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Media Consumption Whimsy Writing Life

It’s Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Season

The stop-motion animated Rudolph story I grew up watching debuted on 6 December, 1964, or so says the internet. That makes this a timely post.

Every year I’m reminded how much the internet loves to hate on poor Rudolph (the TV edition) for being a tacky tale with its roots in advertising and a plot packed with of cruel, psychologically damaging life lessons. I’ve seen essays criticizing the show for being:

  • capitalist propaganda promoting consumerism & conformity
  • socialist propaganda promoting social justice and the death of Traditional Values ™
  • sexist, ableist propaganda that insists the only human value is usefulness.
  • pro-queer propaganda encouraging people to tear down social and family norms.

Those are pretty heavy messages to pull from a half-hour story about flying reindeer who transport a magic sleigh everywhere in the world overnight once a year. They’re also wildly contradictory. The think pieces only seem to agree on one point: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer isn’t a story children should watch or hear or read because they will internalize horrible ideas.

I disagree with all the nay-sayers despite agreeing with many of their individual points.

Yes, Rudolph is problematic. There’s little pop culture from that era that isn’t uncomfortable on on axis or another. Star Trek TOS holds up better than I thought, better than ST:TNG tbh. Despite being radically progressive for its time it still contains plenty of cringeworthy moments. BUT I DIGRESS.

Most stories in the 60’s that received wide distribution, especially visual stories, were landmines jam-packed full of sexist, ableist, utilitarian, Puritan messaging. To expect a commerical kid’s show to be an exception is asking a bit much.

And it’s a bit much to insist it was deliberate. Some creators did have an agenda. People were rejecting the (bogus)”traditions” which had been taught as Forever History during the post WW2 years. The grip of Boomer Mythology–the deliberate social engineering & history erasure movement undertaken by Social Leaders terrified of various marginalized groups–was already slipping.The idea of combatting dissent by doubling down is not exactly new.

But a lot of the bad storytelling came from writers putting their mundane unexamined biases & prejudices front and center of their stories. Take another Rankin-Bass “classic,” The Little Drummer Boy. It’s another one I loved as a little kid. Outsider orphan finds a place to belong after suffering & adventures? Plus magic animal companions? Should be great to revisit, right?

Ugh, no. it is unwatchable as an adult. Every last element of it is offensive and cringeworthy in the extreme. The plot is saturated with exoticism, egregious bigotry, and the worst excesses of Christian preachiness. The characters are racist caricatures, the dialogue is unbearable.

Rudolph, in contrast, holds up. It hits some of the same beats as The Little Drummer Boy (and they’re story beats that show up in my own work often enough for me to recognize my affinity for them, by the way) but it dodges the worst cultural baggage.

Oh, there are problematic elements a-plenty, from blind promotion of social & sexual norms and assumptions of what people should want to make their lives fulfilling, to a villain whose fate is to become a literally toothless minion of another character. Just to name a few.

But the basic premise — a protagonist achieving self-acceptance & pride in what others insist is a flaw, a plot that ends with them with stepping up to make sure things are better for those who come after, including and uplifting differences instead of bullying & rejecting others in turn? That theme still shines through the clunky parts.

For me, anyway. Your mileage may vary.

(In case you’ve never watched it, here’s my details-omitted plot summary of Rudolph. Child gets mocked and rejected for being different, gets no support from the adults in his life & leaves home to make his own way. Finds out he isn’t alone in being misunderstood & unwanted and makes friends. He matures, forgives the people who drove him off (in the process finding out they regretted their cruelty) rescues them from peril, returns home, and finds he is needed for the very traits people once mocked — so he makes his help contingent on ALL the rejects being included & people being accepted as they are.)

And the one trope that will ALWAYS suck me into a story is “Misfit outsider collects a band of fellow rejects and eventually save their haters despite being mistrusted and undervalued”

Rudolph’s story just reaches right in and curls up in my heart. So imma keep watching & loving it every year. And maybe accidentally writing it over and over into my fiction.

Anyway, that’s it. That’s the post.

But for your entertainment, here be a sampling of the “Rudolph Is Awful” material. Some of it is published as “parody,” some is wholly serious, and this is only a SMALL smattering of the Deep Dive Overthinking Analysis availble for the low, low cost of a few searches & far too many hours spent slogging through the prose.

https://www.ajc.com/lifestyles/holiday/rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer-sparks-debate-over-bullying-bigotry/dn4rYh8ctjxqhl4PuhPv2I/

https://slate.com/human-interest/2017/12/rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer-is-your-latest-problematic-fave.html

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/12/19/christmas-shows-deep-questions-rudolph-charlie-brown-grinch-column/2688932001/

Categories
Media Consumption Whimsy Writing Life

Big Bad Movies

Whatcha watching? I’ve been doing disaster movies. It’s what I do during lulls between other series building up enough episodes that I can binge them. B-movie BAD disaster movies only, to be precise, and only ones I haven’t seen yet.

This limits things more than a reasonable viewer might expect–but many things are possible in this age of streaming.

My current theme is earthquakes, and friends, look at this cornucopia of corniness I had to choose from on Prime Video alone:

  1. San Andreas: MEGA QUAKE, not to be confused with San Andreas w/Dwayne Johnson.
  2. Earthquake (the 2004 one. Yes, it matters.)
  3. MegaFAULT and FaultLINE. Different movies.
  4. 10.5. Not 10.5:Apocalypse, which was a series.
  5. Ice Quake
  6. Magma: Volcanic Disaster. (YEs, volcaoes, but earthquakes feature prominiently in the description.)
  7. Epicenter, which ALSO has assassins & the mob!
  8. Polar Storm, because meteors make earthquakes even scarier!
  9. Geo-Disaster, with a megaquake, a supervolcano AND a massive tornado, all in Los Angeles.
  10. Destruction: Los Angeles
  11. Global Meltdown (kinda says it all, huh?)
  12. Quantum Apocalypse
  13. Nature Unleashed: Earthquake, which adds a Russian nuclear power plant to the party too.

This list doesn’t even get into the large side niche of “movies about earthquakes that accompanied the crucifixion of Jesus.”

No, I am not making that up. “Crucifixion Quake” is a real movie. So is “Risen.” There are many others I won’t bother to list because I will not be watching any of them ever. Not if I have a choice in the matter.

I watched 6 of the ones on my Earthquakes list between last Friday & Sunday. Okay, “watched” might be a stretch. To be strictly accurate, they were running on the television while I did other things, like writing, peeling fruit, and doing research on firepit accessories and sundry other topics of interest.

Which ones? MegaQuake, 10.5, Polar Storm, Magma, Ice Quake, and Nature Unleashed. Two of them were so bad they actively drove Spouseman from the room instead of accidentally sucking him into passive watching. I don’t remember which two. They were all pretty awful, and they were all awfully fun.

I’ll cruise through the rest eventually assuming they all stay free. (some movies seem to be free a while, then go pay, then go back to free? Prime is weird.) ANYway. None of them are long–evidently the filmmakers realize that even fans of cheesy corn can’t sit through more than about 88 minutes of it uncut.

This week I have a Roku from library, so I’ll be catching up on the fall releases from Hulu, HBO, & Disney/Marvel. That should be fun.

That’s all for now. Until later!

Categories
Authoring Cons & Appearances Whimsy

Belated Gen Con Report

In a lot of ways this year’s con was Bizarro Gen Con, where everything was inverted, unconventional, outlandish and unexpected. There was an oddly nostalgic, retro feel, with attendance rocking like it was 1999, but the look was futuristic dystopian, what with the facemasks, prominent health reminders & heightened security presence. And, oh, the luxurious ELBOW ROOM, wowza.

TL;DR edition: the con was phenomenal. It was a triumph. I loved it. But also. The experience was utterly freaking WEIRD.

The big worry going in was (of course) was it safe? Well. The con and the convention center did a remarkable job of communicating the safety measures & safety improvements being implemented–which went way beyond sanitizer stations & reliance on participant mask compliance. And the mask compliance was at or nearly at 100%.

So for me me, with my working immune system, at peak protection interval on my vaccination, and masked to boot? It was a marvelous. I felt as safe as I’ve ever felt in a indoor space packed with strangers. I was especially impressed since Indiana is not known for its enthusiastic support of pandemic protections. Big kudos to the organizers who made a lot of new things happen.

My other big worry going in, of course, was “Will I sell any books this time?” It’s been a hard time for many people financially. Would people be buying? Short answer: Yes. Longer answer, HELL. YEAH.

Sales were phenomenal. I broke my all-time dollar sales record before midday Saturday. By the end of Saturday I’d broken my all-time books sold record, too. Even though Sunday was dead slow, I still hit 3x my 2019 sales. I’ve been musing about causes and differences, and how it all came together.

Numbers. Attendance at cons like Gen Con, has gone from huge to humongous in the past 10 years. The signal to noise ratio in Exhibitor Spaces jam-packed with attendees AND exhibitors skews in favor of larger vendors. And putting all the authors & artists in one big corral really aggravates this problem.

Now, I understand why cons puts all the authors together, and the camaraderie is great, but a basic rule of retail is that there’s a sweet spot for choice. Present too many options of the same type in a row and people won’t choose anything from that selection. I think there were 40 authors on Authors Avenue in 2019. I watched people nope out of entire rows because they Just Couldn’t Even. And I know some people never ever got to Authors Avenue with any money left in their wallets. The Exhibit Hall is just too huge.

Bookselling isn’t a competition, there’s a right book for everyone, but interacting with folks who are swamped by sensory input puts some vendors at a larger handicap than others. I refuse to hard-sell, *period* but if you ever wondered, it’s a popular technique because it is dramatically effective at breaking through Option Overwhelm and choice paralysis.

This year’s Gen Con only had around 20(ish) thousand people, compared to something like 60k in the past. (That’s a TOTALLY UNOFFICIAL PERSONAL GUESS) But for certain there were only about 20 authors stretched out over 2/3 of the 2019 space. That gave every one of us writers a much better than usuall chance to reach attendees who were still engaged & actively shopping. I hope it boosted everyone’s sales.

Artwork. My glorious Daniel Govar character art banners drew people in. For last-minute brainstorm rush jobs, they did AMAZING. Both banners need refining (Swapping out the slogan and the header for Camp Liberty, more obvious series and/or book cover tie-ins for both banners) but the imagery dazzled & intrigued people & started conversations, and that is bookselling platinum. It is PRICELESS. And Weaving In the Ends did its usual great job of tempting crafters to the table. The color palette needs a punch-up, & the cover design needs retooling to fit with the series brand, but I sold every copy I brought, so no complaints.

Variety & discounts. This year I had not only a completed series & a stand-alone to sell, but also a new novel that works as a series-entry book in a whole different genre. That more than doubled my potential audience. And I celebrated the return of convention-going with some pretty enticing bundle-discount pricing. That definitely encouraged people to take a chance on a whole stack of books instead of just one.

Blurbs & pitches. I’ve always known catchy one-breath descriptions were a sales fundamental. But knowing is only 10% of the battle of coming UP with a pitch. This is the first con where I’ve had a proper sales patter for the Restoration series, and damn, what a difference it made! I still need to work on my patter, but I finally have a solid foundation. And I have blurbs that WORK. Finally.

Introvert Corner: This was a fun improvisation I want to remember for future cons. I had an extra chair, and I was on an aisle end, so I used the space to create a zero-interaction shopping zone: the chair, a shelf with a mini-version of my table display and a big sign promising browsers I would not interact in any way unless they came around to the front of the table.

It made people happy. People took pictures of Introvert Corner. Several folks visited multiple times to take a break in the chair & initiated chatting with me, and that was lovely. Did it lead to any sales? Well, yes. But more importantly, it let me give a safe shopping opportunity to folks who might have otherwise felt pressured. And that made ME happy.

There was a lot more to Gen Con, but my experience of it really began and ended with the Exhibit Hall. So I’m going to end this post here, except for a last digressional musing that’s only semi-related. And a cat pic. Because everything is better with cats, and also I didn’t take many pics at Gen Con.


The phrase “year of the asterisk” has been bouncing around the interwebz when people get to discussing the times we live in. It doesn’t work for me. All the current nicknames I’ve seen—The Year Everything Changed, the Pandemic Year(s), The Great Pause, carry a sense of transience that’s been rubbing me wrong for AGES.

The refrain of “this too shall pass, we’ll put this behind us, it’s only temporary” is the song of denial.

2020-2021 will not be relegated to the sidelines as aberrant. These years are not producing outlier statistics that will be set aside because they skew averages and make for untidy graphs.

There never was any going back to normal. Normal is little more than an emotional snapshot of Now. It’s built on what came before, it rests on what we know from our past experiences, yes, but there’s never any “going back.”

Time only goes one way for us linear-living beings.

We aren’t living in Asterisk Times. We have been on the future’s two-year-long nightmare shakedown cruise.

This is The Way Things Are and Will Be. The faster people accept that, the faster we can focus on making normal better.


Mr. Pip’s first walk on the leash. We went all the way around the house and back up the steps before he got spooked by a passing car.

Categories
Authoring Cons & Appearances Whimsy Writing Life

Gen Con 2021: ready to rock & roll

I’m ready to hit the road in the early AM.

  • Suitcase & car loaded except for last-pack items.
  • Electronics updated & charged.
  • Clothes laid out.
  • All prep lists checked off.
  • “Don’t forget” list of last-pack items updated & ready.

And because a super-kind coworker took my shift tonight, I get to enjoy a restful evening before the hectic rush & excitement of tomorow’s drive, check-in & set-up. Huzzah. TV & comfort food, here I come.

Now I digress.

If it seems like I’m overplanning a 3-hr road trip to a 4 day event I’ve attended a dozen times, let me share this gem: I once left behind my wallet on a 2-hr road trip I’d done dozens of times. True story. I would lose track of my own head if it wasn’t firmly attached.

Left to myself, I am a happily absentminded scatterbrain.

This takes some people by surprise. “But you’re so organized!” they exclaim. Every job evaluation I’ve gotten has praised my organizational skills. I’m one of Those People with a clean desk.
Paradox? Not really. Life is a puzzle, I love solving puzzles. I am INCAPABLE of being organized, but my life is easier when I’m not always losing things, forgetting things, or having to live without. So little by little, I’ve been figuring shit out.

Now I have a huge collection of quirky workarounds that keep me from getting buried by life puzzle pieces. Most of the time.

Many quirky workarounds have become habits–easy homey mental routines that run in the life background and don’t take much monitoring. (Designated zones for chaos & clutter & every Items ALWAYS go back in their spot even if that means having 1 per floor of the house, etc etc)

But travel routines are different. No trip is ever exactly the same as the last one, and that means I can’t trust myself not to lose a piece or five. (Like, say, UNDERWEAR)

I’ve done it enough that I’m good at it, I have lots of SUB-routines to deploy — but the process still sucks up mental energy like an old smartphone sucks up battery power.


So I have to do a lot more planning than some people do, but it’s the right amount for me. I have to put in extra time to make sure I don’t arrive without, oh, say, the ID I need to get into an event, or my phone, or something else that would make the trip a misery.

ANYway. Gen Con prep is officially done. Tomorrow, the fun part begins.

Except for Spouseman, who is holding down the home fort while I’m gone. Poor him, he gets to deal with the kitten. Gonna be ineresting to see if Mr. Pips remembers who I am when I get home on Sunday night.

That’s all for now. Until later!

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3. Other Things Whimsy Writing Life

Ants. What I do when it’s ants.

Here’s proof this blog is about anything and everything. Tonight I’m writing about tiny ant season. Tiny ant season came early this year. I griped about having to perform an Unscehduled Ant Eviction on Facebook, that led to a conversation about how I get rid of tiny ants, and I promised I would write it out for some people.

And here we are.

I apply a four-step strategy to ant warfare: kill it with fire, salt the earth, raise high the walls, and poison the well.

Step 1. Kill it with fire

This is the most labor intensive phase. Everything comes off the kitchen counters. E V E R Y T H I N G. The counters all get washed w/soap & water, the floors get vacuumed & wiped down. (I confess I do not mop because I do not mop anything. Ever. Scrub on hands & knees, yes. Mop? No. ANYway.) If you suspect ants got into drawers, the drawers get opened, anything with crumbs or possible food smells on it gets tossed & the drawers get washed with soap & water.

It’s a royal PITA. And avoiding having to do it more than once a year is why I’m big on the salt the earth & raise high the walls prevention elements.

Step 2. Salt the earth.

Diatomaceous earth, to be precise, or DE for short. You have to block ants from returning once you’ve cleaned away the ant scouts & their scent trails. DE is my first choice for barrier protection. It’s non-toxic, safe for pets, and a generally fabulous insect death- dealer. You’ll want to wear a dust mask while working with it, because tiny dust particles are bad for your lungs in general and awful for triggering allergies, but hey! Everyone has masks lying around these days, right? How convenient! A little line along the baseboards does the trick if your only choice for barrier protection is indoors, and you can dust generously along the foundation of a house outside as well. Yes, it’ll wash away in rain, but it’s cheap & you can re-apply.

ALTERNATIVE: you can combine steps 1 & 2 and engage in chemical warfare. The windows get opened, the fans go on, and I spray permethrin-based ant death spray along every baseboard and at the bottom of the tile backsplash, also the wall behind the stove, and around any plumbing pipe accesses under the sink. (pick your own brand. I recommend ones that use no fragrances. But only permethrin ones. None of that heavy organophosphate bullshit.) It’s death and barrier all in one.

But if you want to go pesticide-free, you can skip the spray. Wash everything, then lay down DE.

And shouldn’t have to write this, but…yeah. NO POISON NEAR FOOD SURFACES EVER.

And let’s pause for a quick commercial.

Step 3, Raise high the walls.

Eliminating the temptation of food is THE essential aspect of long-term victory over ants. I was raised in an area where bugs & mice were impossible to keep out, so I know all open food has to be kept in sealed containers & all dishes have to be washed or inside the dishwasher before bedtime. But I don’t live in a pine flat converted to a subdivision anymore. So every winter Spouseman & I get slack about defenses…until one of us discovers a gleeful parade of ants partying on the countertops or lurking inside a kitchen drawer. So. Once the house has been reclaimed and the defenses are built, everything gets sealed in glass or plastic. Period. The cat’s food (when we have cats) goes on a tray with just a teensy bit of water in the bottom. (It kills the ants dead. So delightfully simple.

Pro tip: If it’s REALLY bad, upturned lids filled w/water or oil under table legs keep ants off the dining room table. Or other furniture.

Step 4: Poison the well.

Put out ant baits near any potential entry point. Ant baits do work, but they work really slowly and not universally, so they’re basically a long-term maintenance element in the defense effort. Thus, they come last. And they’re the simplest. I mean, there isn’t much to them other than, “unwrap & place where the cat can’t sniff them out & decide to play with them.” Oh, wait. Ant bait granules outside around the foundation too. Outside the line of DE, if you’re using that. Two layers of protection are better than one!

And there’s no need to feel quilt about laying out something that might be bad for other insects. It isn’t. Baits aren’t pesticide. It’s borax, like for laundry. Chemistry!

That’s it. That’s the post. How I get rid of ants. I know, in my last post I said I would write about the books I’ve read this spring, but this was overdue. Also I’m a little mush-brained from dealing with…life stuff.

NEXT-next time I’ll list off the books, most of which I’ve already recommended online here or there. Pinky swears.

Until later!

Look. I don’t know why this image came up on a search for “cute ant” photos, but how could I resist?
credit: ROMAN ODINTSOV on Pexels.com