I Saw the New IT Film and I Bloody Hated It

WARNING!!! THIS POST CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE 2017 ADAPTATION OF STEPHEN KING’S IT.

Today, I took advantage of an Alamo Drafthouse $6 ticket price special for shows before 2 p.m. and I chose IT. Well, the chicken strips were good, anyway.

Everyone knows I’m a huge Stephen King fan, and I had high hopes for this film. I really did. Special effects have grown leaps and bounds thanks to CGI since the first TV adaptation. And they really nailed the look of Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård). That made me think it might be worth seeing.

Silver suit–check. Orange pompoms–check. Malevolent smile–check.

Image:  youtube.com

Alas, it was not to be. Instead, I got an overblown, shallow version with myriad jump-scares that didn’t even make me jump.  Not once. In short, it was shit.

Stephen King’s novel is a behemoth at 1,138 pages. There is no way you could do it all in one film, and this is the first of two. The filmmakers wisely chose to put the kids in the first film and save the grownups for Chapter Two.

The children’s section of the book is set in the 1950s. Characters have 1950s names – Richie, Beverly, Bill, Stan, and Betty. Obviously when these kids grow up, they’re adults in the 1980s.

The kids’ period has been updated to the 1980s. Kids then had names like Matt, Jennifer, Shelley, Daniel, Becky, and Kenny. Of course, millennials wouldn’t know that, but anyone old enough to have read the book when it came out absolutely will notice. Though not a huge problem, it lends a jarring note to the film’s atmosphere.

I blew that off and kept watching.  Didn’t take long before I started to squirm in my seat. It physically hurt to watch them gut the story. I recognized moments from the book as they began, and then they shot off track into unknown and ridiculous territory.

The deviations robbed many of the story’s most powerful moments of their punch and skimmed the surface of the characters. Sloppy writing and contrived dialogue (there is TONS of great dialogue in the book; they should have used it) only made it worse.

In the novel, each kid has a separate encounter with It before they are drawn into the Losers Club. These scenes establish not only the kids’ characters but the monster’s (it’s a shape-shifter, and clever).  Only Beverly, Bill, Stan, and Eddie get to do this. We lose Mike’s giant bird, and Richie’s narrow escape from the big plastic Paul Bunyan statue.  Paul appeared in the background of a scene and I got super excited when I saw him; then he vanished for the rest of the film.

HI RICHIE! Wait–what? I only get a cameo? Well bust my buttons and call my agent!

Image: northumberlandnews.com

The dead boys at the Derry Standpipe who chase a horrified Stan Uris (Wyatt Oleff) become instead a misshapen painting in his rabbi father’s office. It’s inspired by something that scared the film’s director; it had nothing to do with the book, mind you. Like most of the film, actually.

Other choice missteps:

  • Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs) is still a farm kid, but now an orphan. They barely spend any time on him before he joins the Losers Club. The adult story hinges on Mike, and they should have plumbed his character more here.
  • George Denbrough dies in the same way at the beginning of the film–Pennywise tears his arm off. Pretty awful, right? A kid getting his wing ripped completely off! He screams, he bleeds–and then the clown yanks him down into the storm drain and eats him. Not only is this anti-climactic (yes, really), now big brother Bill’s (Jaeden Lieberher) motivation changes from white-hot revenge to the anemic “Georgie isn’t dead; he’s only missing. We have to find him.”
  • Ben Hanscomb (Jeremy Ray Taylor) is still fat, but he looks a good two years younger than he should. Ben was supposed to be a BIG fat kid, not a teeny fat kid. His tormentor, bully Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) also looks far too young and isn’t really all that menacing, though Hamilton does his best. Taylor’s performance is good, but he gets eclipsed by Richie.
  • Patrick Hockstetter (Owen Teague), a shudderingly creepy character in the book, was barely in the film and should have been left out entirely if they weren’t going to do anything with him.
  • Not far in, I found myself asking, “Where the hell is little asthmatic Eddie Kaspbrak’s (Jack Dylan Grazer) aspirator?” A huge character tag for this hypochondriac kid, it pops up halfway through as though the writers forgot about it. We also get no sense of the power his fearful mother Sonia (Molly Atkinson) holds over him; it’s merely hinted at, and Atkinson’s part is also wasted.
  • The abandoned house on Neibolt Street made it into the film, but they bloated it into a giant burned-out haunted looking monstrosity, instead of the ordinary facade it was in the book. No werewolf because no 1950s; just Eddie’s leper, who starts out cool but devolves into another overdone effect.
  • A well in the house also becomes the portal to It’s lair, instead of the sewers in the Barrens. The Barrens themselves are merely backdrop, but they’re mentioned often and then discarded.

Why no, Myrtle, that house couldn’t possibly be haunted.

Image: mashable.com

The most egregious fail involves Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis). She’s the only girl in the Losers Club. Book Beverly is tough and yet vulnerable, with a father who beats her, a pattern she repeats as an adult by marrying an abusive man.

To my disgust, the film utterly sexualized Beverly. This is what Hollywood does to girls. It starts by bumping up the book’s popular kids’ rumors that Beverly is a slut and will sleep with anyone.

It permeates the relationship between and her father; instead of hitting her, he sniffs her hair lasciviously after she comes back from the drugstore with a box of tampons (not in the novel). Nobody outright says he’s molesting her, but you get the sense that he wants to. This was only hinted at in the book–King focused on the beating because Bev’s husband Tom Rogan is also a violent man.

The film subverts Beverly’s role as an actual member of the group in a scene where all the boys stare mesmerized at her body as she sunbathes, thus establishing her merely as a sex object. Although Ben has a mad crush on her, in the book they don’t really think of her as a “girl” per se. She swiftly becomes one of them. This moment ruined that burgeoning dynamic entirely.

The rumors surface again when Bev’s father literally tries to rape her (“I’ve been hearing things about you, Bevvie.”).

Worst of all, at the climax of the film, Beverly is objectified again when Pennywise kidnaps her and plunges her into a catatonic state with its deadlights, so this otherwise resourceful girl cannot save herself (also ruining the deadlights for Chapter Two).  The boys have to save her.

Let me reiterate. THE BOYS HAVE TO SAVE HER.  It’s the power of the penis!  And how do they do that?

WITH A KISS. Yes, when Ben kisses her, Beverly comes out of her catatonic state. True love (not friendship, mind you!) wins the day!

At this point, I badly wanted to get out of the theater. I didn’t even wait for the credits to roll, something that as a soundtrack nerd, I usually anticipate.  Nope, up and out as if Pennywise himself were after me.

A very few things were okay.

  • Finn Wolfhard, whom I love as Mike Wheeler in Netflix’s Stranger Things, plays Richie “Trashmouth” Tozier. Despite the film’s lack of character development, Richie has a very strong personality and Wolfhard does a great job with it. He’s the character I felt was closest to the book version.
  • Instead of being a whiz at building things (adult Ben is a famous architect), kid Ben gets to be a history nerd. It provided an easy way to shoehorn the history of Derry and the ubiquitous presence of the clown into the story. And they left his anonymous love haiku to Beverly, a sweet moment in the book, intact.
  • The Apocalyptic Rock Fight survived, though short and clumsy in execution.

The jump scares are run-of-the-mill standard horror fare. I’ve seen so many scary movies that directors have to try much harder if they want to actually frighten me. The film was infested with them–they took up time that could have been used for character development. Instead of slowly building tension with each child’s It encounters, the film tried to cram it down the viewer’s throat–Here! This is gross! Fear it! FEAR IT!

IT said “Boo!” over and over but failed to get me on every level. I do not recommend this film. I don’t know if I’ll even bother to see Chapter Two.  If I do, I’ll most likely rent it from Redbox for a couple of bucks. But I won’t waste my popcorn money on it, or throw an Alamo experience down the drain again.

Just read the damn book.

Rating:  D-minus

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How to Get Past the Feeling That Your Writing Sucks

I started re-reading IT and I’m in despair over how poor my writing is in comparison to Stephen King’s. I know I shouldn’t do that; IT was his thirteenth novel and Tunerville is only my fourth, so I don’t have as much practice as he did when he wrote it. But it’s so hard not to, especially now that I can read books and see the mechanics that went into writing them.

Mel Gibson allegedly said about directing, “I can’t watch movies anymore. I can see the strings.”  Yeah, mentally ill or not, Mel kind of sucks, but this quote illustrates very well the phenomenon that happens when you begin to see how your craft actually works.

I feel exactly like that now–I can not only see the elements that make up the whole, I can understand WHY they don’t or do work. It’s akin to watching figure skating before and after I learned to skate.

Tara Lipinski, 1998 Winter Olympics. This is a combination triple loop jump followed by a double loop. Very difficult.

Image: popsugar.com

At the time Lipinski performed this program, her elements made no sense to me. I could not see a jump coming and had no idea what it even was until she did it and the commentator remarked on it. Watching a figure skating program  then was an experience in surprises—stroke stroke BOOM! stroke stroke BOOM!

After fifteen years of skating myself, I can see the jump setup. I notice many more technical details that I didn’t before, such as whether the edge is good, shorted rotations, etc. I can even tell if someone jumping is likely to fall (sometimes they manage to save it when I think they can’t, so I’m not totally accurate). Even if I can’t perform all the elements Lipinski did, I recognize them. I can watch the jump and know with at least some certainty whether the judges will mark it as well executed.

Of course, you don’t have to be a skater to know these things. If you have a keen eye for observation and have been watching for many years, it’s possible to understand and analyze a sport with great accuracy. Many people who enjoy American football have never played it, but they can look at the formation during a game on TV and tell you exactly what’s about to happen. 

Whoop, didn’t see THAT coming! #herpaderp

Image: buzzfeed.com

Doing an activity, however, provides you with a deeper understanding of its execution. That doesn’t make you an expert unless you’ve put in the hours and practice to become one. However, it does give you just enough information to be dangerous…

…to your self-esteem.

Writing is, in its nature, a solitary activity. You must enter the cavern of your mind and search for treasures there, then haul them out and attempt to convey them–and the quest for them–in a way that resonates with the reader, so he or she will buy your work.

But one man’s treasure is another’s trash. And a clumsy attempt at presentation will sell no merchandise. In your solitude, you can lose your objectivity regarding the quality of your presentation. When you run into a master’s-level piece, you may feel your work is just a sad little flea market tchotchke.

We know it’s all too easy to measure ourselves against others, and we shouldn’t. A quote attributed to David B. Schlosser has been going around on the internet lately:

Image: taaonline.netE

Easier said than done when you’re confronted with the exquisite reality of a more seasoned writer’s technique. It’s enough to make you swear off writing. Hell, it’s enough to make you want to quit reading.

Since we are artists and we must create or die, we have to use these moments not as cudgels with which to beat ourselves, but as tools to sharpen our ability. You simply cannot write effectively if you don’t read.

But Elizabeth, you say, reading in an analytical manner spoils the story for me. Yes, it can. However, you will not know if the jump is good unless you watch it. I “headit” when I’m reading, and yes, it can spoil a poorly executed story–all my attention is on how I would fix this sentence or that phrase or what was this idiot thinking that is not how a semi-colon works.

But I can still pick up books and lose myself completely before I remember I’m actually reading and not crawling around inside another person’s head in a land far, far away.  A skilled writer can employ these techniques so well that a reader will remain unaware of them.

Book’s so good the kid doesn’t even notice he’s stuck in a damn attic all night.

Image: dvdactive.com

Pay attention to the techniques you see–do they work? Why? Why not? If you’ve read the book before and you don’t remember how the author used them, go back and read it again. This time, watch and learn.

Sometimes we can’t see what isn’t working. We’re too close. In that case, we can put our work in front of another person’s eyes. Beta readers and writing groups can provide helpful feedback.

If you have the money, consider hiring a professional editor to give you an in-depth analysis. Work can change; it can be improved. Someone with industry experience can help you not only make your story better but in the process, help you become a better writer. 

I decided to pursue professional editing for TunervilleI have little money; this is going to hurt financially, but I’ve reached an impasse. After countless rejections and two with the same critique, it’s time to admit I might need some help.

It feels a bit like I’m sending my baby off to war. Maybe I’ll find I just need more time and more practice before I get there. Maybe this will actually help me get the book published. I will not know until I give it a chance.

Don’t dwell on YOU when you read for analysis or solicit feedback. Think about your WORK and if the techniques you see can help it or not. Your personality and self-esteem are not the focus here. This isn’t therapy; it’s called improving your craft.

If you need help, ask for it. And be nice to yourself. You probably don’t suck as much as you think.

Related:  10 Things Your Freelance Editor Might Not Tell You But Should

So I Saw the Total Eclipse, Y’all

You may recall that last Monday, the U.S. had a total solar eclipse.

Eclipses occur quite frequently around the world, but this one got a lot of hype because many more people than usual were within traveling distance of totality. Including me. I’ve seen many partial eclipses, but I’ve heard from tons of people who said you must, simply must, experience the ultimate photobomb at least once in your lifetime.

Image:  awkwardyeti.com

My mum happens to live in a city in Missouri located in the band of totality that stretched across the continental United States. So, as is my wont, I vastly overpacked for three days and drove over on Saturday.

Mum’s brother decided to drive over too, on his own. I prefer not to carpool in case my travel anxiety dictates an urgent need to leave; a fortuitous habit, as it turned out.  Mum put me downstairs in the finished basement. I didn’t mind this, but I had to sleep on a slowly deflating air mattress, and I might as well have been on the floor. Oof.

Getting old ain’t for sissies.

Image: Alex Rotas / positivenews

S. and A., chat room friends from Europe, were traveling in the States for a concert and other visits, and they messaged me that they were coming to St. Louis for the eclipse and wanted to meet up. Mum was fine with them coming down to watch with us, so they did.

My uncle plays the guitar like a goddamn virtuoso and he really impressed them. We had an outstanding visit. I rarely get to see S. and A., because 1) they’re in the Netherlands and Poland, respectively, and 2) I can’t travel as much as they do.

The total eclipse absolutely amazed me. Anyone who saw a partial just cannot understand how mind-bendingly weird it is. The strange silvery light–like twilight but not, that no camera can capture. The crescent shadows (partials will make those, so you saw them if you were in any of it).

Crescent shadows on uncle’s car.

Image: Elizabeth West

As the day slowly darkened, the birds settled down as if it were night. We have cicadas this year, and they began to buzz the way they do at dusk. The temperature dropped. The day had grown butt-melting hot, so we appreciated that more than you could know. A breeze started to blow. The diamond ring appeared as the eclipse neared its peak, and we could see Bailey’s beads.

Then, totality.

I always thought when the moon obscured the sun, it would slide slowly over it and the sun would gradually fade out, but it wasn’t like that at all.  When totality comes, the moon sort of slams into place over the sun like a manhole cover, and the corona explodes into view.  It’s not the least bit subtle! And then you take off your glasses and see this big black hole in the sky.

A HOLE IN THE SKY Y’ALL

Okay, so I may have freaked out a little bit.

I forgot to upload this, I think. #eclipse2017

A post shared by Elizabeth West (@dame_writesalot) on

Video: Elizabeth West

Of course it’s bigger than the camera shows, because cameras suck and I don’t have a zoom lens (but I will next time, dammit). It resembled those pictures of black holes where artists have rendered a glowing event horizon around the edges. If you look at this picture and squint to obscure the stars, you can get a rough idea of how it looked.

Image: M. Weiss / Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics / newsdesk.si.edu

Totality lasted a little over two minutes–the shortest two minutes of my entire life. It felt more like thirty seconds. All too soon, the diamond ring reappeared and we put our glasses back on.

We didn’t stay outside for the rest of it. Instead, we went inside for a delicious lunch of chicken tenders with herbs and apricot sauce and roasted smashed potatoes (my mum could easily take Martha Stewart’s crown right off her smug little head).

Even the potatoes did the crescent thing. This was totally accidental, btw.

Image: Elizabeth West

My uncle ran a quick errand, and unfortunately, his car decided to throw a rod or something. He had to stay over another night to have it fixed. Which meant another night on the floor for me, so I decided to go home.

S. and A. left to drive back to St. Louis for the night; they spent the next two days driving to Chicago to visit a couple of other chat friends. I’d planned to hang out with them in Krakow this past May at the Fans of Film Music festival, but as you know, I lost my damn job. But with luck, I’ll see them again soon.

The next total eclipse visible in the U.S. will occur on April 8, 2024. The path of totality lies further east. If I were you, I’d start planning now.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, that your discontented ass needs to see.

Not In My America, Assholes

Suzanne Lucas (Evil HR Lady) recently posted an article about whether employers should or can fire the white supremacists (neo-Nazis) who participated in the deadly rally in Charlottesville, VA over the weekend.

I’m going to repost my comment from Evil HR Lady’s blog post (and Inc. article) about this here.

Here’s a link to her article (somebody may have already beat me to this): Should You Fire the Charlottesville Protestors?

If you don’t follow me on Twitter, I also posted this thread.

My comment on Suzanne’s blog:

This is tricky legal territory. I agree with Suzanne; employers should be really careful to make sure they’re not firing someone unlawfully.

You can be fired if your employer deems your presence disruptive and all the legal conditions are satisfied. If you work with clients, they could decide it’s too much risk–what if one of them recognizes you and they lose customers because nobody wants to contribute to your livelihood?

And she’s right that mob identification can often result in a mistake–recently in London, a jogger randomly pushed a woman in front of a bus. Quick action by the driver kept her from being killed. The police picked up [edit] someone who was not even in the country at the time of the incident because he looked like the jogger in the CCTV video (they still haven’t found him). Luckily, they realized their error quickly and the man was cleared. If the cops can mess up, then anyone can. So do your due diligence.

I think people need to remember that our right to free speech only applies to government interference with that speech. This means the US government can’t prevent you from airing your opinion on Twitter, or marching to protest an injustice, or even staging a detestable display such as this group did, as long as you’re not breaking any other laws.

But it does NOT protect you against the consequences of that speech. When you’re out in public, you have NO expectation of privacy. You should know that attending public events might mean your face ends up on TV. People might be able to identify you. Social media makes it very easy to figure out who someone is. And yes, it may affect your employment.

On the other hand, DO NOT DOX PEOPLE. Identification is one thing. But putting people’s personal information (addresses, employers, Social Security numbers, etc.) on the internet is NOT okay. That gets into some very murky moral territory, because it’s usually done to facilitate harassment.

Just don’t be that person. If I were an employer and I found out you were doxxing people, regardless of whether they were Nazis or not, I would really rethink my decision to hire you.
———-

Hate speech has absolutely no history of or evidence backing it up as being in any way constructive. It exists merely to harass, intimidate, and terrorize people who are different from the person saying it. It can be (though not always is) inciting, which is not covered by the First Amendment, according to Brandenburg. v. Ohio When designed for this purpose, hate speech can incite terrorism.

The neo-Nazis want ONE thing–the complete destruction of anyone they view as “other.” That means anyone who is not white, or anyone who opposes them. They are pushing a false narrative of oppression to justify this agenda.

There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to entertain this kind of thing. I think we’ve (almost) reached a point where you’re either a Nazi sympathizer or you’re not. There is no “many sides.” There is no longer any nuance.

We fought a worldwide war to rid ourselves of this. Do we have to do it again? Are we going to have a war on American soil, and will troops from other countries come here to fight with us? I highly doubt it; they’ll probably just watch us tear ourselves apart from the inside.

Then someone will take advantage of the chaos and step in and take over. Guess who that could be? Might rhyme with tootin’.

If we don’t call it out immediately, it will only get worse. Trump’s waffling and refusal to do so has literally excited them. They think he supports them–he probably does, for the votes, at least until he sees that there is no way in almighty Hell he’ll be re-elected. We have to make SURE of that.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

–Call your Congressional representatives (please be polite to the staffers) and tell them how you feel. Demand the removal of Nazi sympathizers Bannon, Gorka, and Miller (and for good measure, known racist Jeff Sessions) from the Trump administration. Tell your representatives that you support their efforts to combat domestic terrorism perpetrated by right-wing factions.
Contact information and scripts here: 5calls.org

–Donate to organizations that combat hate and discrimination.  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) are working hard against it. You can also report hate incidents at SPLC’s Hatewatch page.

–Report hate crimes in your community to local law enforcement.

–Don’t forget to vote in local elections as well as national ones.  If someone needs a ride to the polls, give them one.  Vote against discriminatory candidates, and against voter ID laws, which target poor and minority voters who are more likely to vote for progressive candidates. Election schedules can be found at the My Time To Vote website. 

–If you want to counter protest, stay safe and do it lawfully. This article from Self magazine has tips on safety, what to bring, etc. and useful links at the end:

21 Things To Know About Your Right To Protest And How To Do It Safely

BEFORE YOU COMMENT:

Please visit my comment policy page. I will remove you, block you, and report you if you post any hateful rhetoric here or threaten me or any other commenters.

I Missed Camp NaNoWriMo 2017 So I’m Doing My Own

So I’ve been busy/not busy.

You might know (or not) that I’m still not working at the moment. Most of my time has been spent job hunting, and while that’s not entirely a full-time job, it does occupy a lot of head space.

Assuming your head is this big.

Image: superheroes.wikia.com

July is a Camp NaNoWriMo month (also April), the summer version of NaNoWriMo. Since I’ve been scouring job listings and writing cover letters until my face bleeds, I missed it. My intention was to use it for something, but that did not happen. I tend to actually work better when I have something else going on. Like you know, a job.

I’ve got five queries out for Tunerville at the moment. A couple of them don’t look like they’ll garner any results, but you never know. The period for a no reply = no isn’t up quite yet. Should someone decide they want to represent me, one of the first questions they’ll ask is “What else are you working on?”

I realized I have no answer for that question.

Secret Book is finished, but it’s such a hot mess that it could take me years to work it out. Not only would I have to do a ton of research I’m not ready to do, but I screwed up so badly that it requires an extensive rewrite. That’s okay; it happens. The book failed in its first iteration, but even if I can’t salvage it as a whole, it contains a ton of well-written prose I can cannibalize for something else.

That’s how you learn, grasshopper.

Image: imdb.com

Rose’s Hostage is so old I don’t know if I can even sell it. I’d like to, but it probably needs another edit. I don’t have time for it right now.

Tunerville’s first full manuscript was rejected in September and I was so disappointed, but I received a (rare!) critique. I’ve done some revision and I’m editing it now to reduce the word count again and clean it up a little more. I thought it could be a stand-alone or the start of a trilogy.

In keeping with the great maestro Ludwig van Beethoven, I thought of a really cool way to carry the trilogy idea forward while on a daily walk. Beethoven was big on taking long walks, but of course he had the Vienna Woods for that. I get to walk among discarded liquor shots and condemned houses.

That’s the only thing we have in common, as Ludwig was a genius and I am decidedly not. (Confession time–I used to have an ENORMOUS crush on the guy.)

You know what they say about musicians.  ;)

Image: allmusic.com

The entire month of August, I will be writing. In between job hunting, interviews, studying, and a total eclipse of the sun for which I have a front-row seat, Book Two is going to blast out of my computer. First drafts suck, I hate writing them, and sustained torture seems to be the only way I can do so.

Should I bother? I don’t know if anyone will ever publish Tunerville. People have told me they’d like to read it.  People who have read it liked it. Industry folks have said I’m very close. Either way, I’m a writer and that’s what I do. I won’t get any better at it if I sit on my arse and click hearts underneath pictures of cats on Twitter all day.

So I’m gonna sit on my arse and write. I’ll try to stay up-to-date on social media (I have to, as a member of the #Resistance) and keep you informed here as much as I can. Don’t expect any word count posts. I’ve placed a widget on the main page, at the top right. I’m shooting for 80,000 words or until I’m finished, whatever comes first.

Do expect eclipse photos and video, assuming it’s not cloudy that day. If you need anything, follow me on Twitter at @DameWritesalot; that’s the best place to catch me.

*sigh*
*deep breath*

And here we go.

You Asked for This Vaccine Opinion; Here It Is.

Recently, a friend posted one of those articles on Facebook. I’m sure you can guess by the title of this post what the subject was. She asked for opinions, so here’s mine. If you see a link, click on it–you might learn something.

I take issue with this whole vaccines-cause-autism thing, for the following reasons:

1.  Vaccination has over 100 years of research behind it. It’s safe for most people. Someone not believing a fact that is backed up with direct, observable data doesn’t automatically make it untrue.

2.  Clinging stubbornly to a discredited study by a guy who faked most of it because of special interests (re: money) is the height of ignorance and willful stupidity, and it bugs me to see it coming from otherwise intelligent people. It’s a mark of gullibility, pure and simple, as well as a frightening symptom of the lack of critical thinking skills in our society as a whole.

Scientists were rightly alarmed by Wakefield’s claims, and so they checked his data. It was bad. It was wrong, and they found no evidence to back it up. Because that’s what good science does–it checks.

3.  Nobody is quite sure what causes autism; it seems to be geneticSpending time and money constantly debunking this crap takes valuable resources away from someday pinning down that cause and / or finding new treatments.

4.  Being autistic is not the worst thing that can happen to a person. I have a friend who has two children, both of them autistic, and they are doing very well, in part because we’ve gotten better at diagnosis and understanding how earlier intervention benefits autistic kids.

Being autistic isn’t fatal. But whooping cough (pertussis) can and does absolutely kill infants and children. So does measles and other diseases vaccinations prevent. So does flu, when people don’t get their shots. In fact, one of the worst epidemics ever was the Spanish flu in 1918-1919. Scientists think they’ve figured out why it was so deadly. But if it ever comes back in a form we’re not prepared for and people are not inoculated, the public health costs could be unimaginable.

Herd immunity protects most people who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons–but ONLY if everyone who can gets vaccinated.  And while it’s not a perfect defense for all diseases, it can reduce the incidence and severity of them.

Do you want these diseases back? I don’t. VACCINATE YOUR KIDS. Either that, or move to an island somewhere, because I don’t want to be around you or them.

This ridiculousness makes me seriously angry.  I want to be a mum more than anything right now, and I would far rather have an autistic child than a dead one.  

You asked.

Cheers!

The Destruction of the Arkansas Ten Commandments Monument was Unlawful; But Christian Monuments on Government Property are Unconstitutional

You’ve probably heard that somebody rammed a car into the Ten Commandments monument erected on government property in Arkansas.

Arkansas’ Ten Commandments monument destroyed by vehicle 

I don’t condone destruction of property, not at all. What Mr. Reed did was wrong. But that monument should never have been there in the first place.

The Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution is clear–you cannot pass laws that allow an establishment of any particular religion. And a law that allows display of one religion’s monument on government property but restricts any other (i.e. a non-Christian one), IS an official endorsement of that religion, because it prioritizes it above the others.

From the Legal Information Institute website at Cornell University:

“The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibits the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” This clause not only forbids the government from establishing an official religion, but also prohibits government actions that unduly favor one religion over another. It also prohibits the government from unduly preferring religion over non-religion, or non-religion over religion.”

The clause exists to preserve your religious freedom, not threaten it. You have a right to worship any way you choose, but you cannot put that into law, because then everyone is subject to it.

If you allow a religion to dictate legal matters according to its rules, then you no longer have religious freedom. You have opened the door to a takeover of whatever belief system happens to be the majority, and it may not always remain yours. I’m thinking in particular of Scientology, which has a lot of money and a lot of influence. What if Scientologists bought Congress and forced their beliefs into law? Would you like it if you were required to follow its tenets and pay for its e-meters and classes? No? I didn’t think so.

Religious freedom in the U.S. is not majority rule, and that was never its intent. The only way to be fair to everyone is to keep it separate, including prohibiting symbols of faith on government installations.

If you’re tempted to start Muslim bashing and scream about preventing Sharia law in the U.S., then perhaps you don’t know what it is. It refers to the scriptural guidelines in the Muslim religion, basically their rules for going to heaven. It’s the same thing as the Bible guidelines in Christianity.

In Muslim countries that follow a classical Sharia system, Sharia law is also the law of the country. Religious, not secular, rules dominate. Everyone has to follow them whether they like it or not. This is the system in Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Taliban also enforces it. The Islamic State takes it to extremist status, but neither they nor the classical system are the primary one. Whether it can exist in conjunction with democracy is a bone of contention in the Muslim world.

In our America, it’s fine for your church to buy land and build a sanctuary and erect a cross there, or a big stone representation of the Ten Commandments. Or a giant flowerbed in the shape of Noah’s Ark. Or a Nativity scene. That’s private property; they can do what they want with it.  It’s also fine for Muslims to do the same, and Jews, and Buddhists. Its fine for anyone else who wants to have a church. The only thing they would have to worry about is zoning laws.

But religions are constitutionally restricted from interfering in government. We have separation of church and state because making your religion the law of the land is exactly the same thing Saudi Arabia does. And we don’t want that here. The Founding Fathers didn’t want that here. That’s why the Establishment Clause exists, folks. It’s why this rule should remain intact, and why we cannot permit any religious monuments on government property.

If a Buddhist, Muslim, Satanic, or Hindu statue does not belong on your courthouse lawn, then your cross or commandments can’t go there either.

How to Drive Editors Crazy

It happens from time to time in communication.  We all have the occasional typo.  But if you write professionally, you need to make sure you use the proper word.  This means PROOFREADING.  Spellcheck doesn’t know everything.  It will skip over words spelled correctly.

And if you use Autocorrect in either your word processor or your tablet, you must beware of substitutions. We ALL know that one.

Image: damnyouautocorrect.com

Behold, in two parts, I list for thee some common mistakes that make editors gnash their teeth.  Many of them come from mispronunciation of words or homophone confusion.

I can just about guarantee I made a mistake in this post and someone will point it out to me.

Part I: Getting it Wrong

Vise versa

Um…no.

I’m a vice!  No wait; I’m a vise.  I’m a tool, not a sleazy habit.  Unless you like that, baby. C’mere and give me a little squeeze.

I’m a vice! No wait; I’m a vise. I’m a tool, not a sleazy habit. Unless you like that, baby. C’mere and give me a little squeeze.

Image: Glenn McKechnie / Wikimedia Commons

Then vs than 

I might have done this already.  It bears repeating.  Then refers to a specific time.  Use than to make a comparison.

Cut and dry

It’s cut and dried.  As in, the fish is caught, cut, dried, and now we’re done.  No more work needed.

Perq

It’s perk.  I know it’s short for perquisite, but the word is spelled perk.

Bait in switch

It’s bait and switch. You dangle the bait AND then you switch it.

Stop using quotes for anything except direct quotes!

Scare quotes (or the gesture, air quotes) have come to denote irony, which means that you’re probably saying the opposite of what you actually mean.

Thanks, I’ll pass.

Thanks, I’ll pass.

Image:  submitted by Mary / unnecessaryquotes.com

Irrespective (see what I did there) of what you might have heard, irregardless is a double negative and cancels itself out.  Say regardless instead.  A manager at an old job used the incorrect form all the time, and I used to laugh at him secretly.  He was a tremendous bully and customers hated him, so I don’t feel badly about it.  You may laugh at him too.

Half-hazard

Try haphazard.

Jewlery

This isn’t even a word.  It appears more often in spoken discourse, but I’ve seen it written too.  It’s jewelry. Spelled jewellery, if you’re British or learned British English.

That vs. who

That refers to objects, groups, or animals; who refers to people.  That doesn’t technically violate grammar rules, but since people aren’t objects, who is the correct form.   Example:

“I know the culprits that trashed the cemetery, Buffy,” Giles said.

As a proper Englishman and a learned fellow, he would never say this.

“I know the culprits who trashed the cemetery, Buffy,” Giles said.

“I know the culprits who trashed the cemetery, Buffy,” Giles said.

Image:  fanpop.com

Part II: Know Your Homophones

Balling vs. bawling

You ball your girlfriend or boyfriend.  You bawl your eyes out.  If you say, “That film was so sad I was balling all over the cinema!” I’m going to look at you funny.

Cue vs. queue

Since these words have multiple meanings and some are confusing, I’m going to use them in a couple of sentences.

Cue

The pool player arrived with his cue [stick] in a special case.

An actor waits in the wings for her cue [signal].

            Tell the DJ to cue up [put next in line] a disco track.

Queue

English people love to queue [verb: line up].  They’re good at it.

Officer, the man who jumped the queue [noun: line] wore a queue [braid] down the back of his neck.    

Breaks vs. brakes 

We all got breaks when we found jobs after a long period of unemployment.

When the rabbit ran out in front of me, I hit the brakes.

Peddling vs. pedaling

You pedal a bike.

You peddle your geek junk on eBay

They see me rollin; they hatin….

Mantle vs mantel

A mantle is a cloak.  It’s also used colloquially–someone can assume the mantle of command (they put on the cloak of power).

You put things on your fireplace mantel.

Roll vs. role

One’s a verb; the other is a noun.  Bartholomew will roll the cheese down the hill.  An older actor typically plays the role of King Lear.

Hoard vs horde

This is a hoard.

Muwahahaha, all mine.

Muwahahaha, all mine.

Image:  David Rowan, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery / Wikimedia Commons

This is a horde.

375-horde

Image:  newsbiscuit.com

Pour vs. pore

Both verbs, but they do very different things.

Imma pour you a drink, man.  We’ll talk.

Deep in the library at Orthanc, Gandalf began to pore over the scrolls. 

Flare vs. flair

A flare is a Roman candle you put on the road when you’ve broken down.  Flair is about how you show your sassy self!

Palate vs. palette

The first one refers to your sense of taste, or the roof of your mouth.  The other is the thing on which Bob Ross mixes his little roll of paint.

Wean vs. ween

If you mess this one up, I will laugh like this:  HAHAHAAHAHAAHAHAAHAAHAHAA!  Because deep inside, I’m a dirty-minded sixth-grader.

To wean is to extract yourself gradually from a dependence on something.  You wean yourself off that daily latte. You wean your little babby off formula/breast milk and onto solid food.

Ween is a very old word meaning to think or expect something.  It’s also short for wiener, which is slang for your big old willy.  Willy is slang for your penis, bro.

One-Eyed Ween didn’t have quite the same ring to it.

One-Eyed Ween didn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Image:  goonies.wikia.com

Grizzly or grizzliest vs. grisly

I see this one a lot.  Grizzly as an adjective means flecked with grey, as in an old dog’s muzzle.  As a noun, it’s a species of bear.

Grisly means something that causes disgust or horror, like blood and guts.  So a grizzly grizzly can do grisly things to your sad little meat body.

Finally, one I saw just today:

Wrap vs. rap

A bad wrap–this is what you get when you let your cat assist you with the Christmas presents.  A bad rap means somebody’s dissing you.

What do you mean you don’t need my help, Linda?

What do you mean you don’t need my help, Linda?

Image:  MoreFlippyCat / YouTube

Remember, Autocorrect and Spellcheck are great tools, but neither is a substitute for editing.  If you can, ask someone else to look at your article.  Or set it aside for a while and go back to it.  Print it out and look at it on paper–your eye doesn’t see the same thing on screen in the same way.

Now go forth and edit!

No, I Do Not Have to Accept Bullshit – Stop Telling Me to Welcome Trump

This will be my last post about the election on this blog.  Barring discussions of censorship, anything politics-related from now on will appear on either my Tumblr or Twitter feeds.  We’ll go back to our hopefully more regularly scheduled posts on writing, art, etc.  I don’t have time to blog about the Evil Pumpkin and his sidekick the Ruthless Ghost; I have a job to find and a book to revise / query and another to write.

If I don’t have any book news to share, we’ll just have fun instead.

If I don’t have any book news to share, we’ll just have fun instead.

Image:  stockimage / freedigitalphotos.net

A Facebook friend shared this Seth Millstein article from Bustle today– What To Tell People Who Say You Have To Accept Donald Trump’s Presidency Now.  In the wake of the 2017 Women’s March on Washington, a vast worldwide protest of historic significance, I find it doubly important.  I’ve seen this rebuke in comments dozens of times now–“Get over it!  He’s your president! Suck it up! Accept it!”–and quite frankly, it’s getting old.

Let me make this absolutely clear.

I will continue to be a law-abiding citizen as I have always done.  I will exercise my rights and fight within current legal guidelines to dismantle any attempt to curtail them.  In the event those rights are revoked, I will use any tools available to continue that battle.

I am under no obligation to accept racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, abuse, gaslighting, lying, or the interference of a foreign power in the machinations of my government.  I do not have to bow down to anyone.  This is not a monarchy.  It will not be a dictatorship because we will not allow it.

I do not have to use the title of president when referring to the person who holds that title.  Calling him Trump, or Mr. Trump if I’m ever unfortunate enough to be in the same room with him, is perfectly acceptable.

I will support artists and writers’ efforts to speak out, to represent marginalized and underrepresented citizens, to expose lies and propaganda and misdirection.  I will do everything I can to ensure we aren’t silenced.

I will support programs that seek to fund artistic endeavors of all kinds.  Art provides escape and succor and peace, spurs us to action, and helps us see the exquisite beauty of our world.  It’s a reflection of our society.  It shows us where we’re going and where we’ve been.  It stimulates our collective imagination as to what we could become.

Understand that I’m also fighting for YOU.  What hurts me also hurts you, and vice versa.  Whether we agree or not isn’t the point.  By looking at facts, I try to see things clearly rather than through a fog of rhetoric.  You can depend on me to continue.  I will try my best to be respectful of your views so we can discuss them, and all I ask is the same from you.  If you’re not capable of that, or if my anger or frustration hinders polite discourse, I will step away from you and direct my efforts elsewhere.

For what it’s worth, I believe we’re moving toward a more progressive society and not a lesser one.  It may hurt to excise this abscess of hate, but once it’s gone, things will be better for everybody.

I care about this country and the world.  I care about you.  Let’s fix these problems together.

Always Team Cap; never Team Hydra. 

Always Team Cap; never Team Hydra.

Links:
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – National non-partisan non-profit that works to defend the rights of persons in the United States

Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) – Non-profit fighting hate, intolerance, and discrimination through education and litigation. Monitors hate groups.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) – Works to fight institutionalized racism in America

Lambda Legal – Organization working to ensure rights of LGBTQ and HIV-positive people through education and policy

Human Rights Campaign – Action organization dedicated to LGBTQ rights

Planned Parenthood – Provides sexual and reproductive health care (STD testing, prenatal care, birth control, cancer screenings, abortion referral) and education to low-income women.  Planned Parenthood also provides sexual and reproductive health services to men.  

More links to organizations you can help support or volunteer for in this HuffPo article:

These Organizations Will Critically Need Support During Trump’s Presidency

A Farewell to Harm – Fuck off, 2016

Boy, this has been one epic toilet of a year, hasn’t it?  Let us count the ways.

A large number of celebrity deaths

Lots of people, notable and not, died during the year.  But we lost some of our most revered legends, more than usual, and some of them were grossly unexpected, like David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, and Prince.

It's okay to have a sad.

It’s okay to have a sad.

Image: Macro / publicdomainpictures.net

One of the most contentious and insane presidential elections ever

I’m not going to post the Pumpkin’s New Year tweet here; if you’re so inclined, you can go view it on Twitter.  But this response from Irish singer/songwriter James Vincent McMorrow made me laugh the hardest:

I love James–and you should check out his music, seriously.

I really don’t have much more to say about the election, other than to remind everyone that we can fight back in many ways.  Help each other out, even those you disagree with.  In the next few years, that kindness will make bank, because a ton of voters are already regretting their choice.  If you cannot, do what you must to keep yourself safe and know that many of us, myself included, will step up for you.

AND GET YOUR ARSE OUT AND VOTE IN THE MID-TERMS IN 2018.  Don’t wait for someone else to do it.

Vast amounts of really shitty personal crap

Okay, I asked the universe earlier in the year to challenge me, not with disaster, but by giving me everything I want all at the same time.  “I can handle it!” I cried.

What I forgot was that in order for new stuff to slide in, first the old stuff has to vacate the space.

Oh yeah...right.

Oh yeah…right.

Image:  cw-c.tumbler.com

The universe has been methodically removing things from my life.  Losing my job two days after the election felt like the final blow, though silver linings do exist. There is one more possible crushing and horrible disappointment that I don’t want to talk about. But maybe it’s not a disaster just yet.  We’ll see.

I’m far from the only person who has had a ton of what-the-actual-hell land on them this year.  It does seem like a great big pile-on. When you’re down, there’s nowhere to go but up.  A friend of mine said that sometimes chaos signals deep change.  So all the crazy stuff we’ve been experiencing could be the last desperate death throes of the things that keep us from evolving, both in societal and personal ways.

Here’s to a happier, safer, and better 2017!

goodbye-2016

I made dis.  Feel free to pass it around, haha.

And see this shitty year get a performance review courtesy of Chris Bucholz at Cracked.

Have A Seat 2016, It’s Time For Annual Performance Reviews