Thursday, October 27, 2011

About the percenters

I don't think people get it. I really don't.

1) First there were the 99% folks, who have very legitimate gripes.
2) Then there are the 1% people who either a) agree with the 99% or say screw the 99%.
3) And then there are the 53% folks who are clueless.

A lot of people have been posting their pictures with their stories about why they fit into one of these groups. There has been a lot of commentary on those pictures. Here is what I see.

1) The 99% aren't lazy. They aren't whining because they have to work hard. The problem, what they (most of us since 99% of us are that 99%) are trying to convey, is that hard work doesn't get anywhere. You can work hard all your life and you will get poorer - unless you are in that 1% that keeps getting richer. You can have a good job, pay your bills, have health insurance... and still not get ahead. There is no American Dream for the vast majority of us who just want to be comfortable enough to pay the bills and maybe have a little extra to take a vacation, all without worrying if the next illness will send us into bankruptcy.

2) The guy from the infamous picture (who works 80 hour weeks and thinks the 99%ers are whiny) doesn't get it. The point is that he SHOULDN'T have to work 80 hour weeks for the rest of his life. And there aren't enough jobs for everyone to work that many hours. The American Dream is not about working yourself to death and not getting ahead. If you work that hard for a few years and do get ahead, that's fine. It isn't about a free ride either. That's not what the 99% are asking for. They just want to get a fair wage. They object to CEOs making 350X what the average worker makes, with stockholders getting crazy dividends, while the people who create the products that make all that money sink lower and lower.

3) The 53% folks supposedly represent the 53% who pay taxes. Except that a lot of the ones posting don't pay taxes. And why, if you pay your taxes, which go toward building roads and airports, and all sorts of other public projects, defend companies and the wealthy, who benefit from those tax funded services, not paying their fair share of taxes?

4) As for the 1%, I'm very happy to see that quite a few understand that they didn't get there on their own. Their wealth wasn't built in a bubble. They were able to make money with the help of others and using public resources. And that use of public resources is a big reason why they ABSOLUTELY SHOULD pay their fair share of taxes. As has been pointed out, many of them wouldn't even notice if their tax rate increased a small amount. The ones who gloat are just that - gloaters. We shouldn't feel sympathy for them or want to do them any favors. That doesn't mean we need to resent them (if people work hard and make a lot of money, more power to them). But they certainly don't need our help or Congress's to get even further ahead.

5) Some of the folks defending the status quo are doing so against their own self-interest. When the options are tax cuts or tax increases for the wealthy and the non-wealthy are fighting for tax cuts (even though it means tax increases for the middle class), it makes me wonder why. Is it because they aspire to be wealthy enough to not pay income taxes? Because if so, I hate to break it to you, but it's unlikely. Why do some folks want to pay more taxes so the people who can afford to pay more get a break? Don't tell me it's because they really believe in trickle down economics or that the wealthy are job creators. Those are fictions which have been disproved time and again. (For the record, when companies make more money [including via tax cuts], they don't hire more workers - they pay bigger investor dividends. They only hire if they need more employees. If the vast majority of American workers can't afford to buy products, it will only keep shrinking the economy. And the wealthy don't really create more jobs - at least not high paying ones. Maybe they'll hire another maid or gardener, but paying lower taxes isn't really going to encourage them to spread the wealth around. And they don't necessarily buy more stuff just because they saved a a few thousand dollars in taxes.)

6) This wealth imbalance can't continue. Historically, this is when societies either fall or reform. Can we please reform?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How I write

With NaNoWriMo almost upon us, I thought I would share how I write.

It's not complicated: I fly by the seat of my pants.

At least, that's how I've worked on my first novel (tentatively titled "The Dragonlords"). When I started, I had the first scene, the prologue, stuck in my mind. And I just went from there. I let the story tell me where to go. And when I got lost, I would talk to Chris. He would ask great questions (sometimes as simple as "why?") and of course I knew the answers. And those answers were usually where the story needed to go next.

I only had ~25K words after last November, so I've been fleshing it out for the last year, with the help of my writing group. I had some good bones when I started. I have almost 36K words now and plan to use this November to reach 50K (or, ideally, 60K). It needs filling in, but I know a lot of the places that need work, thanks to the lovely ladies in my writing group.

I also have the start of a stageplay/screenplay("Life is a Journey") that runs about 8 minutes so far. After I'm done with my novel, it is next on the list. Chris and I came up with the idea on a car ride a year and a half ago. We actually did outline the scenes before starting. I've done most of the work on the stageplay version, but want to switch it to a screenplay, since that is Chris's forte. Since Chris and I are working on this together (I write most of the dialog; he helps with the general story idea), this one needs to wait until we have time to work together. That means January at the soonest.

And I even have a story idea for next year's NaNoWriMo, when I will be ready for something new. I just can't juggle multiple projects without dropping them, so I need to concentrate on one at a time.

That's what I'm writing.

I actually do some of my writing in longhand and then type it up later. Sometimes I type directly. It really depends on what mood I'm in and what resources I have available. When I'm revising, I tend to do a lot of longhand, in red pen, on the printed pages. I can arrow stuff around and do insertions (I know, I can do that on the computer too, but it isn't the same as seeing what I've done).

I sometimes wear a writing outfit of cozy pajama pants, a shirt, my big black sweater, slippers.

I read recently a nice blog article about writer's block that really resonated. The gist is that no one gets talker's block, so why do they get writer's block. If you are a writer, go read it. I'll wait.

What did you think? Eye opening? He makes sense. I'll even add to his cure for writer's block: talk. When I get stuck, I bounce my story off Chris and he helps me get to the next scene (or the one after that). Just by listening and letting me talk about it. I probably don't even need to talk TO him. I bet a voice recorder would do just as well.

An example: at the last Bloomington Screenwriter's Community meeting, a writer was explaining how she didn't know where to start, then told us what her story was about. She does know where to start, she just has trouble writing it down. We suggested she record herself talking about it and she'll have the whole thing down in no time.

That's pretty much how I write.

So why do I write? Because I have these stories inside me and I want to share them. Finding the right words and being able to express these characters who inhabit these incredible worlds and do amazing things? What could be better than that?

Monday, October 24, 2011

The politics of sex

I know, 2 touchy topics. But a lot has been written and said lately about so-called "personhood" laws and abortions that save women's lives. And I have to comment.

If you are unaware, there is a trend right now to pass laws, quite notably in Mississippi, that define life as beginning at conception. A lot of people who know a lot more about this than I do have been writing about problems with this idea, including 1) it would effectively outlaw hormonal contraceptives, 2) it would open women who have miscarriages up to possible legal action, 3) teens in states that pass this could quite possibly be allowed to vote 17 years and 3 months after their birth, would be able to drink 20 years and 3 months after birth, et cetera, thus causing confusion as to actual age...

There has also been a hullaballoo about Mitt Romney and a woman he censured years ago when she sought a life-saving abortion, with the support of Mormon leaders.

The general rhetoric is that people (read: women) shouldn't have sex unless they are married and with the intention of creating children. I mention that this means women because the usually male politicians aren't too worried about the men who impregnate these women. And are sometimes caught with their pants down. And the general consensus is usually that 'boys will be boys' and they need to sow wild oats, but women need to be paragons.

Don't get me started on what a bunch of hypocritical, sexist crap that is.

Let's look at facts:

1) People, both men and women, have sex, sometimes when they are not married. That is a moral issue, not a political one, so can we stay out of everyone else's bedrooms?

2) You can preach all you want that no one should have sex unless they are married, but that ain't gonna happen. If you think it will, you live under a rock. If you think this is a new phenomenon, you don't know your history. Heck, even the vaunted Bible is full of stories of pre-marital and extra-marital sex.

3) Even within marriage, people have sex without the main purpose being procreational. Think about it. Sex, usually called making love, is used to bring a couple closer. It strengthens bonds. And it just feels good. Do you really think people only have sex when they want kids? That's not the kind of marriage I want. And a lot of people who are past childbearing age still have sex. (Do you really want people to have babies they can't afford? Because that's the consequence of sex only being procreational.)

So, the whole personhood thing. An embryo is potential life. It cannot exist outside of its host, much like a parasite. Without going into the morality of abortion, it is not yet born. If you want to truly protect life, there are a lot of people already walking this earth who need their lives saved.

And consequence #1 as listed above? Just go watch this video:

Yep. For all the men out there who think this issue doesn't have anything to do with them, you won't be getting all that sex if your wife or girlfriend can't use the hormonal contraceptive of her choice. I bet Trojan is thrilled - here comes a resurgence for condom use!

Have you had a miscarriage or know someone who has? (You probably do.) Think about the heartbreak, then consider if all the women who have had miscarriages were investigated for possible murder. Think about the backlog with police, who are already stretched thin, having to look into this - and they are not medical experts.

This is just a bad idea with consequences beyond just outlawing abortion, the real reason for the laws.

And so we get to abortion. And the generally accepted reasons of rape, incest, life of the mother, that even anti-abortion folks will allow. Even the Mormons all the life of the mother as a reason for an abortion. But then some folks can't accept even that. They don't see understand the tough decision of choosing one life over another. They don't understand that when two people decide that the person (woman) who is already walking this earth deserves a chance to live, and that leaving a motherless child (or children if there are already children) is also a bad. That even if a woman chooses to risk her own life to bear her child, she and the child may still both die.

Can we leave politics out of the bedroom? Can we leave medical decisions to doctors, not politicians? And can we try to think about the long-term consequences of our actions (or legislation) rather than the knee-jerk, FU that most of it seems to be these days?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

About sandwich crusts

Before I was a parent, I always told myself I would never cut crusts off of sandwiches. It always seemed such an indulgent thing to do. I told myself kids needed to suck it up and learn to either just eat the crusts or eat around them.

Then we had a child who would not eat. For over a year, he wouldn't eat anything other than Cheerios and the occasional gold fish cracker or Nutter Butter. He survived on milk and Pediasure.

We tried everything. We offered food. He went regularly to the pediatrician for weight checks. We heard advice and admonitions from so many people. I'm sure some were well-meaning, but it wasn't helpful.

Yes, we tried cutting back milk. And he didn't eat more. He actually lost weight. So we went back to what worked, under the advice of the pediatrician, hoping he would outgrow this stubbornness.

I think it was his regressing and rebelling when his baby brother was born, but I'll never know for sure. As suddenly as he stopped eating food, he suddenly decided he liked it. He developed an appetite and could recognize when he was hungry.

But he's still a very picky eater. Little things will kill his appetite. We have a one bite rule with dinner. He has to have at least one bite before he can say he doesn't like it. He has discovered some things he likes, but often will stop after that one bite.

So when my very picky child, who can be stubborn enough to not eat for months on end, will only eat a sandwich if all the crusts are cut off, do I cut them off? You bet I do. I know the alternative. I cut every bit of crust off.

We have well-fed birds and squirrels and chipmunks in our yard. Some days they don't even scurry away when I toss the crusts out the back door.

And I have two children who eat their sandwiches.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What theaters could learn from the IU Cinema

On this week's IU Cinema podcast (episode 53), the hosts, Andy and Jason, talked about the separate horrible experiences they had watching a movie at two different theaters.

Hollywood studios are lamenting the lackluster attendance at movies. They wonder why no one goes to the cinema anymore.

Here's a thought: Jason and Andy hit the nail on the head.

Why would I pay exorbitant prices to see a movie when the experience is bad? Yes, a good cinema can produce a fantastic experience, enhancing my enjoyment of a show. But a lousy experience is just painful and will make me hate a movie. As a studio, would I really want people to see my product (movie) in such a bad light, with poor sound or jumping picture?

Instead of worrying so much about dvd sales and Netflix, maybe the studios should worry more about the EXPERIENCE of the cinema. That's really what the moviegoer is paying for when they buy their ticket. They aren't paying to see the movie (there are a lot cheaper ways to do that now). The shared experience, the larger than life picture, those are why we pay to see a show.

If you really want to encourage people to get off their couches, give them a reason. If you want to steer them away from other options, make the cinema experience worth their effort. Make it truly an experience.

That's where the IU Cinema excels. AMC and other bog box theaters could learn something there. Yes, most shows at the Cinema are free or low cost. But that's not why we go. We go because the experience is fantastic. We go because the seats are comfortable, the sound is always good, the picture is better than anything you will see elsewhere. We go because the people there truly love movies and make the experience worth it. We go because the other patrons love movies and make for a great shared experience. Filmmakers have commented that they have never seen their movies look and sound better - who am I to argue?

We don't go to the movies very often. Babysitters are too expensive to make it easy on our budget. But we've gone much more often since January. What changed in January? Yep, that's when the IU Cinema opened. We used to see one or two movies a year. In the last 9 months, we've seen many films- Metropolis with live salon orchestra, Hoosiers, Certified Copy, Summertime, and The Last Picture Show to name a few.

Give me truly state of the art and I will pay to go. Give me a crappy experience and I won't. It's as simple as that. (Ok, so a good movie helps. But that's a different lesson altogether.)