thanks, Mame Dennis. As God as my witness, I'll never go hungry again.

But in the end, I chose the one character who represents me 90% of the time. Through his highs and lows, his brilliance and his foolishness, this is the closest to me that I can find in the media:
Th-th-th-that's all, folks!

How about you? Anyone out there have a fictional personality they'd like to share?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

That's my boy.

I usually save up my conversations with my son and put them in my weekly column, but today I had one that was truly bizarre. We've had our share of odd conversations before. Like the day he came home and informed me that boys were better at math than girls because their brains were wired differently.

Whoa, there, Slick. You're the son of a lady engineer.

That was the first of many talks we had about sources, and how we need to check their agenda before we quote their facts and figures. We also talked about what he's learned from experience; for example, at 6th grade graduation, many girls identified math as their favorite subject. Also, see above about Mom being an engineer.

I'm glad to report that, at seventeen, he now questions where information is coming from, and told me the other day, "I don't like Fox News, Mom. I don't think they tell all the facts."

Tonight, as I fixed dinner, Marcus came in to the kitchen and said: "Did you know that all conversations eventually lead to talk about Hitler and the Nazis?'


"Is this like that the 100 monkeys in a room will eventually type the complete works of Shakespeare?" I asked.

"No, it's Godwin's law."

Unfamiliar with this term, I told him, "I've been in lots of conversations that didn't end up there."

He was adamant. "Sooner or later, you would."

We bandied this back and forth for a bit, as in "No we wouldn't," and "Yes you would." Finally, I tried a new tactic. "So, if I'm in the midst of a really boring conversation, all I have to mention is Nazis and it'll end?"

He considered this for a few moments, then said, "I don't think it works that way."

"Well, I don't believe it. I can honestly say I've never had a conversation that ended with either of those subjects."

"Those conversations just never lasted long enough," he told me as he walked back to his room.

"You don't know how long I can talk," I yelled after him, although I suspect he does.

I've since read up on this "law", which is not quite as Marcus interpreted it. It began as a humorous observation about online discussions, stating that given enough time, someone will compare his opponent to Hitler. Its interpretation is that, once you start comparing people to Nazis, you've lost the argument. (A side note: as part of my research, I read a very thoughtful essay on other comparisons which indicate you've lost the fight - or your mind. In citing Godwin's law, it provided a link to its description, which is found on Wikipedia. Really? Wikipedia is your source?)

So, show of hands - how many out there have compared your opponent to either of these undesirables? Did you feel justified, or were you just grasping at one desperate attempt to win the debate?

Come on, spill. I won't tell a soul.

P.S. My publisher, the delightful Karen Syed of Echelon Press, has challenged her authors to sell a big bunch o'books while she is meeting her in-laws in Pakistan. So, if you don't have your copy of Freezer Burn yet, please let your fingers scamper off to Amazon (or B&N) and get a copy. Or take a trip to your local bookstore (I only mention online resources because I know some of you are snowed in.) Got a Kindle? You could be reading it right now!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The price of being me

My hubby and I had dinner last night at my old boss Susan's house. Her husband, Joe, has written several books, all non-fiction technical, and wanted to talk to me about writing fiction. Another couple, Cathy and Dan, whom we've known for several years, joined us. It was one of those odd things where Susan thought we'd all make a good dinner party before she even knew that we knew the other couple. Funny how things work out.

At any rate, we began talking about writing, but moved somehow into talking about traveling. Everyone was sharing their stories of road trips. Where they'd been, what they liked, where they wanted to go next. Joe really loves visited Baja and has, I think, convinced Dan to go.

Dale and I don't travel nearly as much as the rest of them. We've been to Paris, Venice, Rome, Pisa and Florence (Firenze for my Italian friends), some islands in the Caribbean, and some of the U.S., including Alaska. Not a big bunch of postcards. Dale wants to go to Hawaii for spring break - we've both been, but not together. Hawaii for me is meh. Pretty. Hot. Pretty hot. I'd rather go somewhere cool. We're talking about taking a trip this summer with friends to Scotland, Wales and Spain. Why Spain, I don't know. Spain for me is meh.

But I digress...

We told them about our road trip from California to Illinois, and that everyone chose a place to visit. My choice was the Meteor Crater, just outside Winslow, Arizona. I chose this mostly so we could take a picture, standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona - get it? Take It Easy? The Eagles?

Thanks for your applause. No one at the table got it.

Moving on, Dale's place of choice was the Negro Baseball League Hall of Fame in Kansas City. Joe turned to me and said, "What do you think of Kansas City?"

My immediate thought was, "I hear they got some crazy little women there." Get it? Kansas City? Fats Domino? Yeah. My next immediate thought was, "Abort! Abort! Don't say that!" At which point I laughed, in a stupid and inappropriate way.

Thank you. Thank you very much. I'll be appearing nightly at the bar.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Ya never know where you'll find WiFi - or Freezer Burn

Hey, I know - it's not Sunday, and I'm posting!

I'm sitting in a rocking chair, in a cabin in Idyllwild (that's California, elevation 6800 ft), with full-on WiFi, and I got a great email from a friend. I met Rick Ochocki and his lovely wife, Linda, at the Southern California Writers Conference a year or so back. We all immediately took a liking to one another and have kept in touch with emails, always look each other up at the conferences, etc. Back in November, I went up to Bakersfield for an author's festival. Rick and Linda live there and were absolutely gracious hosts, taking me out for a late lunch before seeing me safely on the road.

So yesterday I got an email from Rick, saying that he and Linda were in Scottsdale, Arizona recently and stopped in at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore. Guess who's book was on the display table?

Yeah, that would be mine. Insert wild applause here.

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