Feminism: Single-Income Households

I recently saw an article that young men are struggling with the idea that women might make more money. As a feminist it breaks my heart that we are filling young men with this toxic idea that THEY have to make all the money. That equality means they CAN be a stay-at-home-dad and it’s OK.

Dream by Day

I’ve been jokingly saying for a few years now that everyone who works 40-hours-a-week needs a wife. It’s supposed to be funny. It’s supposed to ease the frustration that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to work a full time job and take care of a family.

Well, I think I am ready to declare that I think this is true.  Well, mostly true.  It really is a case of “the American dream is to have a single-income household.” Whether that is a stay-at-home Mom or Dad; or both parents working and they can afford in-home help (has anyone else noticed that the mom in Brady Bunch was stay-at-home and they had a housekeeper?!?!?).

We just can’t do it.  There a bazillion articles and discussions about the emotional burden of maintaining a home (cleaning, cooking, shopping for toilet paper) – much less adding in kids. Kids are a…

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SCOTUS: Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

The cake they ended up with; Vanilla-Chai-Chocolate

So there are blogs and people touting this as “the worst decision ever” (alright, I’m paraphrasing).  But when I saw it was 7-2, I paused.  I expected 5-4 if it was purely party-lines.  It wasn’t.

And there were FOUR different opinions from the people who voted for it.

  1. Kennedy wrote the “official” opinion (Roberts, Breyer, Alito, Kagan & Gorsuch all joined in)
  2. Gorsuch and Alito filed a concurring (agreeing but wanting to put their own words to it) opinion
  3. Kagan and Breyer filed a concurring opinion
  4. Thomas filed his own opinion because he only kinda agrees (it’s only “partly concurring”) and Gorsuch joined this one too.
  5. Ginsberg and Sotomayor gave the dissenting opinion

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)

Ok, so I decided to “live blog?” my reading of the opinions.  By this I mean I read one of the opinions, copied out the 1-2 quotes I thought were notable and then wrote my thoughts on it.  But it’s long.  It’s LOOOOONG.  So this section is my summary.

I ended up falling into agreement with a bazillion other commentators that I think SCOTUS’s made this a punt. They folded rather than bid on the game.  They avoided making a real decision by holding up tiny imperfections in the arguments.  Overall, a disappointing SCOTUS decision.  I am disappointed in many of you(but not RBG, she wrote my favorite opinion of the lot).

If you apply this same scenario to anything else (a black couple or a disabled person) there would be next-to-no argument it was discrimination.  IF the asshat had said “I don’t make cakes for black weddings” we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all.  But because a few comments on the record were less-than-respectful of Phillip’s religion (and there is an issue there) SCOTUS wrote:

The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts

Long Read:

So can we start with the fact Gorsuch is on THREE of the 5 opinions (3 of 4 who voted together)?  I didn’t like the man because he accepted a nomination that was at best dirty politics and at worst downright unconstitutional.  But this? I am writing this bit before reading the actual opinions – but if the man is on three separate opinions… Anyway. Lemme go read now.

….

So Kennedy says there are 2 issues in his 18 page opinion: 1) the government’s authority to protect the rights of discriminated people (ie gays) and 2) free speech. Seriously, he says free speech before he ever mentions religion.  He talks about the cake as an expression of art which is interesting and I can’t entirely argue with.   That is what made me go look up what they ended up with -and I’m not sure how much “artistic expression” I’d give it.  It’s a pretty cake!  It sounds delicious.  But art?

His biggest beef really comes down to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and how they handled the case.  Apparently, the commissioners were dismissive of Phillips (the cake artist) and his “sincerely held religious beliefs” to the point where THEY might have been discriminating against HIM.

I mean, honestly, the quote from the official record which Kennedy quotes is pretty terrible and biased: “Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the holocaust, whether it be—I mean, we—we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to—to use their religion to hurt others.”

Ouch.  Yeah, I gotta say that maybe the commissioners in this one were wrong.  Kennedy says it at the end:

The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.

So it turns out this was a messier case then it originally sounded and (not shockingly) not a lot of the commission’s bias was being well-touted in the more liberal media sites.  Even NPR was pretty heavily slanted towards Craig and Mullins.  Were they discriminated against, yeah, I think they were.  Did the government (Colorado Commission) handle it well? No. Not really. Ok, so Kennedy’s argument is pretty compelling.  Lemme read Kagan’s.

This one was short. 4 pages.

So one of the arguments Phillips made in the case (apparently) is that there was this other case where a dude named Jack had 3 different bakeries refuse to make him a cake because the words/design(s) he wanted were offensive to them (anti-same-sex marriage messages). So the commission let those bakers off the hook – they literally would not have made that cake for anyone ever.  But not Phillips.  His objection had to do with a protected class.

The different outcomes in the Jack cases and the Phillips case could thus have been
justified by a plain reading and neutral application of Colorado law—untainted by any bias against a religious belief.

I don’t know why she felt the need to say it again except she was waaaay more succinct (granted, she didn’t have to do any of the “facts of the case stuff” but still.

Ok. Deeeeep breath.  Gorsuch and Alito.

12 pages. Twelve.  Almost as long as the original damn opinion.

Ok, I just have to start off that he immediately brings up “Employment Div., Dept. of Human Resources of Ore v. Smith” (the case of Native Americans being allowed to consume Peyote as part of their religion.  He does it as a “religion is protected too!” thing and it just… let’s just say it set the tone for me.  It didn’t help he felt some kind of …….$&#*! need to restate the “facts of the case” like he’s a special snowflake.

Gorsuch’s big argument was that the cake was for a same sex wedding.  I.E. he wouldn’t sell a cake to a heterosexual couple celebrating a same-sex marriage (I think?).  It got confusing in there for a minute.  He did finally get to a quote that I bedrudgingly have to agree with:

Popular religious views are easy enough to defend. It is in protecting unpopular religious beliefs that we prove this country’s commitment to serving as a refuge for religious  freedom. (pg 7)

I disagree strenuously however with his statement on the next page:

It is no answer, for example, to observe that Mr. Jack requested a cake with text on it while Mr. Craig and Mr. Mullins sought a cake celebrating their wedding without discussing its decoration, and then suggest this distinction makes all the difference. (pg 8)

And then he went on to make a Goldilocks reference (I need an angry emoji here)

We are told here, however, to apply a sort of Goldilocks rule: describing the cake by its ingredients is too general; understanding it as celebrating a same-sex wedding is too specific; but regarding it as a generic wedding cake is just right. (pg 9)

He tries to make the argument that because in Jack’s case the Commission let people refuse cakes whose content/decoration they found offensive (after having a conversation about what would be ON the cake) was somehow the same as telling a couple that their entire lives are evil (before even finding out if there was something on the cake).  Yeah.  Like peppers and peppers there.

Ugh. UGH.  Ok. Thomas.  Not one of my favorites so let’s hope I can keep my eyes from getting too crossed.

Thomas goes off on the “free speech” aspect. For 14 pages.  MORE than Gorsuch. And he doesn’t reiterate ANY of the facts of the case.  So his beef is with Phillip’s claim of “free speech” and “artistic voice.” Which by the by is very poorly recorded in both Commission testimony and court appeals (according to Thomas).  Thomas even admits this, but wants to get into it anyway!  Part of the reason I don’t like Thomas-opinions is he’s hard to read.  I feel like he likes “the sound of his own voice” and he rambles. He rambles on and on and repeats a sentiment. Like three times he feels the need to say it.

Annoying.

Ok, now to get to the dissent! RBG’s writing!

….

I love Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  I love this woman.  She argues that this process has gone through 4 previous court systems and to hold up the words of one or two specific “hostile” people doesn’t merit overturning the entire case.

She also points out that Craig & Mullins didn’t request any kind of special message – just a standard tiered cake; whereas Jack (the other case) actively sought customization that included judgmental language.  Well, she says it better:

Change Craig and Mullins’ sexual orientation (or sex), and Phillips would have provided the cake. Change Jack’s religion, and the bakers would have been no more willing to comply with his request. (pg 5 footnote 3)

She argues that cherry-picking the statements of individuals does not merit judging against Craig & Mullins’ claims that their protected class (sexual orientation) was discriminated against.  Jack was not discriminated against because he was Christian (or asking for Christian message/symbols).  Craig & Mullins WERE discriminated against because of their sexuality.

So, as I understand her case: If you apply this same concept to anything else (a black couple or a disabled person) there would be next-to-no argument it was discrimination.  IF the asshat had said “I don’t make cakes for black weddings” we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all.

For the reasons stated, sensible application of CADA to a refusal to sell any wedding cake to a gay couple should occasion affirmance of the Colorado Court of Appeals’ judgment. I would so rule.

Well, her pointing out that the court cherry-picked arguments is really damning.  REALLY.

Politics: Dodd-Frank Roll-back

Ok, so I started writing a piece on the recent roll-back of Dodd-Frank rules.  And I’m going to be honest, I spent about 5 hours trying to read shit about it – and I have no idea how this will impact us.

They didn’t roll back the protections I know I would be up-in-arms about (which are really the “Consumer Protection Act” and until this rollback I thought they were the same bill because I think I’ve always heard them talked about together).  But, I pretty much have the philosophy that anything the Koch brother supports, I should probably oppose on principle.

I am concerned this deregulation will lead to bubbles.  Bubbles like 1929 or 2008.  I’m not going to try to reiterate the arguments – there are people way smarter than me explaining (or trying to!) the issues at hand.

What I’ve decided to say is this: Think about it.

Well, my question for anyone reading this is: who benefits?  Who benefits from rolling back these regulations?  Over 600,000 new homes were constructed & sold in 2017.  I’m pretty sure the loaning business isn’t doing poorly.  In fact… banks made record profits in 2017.

Damn.  It’s like those regulations weren’t “slowing” business.  Unless of course those regulations might have been preventing banks from doing shit “the easy way” (which I should write why easy =/= best).  And what will their impact be?  Another bubble?  Do we really think banks learned from the 2007/2008 financial crisis?  Do you?

Here’s my thing.  I’ve been re-watching Parks & Recs for something “mindless and fun” and Ron Swanson is adorable.  And his instance that people use capitalism as a be-all-end-all runs on an assumption that people work with some kind of ethics/honor.  But they don’t.  Throughout History there are a billion and five examples of someone being incredibly unethical.

  • We wouldn’t need regulations if people could work with ethics/honor.
  • We wouldn’t need these regulations if people weren’t acting with greed.
  • We wouldn’t need any regulations if people weren’t stupid and selfish.

These things being unfortunate realities – we need some kind of regulation.  I am as guilty of the next person of seeking the best deal even when I know that company is rotten.  I’ve shopped at Walmart.  I think they are evil, but damnit sometimes I just don’t have time and money and energy to go hunting the deal… and I need toilet paper now.  I’m not proud that my own selfishness gets in the way of “the right thing” but it happens.  Knowing Walmart isn’t allowed to employee 9-year-olds HELPS. And don’t kid yourself – pun intended – if it was legal Walmart would pay 20 cents an hr to 9-year olds to be cashiers.

Memories: The Case for Art in School

I had amazing choir directors at church and at school growing up.  They forced me to face any fears I had about stage fright very early (there is a picture of me at like 6 on a stage at church doing a solo – I suspect I sounded horrible but he made EVERYONE have a solo).  I don’t have stage fright.

Another thing I know singing taught me is elocution – “the skill of clear and expressive speech, especially of distinct pronunciation and articulation”

When I worked on the phones, I was constantly complimented on how easy I was to understand compared to my peers.  It took me a long time to understand that singing had taught me to literally open my mouth when forming my words.  It wasn’t until I stared at someone who was complaining that they kept getting complaints – I saw it.  I literally saw it and it clicked.  I looked at them and said something like, “You need to practice singing vowels – drop your jaw and sing vowels – then convert that into normal words.”

Breathing, articulation, projection, and a lack of stage fright are all skills which were honed by having amazing art programs while I was growing up.

I took a semester of “art” in high school.  I learned some of the basic terminology and concepts of art so when I got to see the Norman Rockwell collection at the Atlanta High Museum – I appreciated his technique and skill as well as his content.  And then when I went back on my own and saw some other artists, I understood some of the theme they explored – from one semester’s learning I gathered an appreciation for art that has carried me through my life.  I look at graffiti and murals with an eye towards the skill – and don’t kid yourself, good graffiti (https://digitalsynopsis.com/design/3d-graffiti-street-art-anamorphic-odeith/) IS impressive and I have a tiny-tiny clue of the level of the skill of those artists.

I hated band, but I hated my flute – I know many of my friends learned skills like buckling down and practicing from their years in band.  Many of them were able to build life-long friendships from marching band.  Many of them understand football because they had to attend all the games.  I can’t claim those, but I can see them.

Every time I see someone say we should cut art spending in schools I see a little bit of red.  I probably have a dozen “dimes” because my schools while I was growing up had great art programs.  I was exposed to different ideas, themes, and cultures through their art.  I was exposed to history by singing great works from the high chants.  I learned through art and I learned to express myself because of art.  I am a writer because I had teachers who encouraged me to explore this art.

When I hear a cashier or co-worker or …. well anyone – mumbling and fumbling I grieve that their education failed them. I grieve that they didn’t have churches and schools where they learned these skills.

Writing: Writer vs. Reader Opinions

I didn’t have a good title for this post, but I’ve tried 3 times to write something similar and it hasn’t worked yet, so we’re going with this title for the time being and maybe someday I can come up with something better (I’m open to ideas!)

The thing is, I’ve been reading books lately by male authors and I’m surprised by how much I am liking the female characters.  I’m reading a Brandon Sanderson book right now and damn if he doesn’t write females that I like.  And variety.  They aren’t all simpering male-hunters or just background or evil hags or… pick any of the stereotypes that plague female characters.

I also can’t help but see elements of discussions of race and equality in books lately.  I’m seeing political discussions that I’m not sure whether the author meant them or not.  Authoritarianism vs. independence, responsibilities of leaders to those they lead – I can’t tell if the art is reflecting my own thoughts or if the authors I’m reading are also picking up on the political climate of our world.

They say “art reflects life” but could my life be reflecting in art?  I don’t know.  But sometimes when I get hit by something that makes me go “did they reference Kapernick kneeling or am I imposing my own experience there?”  There have been multiple times in reading books that have come out in the last year or two I feel that way and it’s getting freaky.  I can’t decide if my brain is twisting or if society is filtering into these authors’ words.

Review: Pride & Prejudice

I love this book.  I have it in at least 3 different forms and always have it loaded on my table and/or phone.  It’s one of the rare books I keep around to pick up and put down regularly.

It isn’t a great love story.  Damn, I get mad about the women in the book and their manipulation and the toxic society they lived in that led to those machinations.  But it it is one my favorites nonetheless.  I love Jane, the sister who loves everyone and lives in her own idealized version of the world.  I love Charlotte, the ultimate pragmatist.  I even love Lydia, the sister who you love and dread.  And of course I love Elizabeth.  The woman who doesn’t want to compromise her ideals for pragmatism.  She wants love; even at the cost of fortune.  She isn’t willing to give into her society that says material wealth is the only option for her.

I would love to see the book where she never met (or at least never married) Darcy.  Maybe Darcy didn’t come with Bingley.  Maybe he went to his aunt’s and ended up getting married to Ms. DeBourgh.   Either way, Jane ends up with Bingley and Elizabeth ends up without Darcy.  What would she have become?

Anyway.  That’s a different story (pun!). What I want to discuss is actually the different TV & Movie versions.  I rewatched the Kiera Knighly (2005) recently and it just made me want to want the 1995 version (Jennifer Ehle & Colin Firth).  I don’t think I will ever watch the 1940 version (Greer Garson) again but… “never say never.”  It might make a good girl’s night of drinking and roasting sometime.

The biggest reason I like the 1995 version best is the time they give to developing the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy.  In both of the theater-length versions it’s very forced when he proposes.  It feels out of the blue.  It feels weird and unnatural. I don’t think it’s just that Colin Firth is a good actor, but it’s also because he and Elizabeth had some good scenes where it was clear his attraction was building and she was missing all the clues.

It is rare a book modifies well to the big screen (adult books, kid books are easier) simply because of length.  Much less first-person-perspective books.  Thankfully, P&P isn’t first-person, BUT… it is dense.  The book is dense.  There is little description.  There is a lot of assumption about scene.  Almost everything is done through conversation.  It’s hard to condense that into a 2-ish-hour box.

The Ehle/Firth version is six hours and they still had to condense a few scenes from the book.

Hell, Lord of the Rings was over 9 hours long and still cut a LOT of shit out – and anyone who has READ LOTR knows it’s like 1/3 scene description.  Tolkien happily spent pages on trees.  Not even the talking/walking trees.

Just my opinion, but can we officially stop trying to turn books into crappy short versions?  We see tv series is a better medium.  Let’s do it right.

Writing: Editing process

I have 2 types of editing I do.  One is the “technical” editing of words, grammar, punctuation, etc.  I (like many writers apparently) pretty much hate this part of editing.  It needs to be done and I know that.  *But I hates it. (*Gollum’s voice there)

So I get myself through it by brute force.  I start at the end and take it one sentence at a time.  Occasionally, I’ll print a page off (double-spaced) and red-pen mark up the grammar.  I have even been known to diagram a sentence to prove to myself I’m not being grammatically evil (or I am because I want to be evil).

I find by working backwards, I don’t get caught up (errr… usually don’t get caught up) reading what I wrote.  This is the danger.  Reading is much more fun than editing and if allowed, my brain will begin reading what I’ve been writing and sinking back into the story and characters and world. It’s trudging drudgery but I can slog my way upstream (pun intended!) by starting at the end and working my way up.

In some ways, that is the easier kind of editing.  There are hard-and-fast rules for grammar.  The second kind of editing is “Content” – and Content is King.

Content editing is everything from “did I use a thesauraus – or does it sound/feel like I did” to plot to character relationships to themes and “oh shit, that is totally not the message I want to send!”

Content editing is damn hard.  Content editing requires WORK.  There are no rules.  And there are.  Consistency is a huge rule.

My family was laughing at me when we gathered for Mother’s Day brunch because I brought a piece of paper I’ve been making noodles and notes on.  I kept holding up this paper at people (which looks like a picture to most people) and saying “Can’t you tell I’m making a plot line!”  I thought it was hilarious because to anyone not me it looks like a bunch of lines with random words and numbers jotted around it.  But to me it’s plot and world building and even some character arcs in there (yes, this is a continuation of my post on magic)

I don’t have as good a method for this.  I frequently chew on plot for a long time.  WHY is a big question in my content-editing.  WHY is the protagonist the person changing the world.  WHY are they “the chosen one”- I love when there is a prophecy that actually could fit some % of the world but the protagonist is the one who ends up there for…. REASONS.  Those reasons drive much of my world building, character arc, etc.  “Why does she think SHE is supposed to fix it”  and “what in her life led her to believe this totally opposite thing from society?”

Sometimes I end up doing full re-writes because I have so much I have to fix I think I might as well start over.  This particular magic-based-plot is on version 3.  Version 1 rambled through 3 different villains (I kept trying to “redeem” people) for about 25,000 words.  Version 2 is a messy 98,000 words.  If I was a better writer (or editor as the case may be) I might be able to edit it into the place I want it – but I’m not.  I don’t know how to edit the giant swaths of Version 2 that would need to be edited.  And some of them are pretty significant plot points that need to be built up or torn down or some of both.

So I’m starting version 3.  With all the plot building, magic system, character building, and world information I’ve built over the previous 2 versions. This is my method. I don’t think it’s the best (certainly not the most efficient) but it’s mine. I can read-edit and make plot-notes, comments, etc. but when it comes to going back and polishing a plot-arc…. damn that’s hard to do!