Monday, September 4, 2017

FREE AT LAST!

This is the battle cry I am shouting in my head, that I have been shouting in my head since the Tuesday in June when I turned in my graduate school ePortfolio for review, marking my completion of all my graduation requirements. For weeks after, I still felt like there was something I needed to be doing. The way that amputees reportedly feel their missing limb like it was still there, I couldn't stop feeling my missing deadlines.

Then I went on vacation to Canada and it felt like I had hit a reset button when I returned. I've been sleeping better, finding time for things I want to do, but I don't feel overwhelmed by the need to DO SOMETHING. I don't feel as concerned if I am not able to fit something in one week. There is plenty of time now.

Last week, my diploma arrived in the mail. Yup, folks - yours truly officially holds a Masters in Library and Information Science.

I am not going to delve into dissecting how I am feeling about this.

Instead, I am going to take a deep breath and acknowledge my new reality: I am free.

No more trying to cram working on papers between two part-time jobs, weekly therapist appointments and all the routines of daily life and self-care.

No more giving up on reading or other entertainment to write APA citations. No more bowing out of social activities because I am too drained to muster the energy. In front of me, only time (between work shifts)! I really have no idea what I am doing - only that I have many options.

And one of those options - one of the things I really want to get back to - is writing. So here I am. Blogging about who knows what and who knows how often - but it's a start. I want to set a few goals.
One is to get back to work on my novels. By the end of my year, I want both my YA mystery and my sequel to Effing Perfect to have 10,000 words each - more is better, but this is a small and attainable goal. My second goal is to have both EP and Turn To You fully revised by the April of 2018 and I'd like to have proposals written for them. Finally, I would like to write at least one blog post a month.

These are all minimal goals. Can I do it? I have no idea. But like I said, I have nothing else going on. So why not try?

Wish me luck, folks!



Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Movie Review: Gloria (2013)

For my library's summer reading program, staff are encouraged to participate as well. Our theme this year is a camp theme and you can earn badges for each "camp" by completing 5 tasks on that camp's list. I just moved on to Travel Camp but last week I was in Camp Hollywood. That meant that two of the five tasks I could tick off were (1) ask a librarian for a movie suggestion and (2) check out and watch a foreign film. I've always hated the expression "kill two birds with one stone" because all I can imagine are these poor, bludgeoned birds...so instead I will say that I decided to knock out two tasks at once and asked one of our librarians for a foreign film suggestion. She recommended the Spanish language film Gloria.

I should preface this by the disclaimer that I rarely watch movies lately. I love film - I'd say that it's my second love after literature, with my tastes ranging from French New Wave classics to B-movie campiness. But it's hard to get the time to sit still for nearly two hours or more when one is juggling two classes, two jobs and life itself. I haven't watched a lot of film lately - once in awhile, while on vacation or during a semester break, but mostly I stick to Internet videos related to school projects or catching up on Game of Thrones at midnight, after I am tired of listening to lectures and writing papers for the day. So there is a possibility that my enjoyment of a lovely little Spanish film called Gloria is due to the fact that I am starving for good movies. However, I'm inclined to think that it's just a really good film.


Gloria stars Paulina García, (a Chilean actress I had never heard of but whose other films I will definitely be seeking out for more of her work) as a divorced woman in late middle age who gets involved with an older man, only to find she's more mature than he is. She has grown children of her own, but they have their own lives and while she loves them, she doesn't over-nurture them. Rodolfo, however, not only coddles his grown daughters but regularly allows himself to become entangled in the constant drama of his ex-wife as well. There is push and pull between the two aging lovers, but ultimately, Gloria finds that she is the truly strong one between them and she doesn't need to be held back from enjoying her life by a man who can't take the reins in his own.


There's more to it than that, of course - plenty of great scenes I won't spoil here. Some are infuriating, some are hilarious. I will say, however, that I was most impressed by the way the film did not shy away from the sexuality of a woman in her 50s. There are some truly racy scenes here and a lot of nudity, some of it of the full-frontal variety. Yet Gloria and its titular character are sexy and superb, even with the realism of wrinkles and sagging skin. Outside of the bedroom, García portrays Gloria as vulnerable with a quiet intelligence, so many of her emotions subtly playing across her face. It's a simple film, but thought-provoking and if it seems a little slow-moving at first, it's worth sticking with for the wonderful revelations. The most important of these, of course, is the revelation that Gloria may be lonely, but she has a lot of life left ahead of her and there is still joy worth chasing.



Friday, July 1, 2016

Movie Review: Copenhagen

It's been awhile - a LONG while - since I have posted here. Here I am, though, ending my prolonged hiatus with  a movie review. Copenhagen made me want to travel, want to fall in love, and want to believe that either thing is possible. Readers can find the film on Amazon, Vudu, and YouTube's new streaming service. It's also available on Netflix, but only until Sunday.



Copenhagen is a movie about a lot of things, and most of them are love. Feature film directorial debut for Mark Raso and shot on location, Copenhagen gives audiences a glimpse of the beautiful Danish capitol city, with its colorful row houses and brick streets. It's the story of an immature young man with a chip on his shoulder, played to perfection by Gethin Anthony (who audiences will know as Renly Baratheon from HBO's Game of Thrones), who has been abandoned by his friend in his late father's childhood home of Copenhagen. In his search to find his estranged grandfather and give him a letter his dead father left behind, he finds himself falling for the wiser-than-thou teenager who has offered to help him find his way around. These kinds of inappropriate feelings between teenager and adult are likely to make some audience members uncomfortable, but it serves a purpose and is handled well within the film: Anthony's character, William needs to grow up and it takes a mature 14 year old to help him do that. Meanwhile, the scenes of their travels and blossoming friendship are like magic. Highly recommended.







Sunday, June 28, 2015

Queen Amarantha: An Otherworld Theatre Production

The last time I received free passes to see live theatre in Chicago, the play I attended was poorly thrown together with a cliché ending and unconvincing actors (the only notable player was the actor whose character turned out to be just a figment of someone else's imagination in the end). It was fun only because it was a venue I had never been to and I was there with a friend; otherwise, it was a travesty.

Therefore, I wasn't expecting much from this small theatre production when I was offered free tickets. So I was more than pleasantly surprised with the outcome: Queen Amarantha, a production of the Otherworld Theatre Company (whose website describes them as "a science fiction and fantasy theatre company"), was a triumph all around. The performance took place at the City Lit Theater and starred Moira Begale as the titular queen, who takes the throne following the death of her father but never feels like she fits in with the monarchy or in the conventional role of a woman. Instead, she likes to hunt, flirt with both men and women alike, and dress in commoner's (and men's) clothes in order to rub elbows with her people, She has a close relationship with her cousin, Roderigo, who has dreams of power without really knowing what it is.

The real peak of the story comes with the appearance of Amarantha's childhood friend, Thalia (a manic pixie nightmare of a girl, played to delirious perfection by Mary-Kate Arnold). Though Amarantha trusts her implicitly, the audience soon finds that she's got treachery in mind and at once, she sets to work to destroy the queen's reputation. In the aftermath of her friend's terrible betrayal, Amarantha flees with her lover in hopes of a different life; but while she is away, Thalia is wreaking mad havoc on the kingdom, using Roderigo as her pawn. When word reaches Amarantha, she has to choose between remaining free or taking back her kingdom, coming to her cousin's rescue, and clearing her name. I was completely enthralled by the story and the performances. And the set, though simple, was also versatile: it doubles as crumbling ruins and a lavish, shadowy throne. Meanwhile, the costumes were both extravagant and occasional props for comic relief.

Begale is compelling and believable as the tomboyish queen, and her performance never waivers. I actually recalled seeing her in a previous show, The All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret, back in 2012 at Mary's Attic, and the reason I remembered her was because she stood out as especially talented. Here, she is equally credible and I imagine her going places.

Similarly, of the remarkable cast, another stand-out performance was that of Arnold. She brings the devious Thalia to life in such a way that the character is, in equal part, charismatic and terrifying.

This show doesn't run much longer; if you get a chance to see it, don't pass it up!



Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Taking The Ferry Home

I first posted the following tribute to one of my very favorite books on an old book blog I attempted to run for awhile. If you Google the book, it's still one of the posts that come up on the first page of search hits. I'm re-posting it because I've been thinking a lot about younger days lately, when I was content with long stretches of time to read and write and daydream. I recently asked, on the ALA Think Tank Facebook group (i.e., the best, geekiest place to be if you're a librarian or aspiring librarian on the Internet), about other readers' favorite out-of-print books and found that I am not the only one with a literary love that no one else seems to know. Here's what I want to impart to readers about this lovely little book: 


 
Each summer, from the time I was 13 and into my twenties, I found myself on an island:  Dune Island, populated by the kind of people who own summer homes and the kind of people who worked for summer homeowners. It's the setting of Taking The Ferry Home by Pam Conrad, a New York-born writer. I stumbled upon the book on one of my regular trips to the library in the next town over, drawn in by its almost mysterious cover: one girl with a faraway look sits on the grass in the foreground. Another stands at a distance in the background with the skirt of her dress blowing in the wind, a pristine Cape Cod-style house and shadowy trees behind her. To my thirteen year old self, the cover echoed with loneliness. It was electric with sorrow – I could just feel it – and it struck a chord with me. I had to read it.

It begins with a girl named Alison who has elected to join her father at a cottage he's rented as a writer's getaway – he's a novelist – and on her first night, she sneaks into the neighbors' pool. It's their summer home and Alison assumes they won't be arriving until later, so she can take one quick dip. There she meets Simone, their daughter, who is “beautiful, completely beautiful, and she wasn't even nice.” Their encounter leaves Alison “choked with jealousy,” but as the story goes, the rich girl gets what she wants and what Simone wants is for she and Alison to be friends. So begins the tale of a very “fragile friendship,” as the book's bright green back-cover declares.

Simone Silver is not a one-dimensional character, though – not the prototypical rich girl in the least. In fact, when I look back at all the times I've read Taking The Ferry Home, I am struck by Simone as the character whom I feel the most compassion for and kinship with. She's many-faceted: ravishing, privileged and yet, haunted by a traumatic event from her childhood. She reads Tarot cards and makes bracelets of shells, listens to Springsteen (even now, when I hear “Dancing In The Dark,” I think of it as her song). Darkly, quietly troubled characters have often bewitched me in a way that your run-of-the-mill dysfunctional protagonist could not quite pull off. Conrad manages to create a rich, engrossing character who mostly lives in her own head (something I've been trying to manage for close to a decade to little avail). I wanted to know Simone, let her read my fortune and string up shells for me.

The water was a character all its own. It churns, black and murky, beneath the ferry that takes Ali and Simone around Dune Island. The first summer I read it, I dreamed of being on that island – that island, with all its secrets and sadness. I dreamed of water and even had a bookmark with a picture of foamy waves lapping at the sand.


For me, my real passion for books – the kind of books I read now – begins with Taking The Ferry Home. Pam Conrad died of breast cancer in 1996, at the age of 48, but this one of her many books for children and young adults transformed my life. It will always remain in my list of favorites because it's one of those that formed who I am and how I want to write. 

Perhaps another re-reading is long overdue. 





Friday, August 8, 2014

At The Speed of Light: Lesbian Speed Dating in the City...

While I had heard of speed-dating before, I had never come across lesbian speed-dating until the day that, seeing an invite on Facebook, something wild possessed me and I found myself signing up for that very thing. I still have no idea, weeks later, why I paid the nominal fee that would commit me to participating in the topsy-turvy mess that was to take place at Chicago's Center On Halsted. Immediately after purchasing my tickets, I'll admit it: I felt a little nervous. Regret kicked in as I imagined myself floundering for something to say to whomever landed in front of me. I wondered how it would be arranged and who I would meet, what I would ask and what I would say. Before worry got out of control, though, I decided to stop thinking about it. My anxious brain would only envision the worst, anyway, and I'd made a decision to approach “Women's Speed-dating” as a positive new experience.   


Later, as the date inched closer, I discovered that a friend of mine had also signed up. The fact  that I would have at least one wing-woman, of sorts, to accompany me made my plan to neither worry nor regret the choice to attend that much easier. On July 31st, I hopped the train for the Boystown neighborhood and an hour later, I was waltzing into a room full of familiar and unfamiliar faces – familiar because Chicago's gay community is a small, nearly-incestuous little world and sure enough, I'd seen some of these ladies elsewhere before.


Center On Halsted's third floor waiting area and auditorium is large enough that we could spread out and only talk to each other in our little groups, which sounds like it would defeat the purpose of going somewhere specifically to meet new people, but actually, it made easing into the setting much smoother. My friend, L* and I gave the woman at the front our names and she gave us our numbers and our drink tickets, one each. Let me tell you, that drink was a godsend! L and I laughed at our awkwardness, drank our drinks and then laughed in the face of our awkwardness! People we already knew walked by and said hello, and then, time had passed and we were suddenly seated at a long table with strangers sitting across from us.


It began a bit awkwardly, and not just because I am awkward. In the role of hostess (or in this case, hostesses) were the ladies of a local comedy troupe, and they each performed a short stand-up routine before calling the event to order and attempting to explain the way things would work. It all seemed simple enough. We would talk to the person in front of us until one of the emcees called time and then we would all move to the left to talk to...the exact same person?

 One of my fellow participants raised her hand and one by one, questions arose and were answered -- but it all seemed very trial-and-error, as if even the hostesses were sort of making it up as they went along. That was okay, though, because they did eventually figure it out: only one side would move while the other remained stationary. But wait! Then people wanted to know how they would go about meeting someone in their own line, whichever side of the table they were on. "That's what the mingling session is for," the emcee announced. Fair enough, I guess, except the reason many of us came -- or rather, as I can only speak for myself, one of the reasons that speed-dating seemed like a cool idea to me was that I wasn't sure I could ever approach someone I didn't know without going utterly blank and forgetting to breathe. "Mingling" would require me to approach someone...if I wanted to meet her. It seemed like an oversight to me to not consider the socially anxious demographic, but it seemed like a small price to pay for the rules to be clearer and the "dating" to commence.

And so it did -- begin, that is. From that point on, with the exception of one other stop-and-start-again succession to clear up what the signal for "time to play musical dates" would be (in this case, the lights being dimmed was our cue to wrap it up and move on), the next 45 minutes (give or take) was spent with a new woman every two minutes. As anticipated, I found that my own difficulty lay in thinking of what to say on the spot. But there was no time to dwell on what thoughts I floundered with on the tip of my tongue -- and eventually, I found myself just jumping into a couple of regular questions: "What brings you here?" "Have you ever done something like this before?" or glancing down at the question suggestions placed at each seat: "If you were a super-hero, who would you be?" 

When it was all over and time for the "mingle" session, I went back to hanging out with the people I knew. I wasn't the only one. Many people seemed to gather into their same clusters. As for choosing which "dates" you would like to spend more time with, it wasn't as private as I had hoped it would be. Each lady had a number and each number, a corresponding envelope that sat along a table in the hall. If you liked someone, you could leave them a note in their envelope. But with everyone hanging around the envelope table, I felt a little exposed -- especially when someone I was leaving a note for came around the corner just as I was about to slip it into her envelope, which I proceeded to do anyway, but quickly, flustered and blushing like one does. I've read about other speed-dating events that allowed you to go online later and leave messages or choose the numbers or names you like via a web-survey, which the organizers would then use to potentially match people. If A liked B and B liked A, it would be a match and they would both be notified, but not if B liked A but A liked C, instead. Something like that -- but I suppose every event is different. 

Nevertheless, it was an interesting experience and maybe, with the promise of clearer instructions and a more private matching system, I would even do it again. During the mingling session, I even made a couple of new acquaintances who could potentially become friends. That alone is worth the price of admission.

A couple of other notes on the evening's pitfalls: With everyone sitting along the same table, close together and  in an enclosed space, the conversations ended up overlapping and the effect was that it sounded like a middle school cafeteria or a crowded nightclub, with us shouting our questions at each other and struggling to hear the answers. And finally, not really a con (but definitely not a pro): as my friend and I got into the elevator to leave the Center and the whole speed-dating shenanigan behind, one of the women I had left a message for got on the elevator...with another very bold woman from the event, who was already practically nibbling on and whispering in her ear. Um...awkward! Oh well. All in all, a multi-faceted experience that, in the end, makes for a good story. And that's really all I needed.



Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Bisexuality in Pop Culture: Shipping Triles

Those who know me well know my obsession with a certain Canadian teen drama that has spanned pretty much my entire life. All the bad acting doesn't seem to ever matter when the characters are so compelling (before you fellow fangirls lynch me, I know...it's not all bad acting) and the stories are just so heartfelt. I don't really have a full explanation of why I love it so much, but Degrassi just makes me happy. And sad, but mostly happy. And sad is just happy for deep people, anyway. Heh. But anyway, my obsession has taken a new turn following this season's finale. Spoiler alert: TRILES!!!

Miles went gaga for nerdy cello player, Maya.
I think what is making me especially happy about this is the way it came about and how I've never seen anything like it on television before. All these dramas will have the girl who has been dating boys all along and she suddenly finds herself interested in another girl. But I have never - NEVER - seen it the other way around. No one has ever tackled male bisexuality or male sexual fluidity that I know of, unless you count the second and a half that Blaine thought about dating Rachel on Glee or how Jack on the 90s drama, Dawson's Creek originally dated Joey briefly before coming out. It's pretty different, though.

All this time, we've been seeing Miles and Maya break up, reconcile, break up again. And all this time, he seemed pretty crazy about her, going to any length to get her back. But now that they're off again, it seemed like the writers decided it was time to revisit the crush that Tristan, Maya's best friend, seemed to have on Miles when they all headed to Paris last spring, before Maya and Miles got together. Tristan had kissed Miles back then, too, and I'll hand it to Miles -- even when he was into Maya, he never overreacted in a homophobic way to Tristan's advances. He was always sweet about them, which is something else you rarely see on TV. It's such a tired old cliche that the straight guy freaks when the gay guy leans in for a kiss, so Miles was pretty refreshing in this way, too.

So anyway, the season 14 finale had Miles and Tristan waiting out the storm in Miles' family's mansion, alongside his sister, Frankie and her boyfriend/Miles' best friend, Winston. To pass the time, they ended up playing charades and later, a hide-and-seek-like game called Murder. During Charades, Tristan is batting his eyelashes and flirting with Miles like crazy and Miles is taking it all in, obviously flattered by the attention. These two boys have the prettiest eyelashes and were giving each other the cutest smirky glances, so I was DYING for them to just make-out already. And then, when they were hiding during the game of Murder, the heavens heard my cry and granted my wish!

The best thing was that, when Winston caught them kissing, Miles was still smirking about it, like "so what?" and later, when Tristan thought it was a one-time thing and told Miles it was okay, Miles corrected him. They don't know where it's going, but it looks like it is definitely going somewhere! No lie, I am totally shipping these two and I don't care if I sound like a 15 year old.


It almost makes up for last season's painful finale. But, er, not quite. Degrassi, you still have a lot of work ahead of you for that.