will the history girls please stand up?

Last night I stayed up way too late watching the National History Bee, televised for the first time this year. While as a history major I was obviously really excited by the concept, the execution was not so great. This post isn’t about the execution, however, because there was something worse happening on screen than Al Roker’s forced humor (bordering on meanness), or the color commentary, or the fact that Dallas, M.A.S.H., and I Love Lucy were all answers.

Out of 16 finalists, zero were girls.

Yep. Zero.

Honestly I don’t know who to be upset with here. The Bee’s sponsor Houghton Mifflin Harcourt probably wasn’t like “omg guys let’s keep out ALL the girls they have cooties,” and if it was the boys who got the questions right, it’s not like they were going to be like “nope, sorry dude, we have a quota we’re taking this girl instead.” But somewhere in the path to the History Bee finals, someone failed. Girls weren’t encouraged to apply, girls weren’t supported in their classes. I don’t know. But I refuse to believe that there wasn’t one middle-school girl in the entire country smart and educated enough to be among our nation’s top 16 history geeks. Why wasn’t she there?

And maybe this lack of girl contestants made me even more aware of the lack of women’s history questions. I stopped counting at 6, but there were definitely no more than 10 in the almost two hours I watched, and about half of the female figures only got “partial credit,” as part of a group of men (Vivian Vance and Desi Arnaz, for example). That is something I can be upset at the Bee for, and I am. Surely Oprah, Mother Theresa, Betsy Ross, and Anne Frank are not the ONLY women who have contributed to history. I remember five musical questions, all male-oriented. What about Janis Joplin? Josephine Baker? Loretta Lynn? Should we count the Verdi question as partial credit because the answer wasAida?

At least they mentioned women’s suffrage. I guess.

Frankly: I’m disappointed in you, National History Bee.

I would be interested in your theories about the lack of female contestants or questions, because I really don’t have any. Hit up the comments.

on writing, distracted

Tomorrow is going to be a hardcore writing day (I mean, I will be hardcore about writing, not that the writing itself will be hardcore). This means you might see me online a bit more than usual, since a lot of “writing days” are also “tweeting days” and “blogging days” and “LOLcat days.”

Which, as I’m sure you know, is not how one is supposed to write. Distractions are the devil.

Distractions can also keep you sane. I consider them like quick stretches in the middle of a writing marathon, the way a jogger will stretch their calves while waiting for a light to change. It’s not like I’m spending half an hour agonizing over every tweet; they’re just quick bursts of thought. And when I’m hard at work, blogging is a good break, a different kind of writing requiring a different kind of brainpower. A good little stretch.

My biggest distraction, though, is television. I mean that in a good way, not in an “I don’t have time to write because I watch 40 hours of TV a week” way. If I were to guess, I’d say the TV is on 90% of the time I’m writing. Yeah. A lot. Not how you’re supposed to do it.

I watch TV the way some people listen to music while they write. It’s basically visual background noise. To hear me talk, it sounds like I spend my entire life watching reality TV and cartoons. What isn’t generally obvious in conversation is that I also wrote a chapter during that episode of Jersey Shore.

The key is that I’m pretty picky about what is on when I’m writing. The main rule: it’s either something I’ve seen many times before or something with no discernible plot. Some things that work especially well for me:

  • The Adventures of Robin Hood (I basically have this memorized)
  • Star Wars (see above)
  • The Avengers, Steed and Peel-style
  • Batman: The Animated Series
  • Justice League/Justice League Unlimited
  • Star Trek (original series)
  • Project Runway, especially the seasons I’ve seen a half dozen times
  • Real Housewives of Wherever the Hell

Things that do not work:

  • subtitles (which unfortunately rules out all Kurosawa and Miyazaki)
  • movies/TV shows I have not seen
  • movies/TV shows that are plot heavy (Babylon 5)

Of course, the question is: Could I be getting more work done if I were to just sit at my desk with the internet and TV off? The answer, honestly, is I don’t think so. I don’t think the distractions are detrimental. I don’t think I could write 6000 words in a weekend if I weren’t keeping myself sane with a few little sidesteps, and that’s my goal in the next two days.

When I’m in the zone it all just blurs out. I’ll look up and Snooki is in the middle of another hair-pulling fight and I have no idea why, or Batman has progressed 3 episodes and is trying to punch himself. I don’t need to know anything going on around the moment so I watch for a bit (a few seconds to a few minutes), loosen my brain up, and then I write more.

I’m not suggesting everyone who writes turn up the TV and bounce around the internet. It very obviously does not work for a lot of people. It doesn’t always work for me. But it’s my standard modus operandi, and it is how I will be spending a fair amount of the next 48 hours.

I love hearing about other writers and their techniques—so what about you? Do you need uninterrupted silence, or are you more like me?

why FACE OFF is the best reality show on television

Face Off on SyFy is yet another Project Runway-type ripoff reality show, this one focusing on special effects makeup artists. (Get the feeling they’re running out of niches?) Of course I watched the first season last year, because really now, and it was a lot of fun, but it’s so oddball that I was afraid it wouldn’t get picked up for a second season.

But! Luckily! Season 2!

the cast of season 2

Aside: I almost missed the start of Season 2 because SyFy (I hate typing that every time) did a poor job of advertising it. I only saw an ad a few days before, and it didn’t even have an air date—just “January 2011.” I had to look it up, which just goes to show how excited I was for the show. (Thursdays at 10, icyww.)


Conor's Frog Prince from season 1

My favorite part of the first episode, honestly, was when last year’s winner, Conor, showed up as a guest judge and it turned out he had been hired by one of the permanent judges, Ve Neill; both are currently working on The Hunger Games. It’s honestly so rare for winners of these shows to actually go on to become something in their given industry (Christian Siriano being the notable exception) that it’s awesome to see that he won this goofy little reality tv show and is now employed doing what he loves.

But back to the show. I don’t know why this one is so cool versus all the other copycats like Work of Art or Project Accessory. I think it might be because there is so. much. art involved. They sculpt and paint and design costumes and create characters and it has to be pretty and functional and tell a story all at once. The judges have exacting standards. The characters, er, people (at least last season) are the right mix of likable and dramatic. It’s simply fun to watch (especially if, like me, you have a professional artist on hand to go “ooooh that’s a bad decision” and then watch things go bad).

I think it helps that the show is so new that the challenges haven’t become monotonous yet. Project Runway, much as I love it, can get pretty predictable. You know every season they’re going to do certain challenges; with Face Off, everything is still new and exciting.

So. On the one hand I’m being selfish and advocating for this show because I want lots of people to watch it so it doesn’t get canceled. On the other hand it is actually a remarkably entertaining show. So! The moral of this story is if you aren’t watching Face Off you should give it a try. Because I mean really, look at this shit:

re-imagining of the scarecrow from the wizard of oz, season 2

prep and landing

So I just saw this trailer on ABC (in the middle of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! for those of you who are interested).  And I am kind of ridiculously excited, all things considered. All things being that it’s an ABC Christmas special and I’m an adult.

mish-mash muddle

Hi! I’m here! Been busy this past week, what with work craziness and friend awesomeness. So a quick catch-up of my recent activities and ponderings.

So. Bullet points, methinks? Why yes please.

  • On Kanye: I’m with O’Bama here, what a jackass. I don’t care if you’re drunk, I don’t care if you haven’t recovered from your mother’s death (I mean I do, but dude take some time off, nobody will blame you, and stop using it as an excuse) but you don’t have to ruin the girl’s moment. On the other hand and also, I’m tired of hearing about it. I’ve enjoyed its week of press, but enough is enough. Move on.
  • On Joe Wilson: Okay so maybe I’m an insensitive bigot, but could everyone just chill the fuck out, please? Telling the President he’s a liar is okay. No, really. I personally think O’Bama is the shit, but if we can’t call our politicians out when we think they’re wrong, what’s the point? Sure it’s disrespectful. Wilson didn’t mean to be respectful. He doesn’t like our President. And that’s okay.
    Of course, if he doesn’t like our president because our President is black, as some people are saying, that is not okay. I haven’t really looked into Wilson’s past—he’s a Republican from South Carolina, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. But even if he were a card-carrying member of the KKK, those two words—”you lie”—don’t reflect that at all. They’re just rude and ill-timed and my god people get over it already.
    Devil’s Advocate, that’s me.
  • 9: Don’t go see this movie. It does not live up to expectations at ALL, and I was really expecting it to be good. It’s really really pretty, and if you have to see it, definitely see it on the big screen, but ugh plot wtf. It’s taken Harry Potter and Star Wars elements and squished them all together with the apocolypse. Things are not explained, things are weird, dialogue is blah, it’s just a total ugh.
  • One of my bffs just moved to New York City and I am sooooo jealous of him. Haha I just called him a bff. I hope he properly appreciates it.
  • I would not make a good politician’s wife, because I don’t know how to tie a tie. (Currently watching Brotherhood.)
  • roadhouse
    RIP, babe. I’ll miss you.