Geek. Pirate. Mom

The Life and Times of Whitney Drake

Archive for June, 2011

Sorry for the silence!

BIL graduated from college, we’re having a party here tonight. Between that and the first week of the Kidlet’s summer school (the preschool version of day camp), it’s been a little crazy.

I’ll have regular posts resuming Monday.

I wasn’t a fan of Jackass, but it’s pretty shocking to hear about Ryan Dunn. Not so much that he passed away, but that he’d had 11 drinks over a 4 hour period that resulted in a BAC of .196 and got into his car. He crashed going 130 mph and his car actually went 40 yards off the road. That’s 120 feet. If you’re going to be going out for drinks… make sure you have a designated driver, and if something changes and your DD is no longer sober- just call a cab. It’s really not worth it.

Tomorrow I’m sneaking off to Disneyland, solo, for a little geekery. Then heading off to a friends’ house for a housewarming party. Should be an awesome day!

Still catching my breath.

It never ceases to amaze me what big jerks people can be on the road.

On our way back from school, we pulled off the freeway to begin the street portion of the commute. Now, I got a ticket for speeding not that long ago, so I’ve been more aware of speed limits- I definitely don’t want to get another ticket.

Coming off the freeway, the road has a weird curve. I was next to a semi, so I slowed down because I didn’t want the semi to pull into my lane thinking it was clear. That’s when I became aware of The Jerk (I really should have called him the A-hole, but I yelled Jerk at him in my car since the kids were there). He was right behind me in a lowered Acura (not a recent model by any means). I pulled into the left lane, hoping he was going straight and away from me. No such luck. The light was green, I waited for the oncoming car to pass, and turned into the furthest lane, thinking the guy was going to just zoom past me. Nope.

He continues to tailgate me, honks and almost clips the corner of my car. Mind you, I’m not speeding into this left turn. I’m in a minivan. All he had to do was turn into the nearest lane and pass me. But no, he was trying to make it seem like I cut him off, even though we were in the same lane. So he zipped around me, and cut in front of me, and again nearly clipped the front of my car. I could see the light ahead of me turning yellow, so I decided just to slow down.

He continued to honk and flipped me off through his sun roof. Because, of course, I was the one who was being a jerk. He then zipped off and narrowly missed two dump trucks that were getting off the freeway. As we kept driving down the road, I hoped to see him pulled over by the cops or dealing with a fender bender. Which is wrong of me, but frankly, I was more relieved that he was off somewhere else and not harassing me any more.

I just don’t get it. I understand that people think that speed limits are stupid, that they’re about 10 miles too low for modern cars- but honestly, I drive that road every day. There’s a lot of traffic on and off that freeway, with lots of trucks pulling up to the nearby landfill. The speed limit is 35, even though it looks like it should be 45 or higher, just because of the landfill and the trucks. And it really should be 35. I see plenty of cars in near misses with the semis and dump trucks just because they want to want to shave off a few seconds from their commute. No matter what you drive, you’re going to lose if you hit any of those trucks.

Honestly, it doesn’t bother me that the guy wanted to drive fast and thought I was going too slow. Since I got my ticket and have been sticking to the speed limit, I’ve seen a lot of people who thought that, but they just pass me and move on with their lives. It was the fact that he felt the need to nearly swipe my car (twice!) to prove a point. It’s the fact that this jerk thought he was so important, that it was okay to potentially cause an accident with my children and I. I hate to bruise any fragile egos out there, but you aren’t any more important than any other person on the road. And yes, if you drive like that? You probably do have a fragile ego. Tailgating to “prove a point” or pull garbage like The Jerk did, it doesn’t change the other person’s mind. Instead, it just makes mild mannered people like me wish for you to be caught in speed traps or hope for manure trucks to be around the corner where you’re speeding so that it’ll fill your car just like Biff’s in Back to the Future. (Have I mentioned that we’ve been watching that a lot lately?)

Now that that I’ve written this post, I’m going to make myself lunch and hope that it stops feeling like my heart’s in my throat soon- because yes, it does still feel that way. Stupid jerk.

Down with Pirate Princesses!

I am a connoisseur of all things piratey, and have been since I was a kid. Nothing new to readers of this blog. Of course, pirates weren’t trendy, so I had to work extra hard to get my hands on books about pirates. Nowawdays, pirates are everywhere- even in kid’s television.

The boys love Disney Junior’s Jake and the Neverland Pirates, which is a fun kid’s show building on the world from Peter Pan. Captain Hook’s the bad guy (but a bit more of a buffoon than in the movie). There’s a girl pirate, and I haven’t had a single problem with how they portray her. She and the boys search for treasures while doing the right thing, and more often than not, she’s the one who comes up with the plan. It’s a good message for everyone.

Enter the Pirate Princess, who had been put under a spell by an evil sea witch. Izzy (the girl pirate) saves her, and her ship is magically restored. It’s gold, with a rainbow wave around it, and she has a heart shaped anchor. Oh and it has pink sails. In the second episode, she has her own island with a castle on it, that is (you guessed it) pink. She also has a magic wand that lets her make rainbows, instead of a sword. It actually has a guard over the grip, making it look just like a sword. Oh – I found a picture.

I probably wouldn’t have cared about the rainbow wand if she didn’t live in a pink palace and have the girliest ship that ever sailed the Never Seas. (Her palace looks like it was designed by Mermaid Barbie)

Of course, I’m not surprised by this one bit. Since the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Disney has sold a “Pirate Princess” line of merchandise at their theme parks. Crossed scepters with hearts at the end! Pink skulls! I’d hoped that they would have gone with the accepted term for a successful female pirate, pirate queen, but with their world build around princesses it did make sense. I do have a pair of earrings from one of their lines, which featured a couple of cartoon female pirates – a redhead and a brunette with a bob (wonder why I liked her so much). But at the end of the day, I can forgive all that pink and whatnot at Disneyland. It’s just silly little merchandise.

Jake’s Pirate Princess on the other hand? She has a ridiculous ship. When trouble arrives, it’s the kids who save the day- she does absolutely nothing but stand there. What sort of a message does that send to little girls? Disney’s actual princesses might be pretty darn plucky and capable these days, but this Pirate Princess needs to lose her crown. She might say she’s smart, strong and brave- but in both parts of the episode, she did nothing to show that she was.

I grew up knowing that real women took to the seas, that some sailed openly as merchant sailors, but that some women from the Elizabethan era onward were notable pirates. Women who carved out their own futures, and did most of the saving themselves. Mary Read and Anne Bonney? When Jack Rackham’s ship was being attacked by a privateer ship, it was Bonney and Read (and another man) who did most of the defending- the rest of the ship, including the captain were too drunk to do much. Bonney’s last words to Jack Rackham were said to have been that she was “sorry to see him there, but if he had fought like a Man, he need not have been hang’d like a Dog.”

Grace O’ Malley was a chieftain of an Irish clan, led raids against the English in an attempt to secure Irish independence. While she wasn’t successful in securing that, her raids were successful enough that she secured a meeting with Queen Elizabeth in which they discussed terms. Some were met, at least temporarily- and when things went back to the way they’d been returned, O’Malley returned to piracy.

If you start to look up known pirates, you’ll find a lot more female names, too. They weren’t extremely well known, but they were there. Women who found life at sea much more liberating. Who were referred to as Pirate Queens, because they ruled the seas.

Obviously I’m not suggesting that a kids show have a pirate do anything in the way of what a real pirate would do- but it would have been nice to see that the Pirate Princess could actually do something. Especially since my kids love the show, and I’ve already seen this episode four times. (Besides, who wants to be a princess? They have no power. Queen is definitely the title to have)

Girls & Comics: writing.

Last night, Gail Simone (the comic book writer/creator) tweeted the following statements. “DC, we need more female creators, stat. Really. Let’s make this happen.” (In the reboot era, there will be two. Gail and… trying to find the other name. Sorry!) “We all still want comics to be a meritocracy. But there are more than two female creators who are qualified and talented.”

Not surprisingly, this became a hot button issue as male creators and just casual fans added in their two cents. Some people who worked accepting submissions at DC and Image commented that only about 5-10% of the submissions were from women.

Which led me to tweet a bit, wondering about statistics. Usually with a pool of individuals, if you start weeding out the less talented, the percentage of the demographics should feasibly be the same. So it does seem a little odd that in all the books released by DC for the reboot, that only two women are involved creatively.

Bradley Timm (@DoctorFlux) and I started to talk. He wondered if it wasn’t a conspiracy, or if there just isn’t a general interest by women to write superhero books- if they’d rather write indies, pointing out that of the comic reading women he knew, that’s what they preferred to read.

So I looked back on my own pull list over the years. And admittedly, it’s a bit lacking in the capes department. I’ve tended to buy books that reflect what I write- supernatural books, indies, and the most mainstream books I own runs from are NextWAVE, Tales of the Unexpected and JSA. Considering that the Tales of the Unexpected run involves pirates and a Nazi Gorilla, I think that’s still not very mainstream.

Yet, I’m a huge fan of the DC trinity. I have seen every single episode of every Batman animated series (as well as the Superman adventures). I keep up with what’s going on – I just haven’t bought the issues. Why? There’s a lot going on. Both in the books and in my life- at the time I was buying Tales of the Unexpected, I was well, expecting my first son. Which meant I had to cut back a lot once he was born. Having bought the odd collection from webcomics in the time between, I’m easing back into it with the DC reboot.

Would I want to write comic books? Um, yeah. But I admit that my voice isn’t geared towards capes. Well, not unless I’d get to write something either like Tales of the Unexpected/Doctor 13, NextWAVE or Runaways. Okay, Runaways is a bit more mainstream, isn’t it?

I know a lot of women who write. And a lot who read comic books. For some, those categories overlap- and it’s true. I haven’t heard aspirations of writing books. Usually they just buy whatever Gail Simone or Amanda Conners’ are currently writing and talk about how great they are. Which they are. Now, I know there are more women who have created for DC and who write for comics currently still- they just aren’t on the books for the reboot.

So why? Is it a lack of passion? Is it weeded out of us as kids when we’re told to watch Disney movies instead? I bring that up because I know that I’d mentioned wanting to write James Bond novels when I was 14 and was told that nobody would buy a spy book written by a woman. So I wrote a spy novella my junior year and proved – that I wrote like a 16 year old girl who didn’t quite understand what she needed to to write something better. I wasn’t deterred and when I revisited the story years later, realized that it wasn’t that I was a bad writer. I just wasn’t ready for that genre. Now

Digression aside, though, I can see that in the 90s there probably weren’t a lot of people suggesting that girls think about writing mainstream comics. Which would mean that the women who might be sending in submissions for stories might not have been mentored the way that some of the male creators have been. It’s true- you find a lot of female artists in the indie category, and most of them have distinctive voices that don’t fit a typical superhero story. Nearly all the female artists and writers I follow list Disney and anime as the thing that inspired them.

Is it just a perfect storm of circumstances that are keeping women out of mainstream comics? It seems like it’s all part of the larger cycle of issues with Girls and Comics. Publishers complain that women just aren’t buying comics, but they don’t try to nurture all ages books or girl-centric books that would lure in all ages of female readers. And of the girls who read comics, if they’re mostly reading indy books- that’s probably what they’re going to want to write. So unless something changes, it doesn’t seem like the number of women who want to write superheroes are going to increase.

I really would like to hear your thoughts on this. Obviously, this isn’t something that I have the answer for- but something that I really think we should consider more. The more and more I think about it, the more I see the problem as two sides of the same coin. You won’t get more female creators in mainstream comics without having more female readers.

Unfair or within reason?

SoCal restaurant Gjelina in Venice has a no substitutions policy, which they state on their menu. There are a number of small places that do this, but for the most part nobody talks about them. Except that they refused to make a change to a dish for Victoria Beckham who was dining with Gordon Ramsey.

As Ramsey tells it, the very pregnant Beckham asked for the dressing on the side. The restaurant refused. (You can read more about the account here, as well as Gjelina’s response to the LA Times when asked about it)

In reading the comments, there were a couple of things that genuinely bothered me and made me wonder about how the kitchen at Gjelina is run. There were a couple of commenters who had asked for dressings to be included on the side, or items removed due to food allergies. In each of their cases, Gjelina refused to accommodate them, citing their policy.

I’m not sure if this is an instance where the food is essentially pre-prepared, so that alterations to dishes are impossible (though it seems odd to pre-dress salad), or if it’s an instance where the executive chef is of the breed that believe that food allergies are rubbish and they won’t compromise the taste of their dish for anything and anyone.

If it’s the latter, that is frustrating. While I can understand that substitutions take up time in the kitchen – it’s often difficult for people with varied diets (from vegetarians to those with allergies) to find meals that are satisfying. Time and time again, I’ve gone to lunch with my mom where we discovered that all the salads a restaurant offered had bacon or chicken in them. She even once ordered a vegetable minestrone soup to discover that it was made with a beef broth!

For me, it all comes down to customer service. Yes, it might be a pain to accommodate some requests, but it’s just good business to at least understand that there’s a difference between food allergies and a picky eater. And for chefs to understand that yes, pregnant women do interpret flavors separately. I feel for Victoria Beckham- when I was pregnant with the Little Kidlet, I was extremely sensitive to vinegar. What used to be dressed perfectly, salad-wise, often seemed overwhelming flavor-wise.

So for me, I think that the restaurant is being ridiculous. What do you say? Is their policy over-kill or is it ridiculous for people to think they should be accommodated? And let’s ignore the fact that this story involves celebrities… imagine it was a story told to you about friends. Would that change your opinion?

Well, Twitter, that just happened.

The following contains MASSIVE spoilers for “A Good Man Goes To War”, the mid-season finale for Doctor Who.

Here is your River Song warning, sweeties. Spoilers! Read More…

The DC Reboot & Magic Breasts.

For any of these pictures, click on them and you can see them full-sized.

I’ve tweeted about the DC Reboot, which for those non-comic types was the recent announcement that DC will be restarting all of its major series numerically and content-wise. Origin stories, and chances for fresh starts for characters.

I will say this here, I think this is a great idea. The problem with having extremely long continuities is that it makes it hard for new fans to step in- which is what the comics industry is in dire need of. Also, I do like the idea that you can get it digitally on release day. The only way for the comics industry to stay relevant is to keep adapting with new technology.

I was unsure of a couple things when they announced the reboot and the first few titles. And yesterday, I saw something that made me down right furious. Read More…

Imagination.

(Yes, I was thinking of the start of Fantasmic! when I typed that)

My little guy is growing up! As I’ve mentioned here, he’s three and a child of few words. Well, up until recently he was. Now he talks up a storm and definitely has an opinion on everything.

He’s also developing quite the imagination, just like his brother. I watch him play when it’s just the two of us and Thomas and Percy are always off on some exciting adventure.

Yesterday was “Burger Day.” Which means that provided the Oldest Kidlet behaved himself that week, we get lunch from a fast food joint – a full meal for OK, fries for LK. It’s something we all look forward to. And every so often we get In-n-Out, which means that I can join in, since they have “protein style” burgers which are wrapped in lettuce. YUM.

The girl working the register gave the boys stickers, and LK managed to snag both of them yesterday. He has a hard time getting the stickers off the back of the paper, but he has no problem ordering you where to put them.

He created this (sorry for the graininess, but the webcam seemed to be the best option for capturing it at the time):

Keep in mind, we were placing the stickers on one at a time, so I had no idea what was going to happen. “This one!” He pointed to the large car with the hood up. “The sign, right there.” I started to put it on straight, but he turned the paper. “Yes! You see, it hit the sign and the front is broken.” Then he started placing cars in the back. “This one. This one. This one. Now they crash into the other cars!” “The boy goes here. He says it’s funny” (And no, we don’t watch the Simpsons with the kidlets, so he has no idea about Nelson Muntz’ Ha-ha!) Then he put the other person standing on the back of the car. “To see the crash.”

I am saving this silly sticker page forever.

Sex Scandals, Weiner… time for a new approach.

As everyone’s heard, Anthony Weiner was caught sending lewd images to women that he’d flirted with online. When the first image went up, he made some comment about being hacked, then said something about how it was his picture but his phone had sent it accidentally (which as anyone who has purse dialed, emailed, or tweeted knows… could be possible). But as soon as he changed his story once, it was clear that he really had meant to send the image to the woman.

Do I care? Not really. By all accounts, he’s involved in his constituency and seems to be one of those politicians who is trying to make a difference. Let’s face it- sending pics via the internet isn’t nearly as creepy as paying escorts and meeting them at hotels. As a matter of fact, in this day and age, it’s pretty tame.

I feel bad for the woman who was outed by all this and had to delete her Facebook and Twitter accounts for privacy. But really, this whole thing seems like a waste of our media time. There are plenty of legitimate problems, and there are a lot of people who are glad that the man with the unfortunate last name got wrapped up in a sort of sex scandal. Obviously, I don’t think he should resign.

But the real issue – why do people feel the need to lie about something like this? Whether it’s a celeb who was hacked, or accidentally posted a picture instead of DMing it, or a politician like Weiner… haven’t we learned that it’s futile to lie about it? We live in a day and age where the internet can do amazing things. It can raise funds for art projects like Kickstarter in no time at all, or raise money to help a girl pay her legal fees. But mostly, it’s filled with people who will devote lots of time to getting to the bottom of something.

Blake Lively was hacked, and naked pictures of her were posted. She could have simply said she was hacked, that it was embarrassing and she hopes for some privacy, and have her people get them taken down. Instead, she denied it was her, which caused people to keep searching and find a picture that definitively proved it was her- which made a lot of people doubt she was hacked in the first place (well, except for the fact that these pictures were a couple years old).

Honestly, if Weiner had simply come out and admitted that he’d had a lapse in judgement and had been flirting with women online- yes, it would have been embarrassing, but it wouldn’t have given the media a whole week to keep digging and giving everyone involved 15 minutes of fame.

So publicists and people of notoriety… can we just agree that it’d save everyone a lot of effort and time if people would skip the lying when it comes to matters like this? Citizens of the internet will get to the bottom of it, and sooner rather than later. So let’s spare us all the drama and start having people be honest for once.

Ultimately, this is why I don’t understand sending naked pictures at all. Once you hit send, you don’t know who will wind up with it. Yes, it could just get to your recipient and they’ll do nothing – but they could easily send it on to a bunch of people. It’s also why I try not to put anything on the internet that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to have seen by others.

Your thoughts?

ETA: Okay, given more recent accounts from the women who he contacted – the first unsolicited! – Weiner is a pretty skeezy guy. However, he still didn’t break the law. If skeeze was outlawed, most of our politicians and supreme court justices would probably be in jail.

ETA2: I am intentionally keeping the “politicians being bad” element out of this. Mostly because it isn’t just politicians who cheat on their wives and act like creeps. It’s more of a men in power sort of thing. (I’m sure in fairness, that there are women in power who are just as creepy) But not the point of this blog. Though really, you should never send pictures of your junk to a person if previously you’ve only talked politics. That’s just in bad taste.

Have something to say? Feel free to comment! Want to keep up with all my posts? You can use my RSS feed up at the top right of the page to keep up to date with all my entries, or follow me on Twitter.

#YASaves

In the WSJ, Meghan Cox Gurdon, wrote a piece about the current state of Young Adult (YA) Fiction. She points that YA is filled with supernatural novels, violence, rape, drugs, and vile language. This might be true, but she’s completely wrong in saying that these books don’t belong in teenager’s hands.

I find it distressing that Ms Gurdon is their children’s book reviewer- perhaps they should have someone evaluate YA books that isn’t going to throw the book down, arms flailing and screeching “won’t someone please think of the children!”

I admit, I didn’t read YA much as a teenager. I was reading books for adults by that age, devouring Agatha Christies, James Bond novels, and working my way through the classics. I did read more than a few in middle school, and honestly… I know they aren’t the same as the books being published today.

That said, books helped me navigate my teenage years. I was in the honors track at my school, and took most of my classes with the same kids. I’ve written before about my high school and how fortunate I was that we had a large group of honors/AP students. So large that we couldn’t be looked down on as nerds. I wasn’t an outcast because I was in the drama department either. One of the girls who got a lot of the parts was a cheerleader. Most of the social circles were pretty open and wide, and that was fine.

I felt like I was on the outside for other reasons. I was petite, and a grade younger than the kids in my class (I skipped kindergarten). While it didn’t make a difference academically, socially I was still “little Whitney” to a lot of the boys. My lone high school boyfriend was a guy I dated from the grade below me. He was a nice guy, but we had little in common other than our mutual love of James Bond.

I read anything and everything with love stories or sex stories in them, desperate to try to understand that. I longed for books about gay or bisexual teens, but in the late to mid 90′s, that just didn’t exist. I read books filled with pain because despite my wonderful life- I felt lonely and conflicted about myself. I read books to escape.

The world today isn’t the world it was in 1997. I lived in a little beach town, filled with conflicting qualities. It was both conservative and a hippy/surfer town. Both supportive of the arts, but afraid of anything outrageous. Still, it was a great place (if not a little boring) to grow up.

Yet even in this fairly idyllic town, I still knew girls who got pregnant in middle school, girls who hung out with gang members, and a girl who had a drinking problem by age 16. While some of these things seemed completely foreign to me- books helped me at least try to understand them. We’re a lot more open with kids these days. I knew one gay kid in high school- a boy in the grade above me who was out (but who didn’t dare bring a boy to prom) and a girl in my grade that I was kinda sure was out (it actually turned out she wasn’t, and is married to a nice guy these days).

I was 14 when I realized I was attracted to women. I had no idea that you could be identify yourself as bisexual. I had no luck with guys in high school and there was a time I seriously wondered if it was because I was forcing myself to find a boy to fit in, that I was really a lesbian. (I’m pretty sure that there are a lot of people who know me, that this is the first they’ve heard about it) Books at least helped me feel normal, like someone out there understood me.

My point is that books were crucial to getting myself through high school. As the issues teens face today change and become much more open and common, the books should as well. Books help start conversations. Parents of kids who read YA lit, shouldn’t be just handing their kids books and expect them to be able to understand everything- they should be reading them, too, so that if their kids have questions or want to talk about it… they can.

My lovely hippy dippy home town? When I was in high school, they introduced the Kitchen God’s wife as part of our reading program. I was in one of the first classes to read it. But concerned parents found out that there was a rape in the book (as well as an abusive husband) and said it was inappropriate and wanted it taken away from students. And the school did. It was a lovely book, and I still feel as though the rest of the grade missed out on the opportunity to learn and discuss how people deal with that sort of trauma as well as pointing out how differently modern society (vs China in the 40s) handles domestic violence.

Parents need to give their children more credit. They need to remember that school isn’t the same as what it was, that yes, childhood tends to be over a lot earlier than when we were kids. We shouldn’t limit our kids from reading, learning, and understanding. A lot of kids are quietly in pain, feeling like they’re alone- books let them know they aren’t. It helps give them tools to cope. Again, these books should be used for opening discussions.

I know this isn’t my most coherent blog post, but a large part of it is that it upsets me when people try to say that teenagers shouldn’t have access to books that explore darker themes. Or try to limit access to any sort of a book at all. You can’t shield your child from the world forever- better to let them explore the darker parts of society safely between the covers of a book than in the real world.

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