Writing: Emotional Intelligence

It’s a weird cross-over that I want to make a professional presentation dressed as Batman’s Harly Quinn (the full suit version from the 90’s cartoon).  I want to talk to the managers in the company and stand up and say, “Hello puddin’!”

And then talk about manipulation of emotional intelligence. We all do it to some degree or another. In my professional life I talk about emotional intelligence (EI) on a regular basis. Not always in the terms of EI, but helping managers read body language and use their body language – that’s emotional intelligence. I find it harder to always apply it to my writing, but I certainly try.

And really, Joker is terrifying because he IS so manipulative.  Not just the latest iteration of Jared Leto (and whatever sick writer made him… might be my hero).  Joker has always been a sick manipulative terror of the night, and the relationship portrayed with Harly is to me just a manifestation of that manipulation. She was his shrink. She was supposed to be keeping a distance from him, but he manipulated her with his usual mixture of lies and truths and drove her psychotic (sociopathic? something where she is slightly disconnected from empathy and reality).

The best books for my taste are the books where characters have a slight level of EI (can read body language imperfectly) but they don’t dwell on it and rarely (if ever) manipulate each other. Except maybe the villain.  A manipulative villain should have crazy-strong EI.  I can cite probably 5 examples of this level of manipulation in literature, and they make awesome and terrifying villains.

Hell, Twilight could have been a million times better if there had been some of this conflict.  It felt insipid because none of the characters were liars.  Oh, there were a few who told lies – but when someone was evil they said they were evil.  No one said “I love you” unless they meant it!  A better conflict would have been for someone to say those three “precious” words and they were a lie.  And part of the growth would be learning that emotional intelligence….  just saying there could have been some realistic depth to the characters – people lie!

I am highly aware of EI partly because I am writer, but also because it’s something I’ve always struggled with.  I tend to take trust people’s words. I’ve had to learn to read body language partially because I trust too much.  It is a hard line to walk between “I want to trust” and “I can’t trust anyone” in this world and that is the knife’s edge which can make for an excellent plot.

Manners: Why we need Feminism for Men

I still think this is a topic we need to be having. Like constantly tell men they don’t have to have sex to be vulnerable shouldn’t be shocking.

Dream by Day

Yes, I think this is a topic on manners as much as politics.  There has recently been a kerfuffle about “Nice guys” and feminists and how the two shall never meet!

In case you missed it, this one started with a “Nice Guy” named Scott Aaronson blogging on the difficulty Nice Guys have with feminism. The responses (#1 and #2) I have read both are neither bashing nor justifying but trying to re-frame the questions, and both link to even further responses which are either trying to “teach” Mr. Aaronson how to “get over it” or why he IS still priviledged or…. the rabbit hole is deep my friends.

I could easily talk about Nice Guys, but this guy does a good job of it.  I’ll have to write up my explanation of Schrödinger’s Rapist another day because I don’t like that imagery (although there is something important about…

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SCOTUS: Searching Cars

There are two cases this year dealing with cars and the fourth amendment in front of the Supreme Court.  My little SCOTUS nerdy heart is a little excited.  Both of them will be argued today.

Byrd v. United States

So I can see the argument in this case (here is a professional write up if you want a longer version) where a woman (Reed) let her significant other (Byrd) drive her rental car.  Not only was he NOT on the rental, she wasn’t even in the car with him.  He got pulled over and the cops searched the car without a warrant (and without probable cause) arguing that because he wasn’t on the agreement – they don’t need a warrant.  They convicted him for the heroin in the trunk.

I can’t wait to (a) hear what the professional attorneys argue and then (b) how the court falls on this case.  I am also really glad I don’t have to rule on it!  There could be some interesting fall-out on “possession and control” being required (or not) for warrants.

So on the one hand Byrd wasn’t on the rental agreement – much like if I let my sister (or friend or whoever) borrow my car they aren’t on my registration.  Does that mean if I let my friend borrow my pickup truck (as every pickup truck constantly lends out their trucks!) and they hide a stash of heroin under the driver’s seat or in a cooler (can’t be seen) could the cops pull them over for a routine stop and then search (and impound) MY TRUCK because I let a friend borrow it?  And what about if someone steals my car – do they have fourth amendment rights because they “possess and control” my car at this moment?

On the other hand, rental companies make you sign an agreement saying ALL drivers must be “registered” and anyone not registered is…. illegally (?) driving the vehicle.  Technically, Reed (Bryd’s SO & mother of his children) signed an agreement saying other drivers are only permitted with “prior written consent” (and paying a daily fee). The government contends this prior contract dismisses Byrd’s fourth amendment rights.

And it gets complicated because there ARE rules about “even if someone is doing something illegal it doesn’t waive rights” (hence cops can’t JUST search your car when you ran that red light – they still have to have probable cause).  And can Byrd be held responsible for Reed breaking the contract between herself and car rental company? (there are rules about people who don’t know they are being used in crimes too).

I am looking forward to hearing the court rule on this one – HOW they phrase their ruling can shift this in a lot of directions.  They COULD strike the provisions (and extra fees) on car rental contracts.  They COULD argue that the contract creates a binding clause and means Byrd “stole” the car (I doubt they would – I might have been told “yeah, I totally paid for you too” and then… ugh!).  They COULD rule that  warrant/probable cause is still required when a contract has been broken OR when someone isn’t registered on a vehicle (so my husband could get my car searched ’cause he isn’t on the registration!)

Collins v. Virginia

This case also has to do with the fourth amendment and vehicles – with the addition of “private property.”  I’m not going to say I understand the previous rulings as well as I should to explain when/why vehicles can be searched with exemptions.  I do understand there are already rulings on exemptions to the warrant requirements (it’s called the “automobile exemption.” (professional write up here)

So in this case the cops were searching for a motorcyclist.  They narrowed down their search area using social media & a cop saw a motorcycle under a tarp-like cover next to a house. He went up and looked under the tarp-thing and found out the motorcycle was stolen. Should the cop have needed a warrant to lift the tarp?

Again, I want to hear how the justices rule on this – it isn’t black & white. On the most basic brush there is “cop came on private property” and “cop lifted the tarp” (not readily visible)  but there is also “is the land I own safe from warrantless search” and “my car parked on my driveway” (yes, even though in this case it’s “stolen car”).

Previous rulings have protected cars parked in/around the home lot (and searching on the land around a home).  But is does open quite the can of worms about when/how cops might be allowed to search vehicles.

So will the court expand the officers’ ability to search vehicles?  Will they uphold that private property is (for lack of a better word in my vocabulary here) sacred from this type of search and demand warrants?  I am curious to see how the court falls out on this issue and what they say about it.

Reading Challenge!

Goodreads does an annual reading challenge (if you aren’t on Goodreads yet – GET THERE)

Last year I set myself 52 books – a book a week.   I ended up with 57 according to Goodreads.  So this year I said 60.  That’s 5 books a month.   Whew, I better get cracking!

Now, last year I pretty much only tracked books I read “for the first time” – there were a few books I picked up as an “afternoon read” (books I know so well I brush over the details and jump to the juicy parts).  Wheel of Time is the only one I think I made an exception because I tracked all 14 – but I was working my way through the whole series and I hadn’t gotten past book 9 previously….

So this year I am going to try to track every book I read – even the little “I only read my favorite parts but cover-to-cover” books I go back to over and over (I still feel like I “read” the whole book, I just know I graze over the lulls in the plot).

So expect to see more reviews this year!

New Year’s Resolutions

I don’t do normal resolutions.  By normal I mean the list of “this year I’m gonna lose 20 lbs” or “I’m saving $1 every day”

I aim for my resolutions to change me; change my outlook or my philosophy or some aspect of me.  They really become more than just one-year resolutions.

For 2018, my resolution is to be bolder. To fight harder against the voice that says “no” and to look it in the eyes and say “then yes damnit!”

In the world today there is a lot of “no” going around and so many artists said it in 2017 – stress makes art hard.  Fear makes art painful. Most artists can’t separate art and life (I say most because if I say “all” someone will point out some exception….) One informs and influences the other.

I had a dream in the early hours of Jan 1st and it was terrifying.  I woke panting, wanting to spring up and run away.  But you can’t run away from your mind – you have to turn and face it.

So I am facing myself this year.  I have started on medication because the nightmares, the stress, the anxiety in 2017 got to a point where I wasn’t coping – I was hiding.  I felt like I was barely functioning.  And there is too much I want to do in life for me to spend all my time hiding under my covers because my brain wants to say “no.”

2018 is the year I say “yes.” This is the paradigm shift I want to make: say yes instead of no.  Instead of saying “I won’t be on Facebook as much” I want to say “I will work out more.”  Yes!

Yes, I will send that novel manuscript to a publisher or agent even though I think it’s imperfect.

Yes, I will write more short stories.

Yes, I will try new restaurants.

Yes, I will work out more even though I’m terrified of my asthma.

Yes, I’m going to spend my money wiser.

Yes, I’m going to donate my time and talents.

Yes, I will travel outside my comfort zone to new places.






Review: Star Wars (SPOILERS)

Ok, there are 2 reasons I’m writing a second post.  The first is the easy one: SPOILERS.  The second is (perhaps) less obvious.  I needed a few days to really process my thoughts on the movie.

Let me begin by saying: I enjoyed this film.  In a lot of ways I think it’s among my favorite Star Wars films. The writers of this film took some fun deconstructions of expectations.  (A read on someone else’s opinion I just read: here)

There is a lot I liked about this movie.  I loved the Luke in this movie.  Honestly, he might be my favorite iteration of Luke Skywalker – bitter and snarky and all.  Apparently, I am the only one who thought he would/should throw the saber over his shoulder – OK, I admit I thought he was going to turn and chuck it as far as his force/mechanical-empowered-arm would send it into the depths of the ocean.  I love that he was flawed and still struggling so much, his guilt and his learning – but he owes Rey another lesson.

I did not not not like Yoda. He felt like a muppet.  I know they went back to the puppet (yay!) but…. that stupid little dance-thingy was…. ugh! ugh!  On the other hand, I like that Yoda prevented Luke from seeing the books were missing…. did you catch that in the Falcon at the end? The books in the drawer that Finn pulled a blanket from?  Luke wasn’t able to confirm the books burned.  I think Yoda knew.  I think he also knew that Luke needed to let go of that past.  That past that Rey needs to still wrestle with – because our past does influence us.  I am curious where they will be taking that thread honestly – does Rey need to wrestle or will she adapt to the Jedi code?

As I said in my non-spoilery review, I did not like the casino-bit.  I liked that not-quite-callback to “hive of scum and villany” from Rose – because this isn’t “scum” – but they are pretty terrible people who live on the backs of the less fortunate…. as I also said, my biggest beef is that this really just felt like “get to know Rose”  and a little bit of “get the psuedo-villain to the big ship.”  Why couldn’t Maz call her buddy and help them out?  Oh right, because they needed Finn and Rose to have an adventure and bond!

Why couldn’t it be “we need a way to help duder get here undetected, pick us up and get us over there” on the ship?  Why the hell did Holdo then have to wait so damn long to enact her “cloaked transport” plan?!?!  If they could have gotten away from the crusier before they were in sight of the planet that would have changed everything.  It ended up making the entire “running away from the empire ships” feel VERY contrived.

And again – my husband pointed out that although the rebels were running out of fuel for jumps; why couldn’t the empire just hyper-space jump in front of the rebel ships and wait in ambush?  Why did they have to pursue that way….? A comment of “we can’t go to hyperspace when we’re at full speed like this” is all I needed – it’s space fantasy, I don’t need much! Those two intertwined plots of ship-chasing and casino-planet… I honestly just wanted to get back to Rey + Luke + Kylo Ren stories during about 1/3 of the movie.

I like the Poe-plot better since I read a review (here!) about Poe’s arc – and part of his issue being his damn brashness. I think it would have helped the audience if someone (not Holdo but someone else) had made a snarky comment to him about “well if we had some bombers right now” – because he got them all blown up.  (Another plot hole – imo – if you KNOW your bombers are threatened by exploding shrapnel why the HELL would you use a “tight formation” on a bombing run?!?!  and why did the rebels have so many bombers and so few of anything else?)  Or if Holdo had smacked him down more firmly than she did  – I wouldn’t have objected if she had said, “No. I won’t tell you the plan. I can’t trust you with the plan because the last time you were trusted you destroyed all our bombers.  Get to your post and follow the orders I DO trust you with. I’ll tell you more when I trust you with more.”  I think this was the message they were trying to convey, but what they did ended up feeling…. passive-aggressive?  I don’t blame her – God knows I might do something similar with a man in my face (defuse! defuse!) but…. BUT – I can still say “I would have liked…” (I also would have liked ice cream!)

The last thing I felt could have been better was Leia in space.  When she was in space and like force-dragged herself… the ship is going full speed, right and how fast is she going then???  And this isn’t a Leia thing we’ve ever seen. She isn’t the Force user. I really wish instead it had been “random bridge dude #4” force-pushed her.  Reinforcing this message of “the Force is in everyone” message and “Power can be in anyone” that threaded through the movie. I think this would have been super powerful.  And driven the fans nuts in the best of ways.  So much more intriguing than just another Skywalker being a damn hero….

Which leads to my hope going forward.  I was a little devastated when Carrie Fisher died. She’s my princess.  And if they kill her off screen…. I am going to be SOOOO disappointed.  SOOOO.   No one seems to think there’s much choice, most of my friends are saying “they can just jump forward 10 years.”  MEH.  and NO.  I think they should have “Princess Leia” off politiking with powerful people gathering allies and begging for money, supplies, people…. she passed off “General” to Poe, but she’s just off in another part of the galaxy being useful.

I ended up really liking the dialog, I know some people think it’s too much like the Marvel/DC attempts at “humor” but I liked it.  I enjoyed the aside comments like not quite calling the casino a “hive of scum and villainy.”  It was a cute call-back.  The salt-looks-like-hoth planet call-back was well done.  Enough to be nostalgic but not “hit me over the head with it.”

And the use of the crystal-fox-things … man at first I just thought it was a fun gag and then – then they used them!?! I don’t get surprised often, and I liked it!

Review: Star Wars Last Jedi

I don’t know if I can avoid spoilers.  I am going to try.  But if you (like me) did everything you could (including avoiding interviews) so you could go into this movie with as little knowledge as possible – well, I might let slip something you didn’t want see.  Fair?  Good.

I would give it a 3/5.  Overall it was ok, I enjoyed it, but… BUT

My biggest critique is the length.  So they introduced a new character (Rose) who I like a LOT, but I feel like they added an entire segment to the movie which…. was really only there for us to get to know Rose.  And…. it made the movie feel long.  I honestly kind of wish they hadn’t had it.  It had some fun moments, but it made for weird pacing because it was trying to weave  3 sets of characters and (all) movies struggle anywhere above 2 groups of heroes.

The Rey & Luke segments were very well done – Mark Hamill is amazing.  Luke’s arc during this movie might be one of my favorite parts.  I like how the character struggles with his past – and they all but steal one of my life phrases!  Avoiding obvious spoilers – teacher me was quite happy.

There were some call-backs to Empire and even Jedi which were… decent.  Nothing too in-your-face and I enjoyed it.

enjoyed the movie.  I am still processing whether it felt like a Star Wars movie.  There was a lot more humor (as my husband said, it felt like they were trying to mimic some of Guardian‘s humor Correction: he told me that what he said is that it’s like they let Lucas try to make a Joss Whedon movie  – I stand by my memory that he compared it to Marvel).  I enjoyed most of it – and the porgs were NOT annoying.  I was expecting to hate them but they were in the movie just enough to be amusing – not annoying.

I will be honest, I don’t know that I will be as excited about “young han solo” as I might have been 10 years ago.  I think Star Wars in running into “long running game syndrom” – when RP’ers have been running the same game a long time eventually they get to the point where their characters are ridiculously powered and not much feels like a threat anymore.  Star Wars is reaching that for me – there were some scenes where it just felt like they wanted to “top” what they’d done before (Fast & Furious has gone there too…)

I think I am moving more towards “I’d like to see a different universe on screen” in fantasy, superhero, & sci-fi.  Star Wars is great, Marvel is fun – but what are the stories we aren’t getting to see because the directors and writers are getting stuck in these boxes?