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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Arguing Against Tony Goldmark re: The Emoji Movie

 
So I love Tony Goldmark, but he said something on Twitter today that didn't sit right with me.

"Glad they finally opened that Friendly Argument section."


I swear I'm doing this out of love for the guy. Signal-boosting. And since I can't access Twitter at work, here's his statement.
Okay, hot take of the decade, but it's my opinion and I'm sticking with it:

Y'all motherfuckas ain't giving THE EMOJI MOVIE a chance.

The trailer looks no worse than the other kajillion CGI kids movies released in the last few years. You just hate it already because emojis. And why? WRECK-IT RALPH took place in video games and everyone loved it. Why not a phone?

"Well, exactly! It's a WRECK-IT RALPH rip-off!" I guess... in the same way SLEEPING BEAUTY was a SNOW WHITE rip-off, I guess. It's only the second "what if lines of code had feelings" movie. The premise hasn't been done to death. There's room to play in the sandbox. No, I know EXACTLY why everyone who gave WRECK-IT RALPH a chance is hating on THE EMOJI MOVIE without seeing it.

WRECK-IT RALPH was based on nostalgic shit from your childhood. THE EMOJI MOVIE is based on shit from children's current childhoods. And because it's based on some NEW dadblasted millennial contraption that didn't exist when you were a kid, it has no right to exist, right?

I promise you, if RALPH had come out in the 80's, it would've gotten that same reception. Hell, no critics took TRON seriously at the time. Instead, RALPH came out in 2012, when it didn't make a lick of sense that kids would still be hanging out at arcades. So it was brilliant.

Will THE EMOJI MOVIE be good? I don't fucking know, I haven't seen it. But it MIGHT be. There, I said it.

First, my counter-arguments. I don't believe the timeliness or "millenniality" is a contributing factor. Yes, Wreck-It Ralph leaned heavily on nostalgia for appeal, but it used video games from a variety of generations. Its three main pastiches ("Wreck It-Ralph", "Hero's Duty", "Sugar Rush") were "Donkey Kong" (1981), Halo (2001), and a Candy Crush (2012) skin of Mario Kart (which is timeless).

I don't think people older than millennials hate emojis. They use them as much as kids. Commercials feature them for a variety of products (no Viagra ones yet, but there's still time). I would welcome a hard-hitting drama about a YouTuber or a Tinder-based romcom or The Minecraft Movie (in the vein of Lego). Those situations are rife with good story elements and drama. And nostalgia has the advantage that the good is remembered and the bad is forgotten (i.e., no pog movie yet).



And I'm not questioning the premise either, though I think the "what if X had feelings" is just a flavor of anthropomorphizing. That's been in entertainment since the wee days -- animals, furniture, nature. There are similarities, but those are superficial. It's pretty clear it's not trying to duplicate the essential parts of Wreck-It Ralph.

HOWEVER... based on its most recent trailer, its plot points have a lot in common with INSIDE OUT. 1) The protagonists exist in a sub-world of the human world. 2) This sub-world exists for the benefit of a single human who "owns" it. 3) Beings of this sub-world are archetyped to single defining emotions 4) The main character is being forced to feel an emotion he doesn't want to 5) (and this is the biggest) The main plot is "I'm lost". The character falls out of his home and must journey through "weird-land" with a reluctant sidekick. Hey, I'm just calling them like I'm seeing them.

Finally, context. I think it's unfair to compare Wreck-It Ralph to The Emoji Movie and not just because it's Disney against... well, any other animation studio. More on that later. But while one could argue that games like Q*Bert and Tapper and Donkey Kong didn't have stories, they DID have context. They were basic bad guy vs. good guy situations, but they existed. And the movie expands on that. That's its very theme--what makes a bad guy bad?

Brings a tear to my eye every time


But emojis do not have context. They are hieroglyphics. It's like making a movie based on letters. Video games have a rich history to draw from. Emojis are symbols to which meaning must be derived. This movie is adding context to something that's not there. And while there's no monopoly on the "what if X had feelings?" story, you're only ever going to be seen as scavenging Pixar's trash bin unless you really have an original idea.

No, my prejudicial hate for The Emoji Movie is based on entirely different reasons.

Like I said, it's unfair to compare anything to Disney. On the other hand, this is Sony Animation Studios. Their last five animated releases were Smurfs: The Lost Village, Surf's Up 2: WaveMania (featuring the voices of real WWE wrestlers), Open Season: Scared Silly, Goosebumps, and Hotel Transylvania 2.

Titanic. The Musical. With talking animals. It had a rapping dog. Someone thought this was art.
And as the generation who experienced this wave first hand--the wave of poorly written, poorly produced films to sell toys (My Pet Monster, Care Bears, My Little Pony, Rainbow Brite, G.I. Joe, even my beloved Garfield ... heck, just look at the first year of Nostalgia Critic videos), I can see the signs like I am a friggin' prophet. Studios are mass-producing CG schlock to make a few bucks or fill out their schedule. Cheap animation, no story, and movie-makers who just don't care. And nothing's worse than art made by people who don't care.

And let's look who's working on it. The director's other movies were Igor, Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch, and Kronk's New Groove. The writers were responsible for two of those, plus School of Rock and Big Hero 6 (I'm skipping all their no-names). The first-credited stars are Anna Faris and T.J. Miller -- fine actors and comedians, but arguably two of the most annoying voices in Hollywood today.

We are living in a world of The Boss Baby, Norm of the North, Storks, Trolls, Minions, and Sing. And God help you if you start perusing the bowels of the Kids' Animation genre on Netflix. The way they're marketing has the same feel of that crap too, the feel of The Angry Birds Movie and Pixels (as in "hey, you recognize this! Now watch the movie!"). Just garbage where the main selling factor is pop culture, either old or new, standing on the droppings of giants. They're clearly capitalizing on a fad. So why shouldn't I pre-emptively hate it, when it's got all the earmarks of those movies I just mentioned.

The jokes are low brow and dumb. The characters have no personality or thought put in. The story is a rough draft. Every piece of marketing makes sure to mention that one of the characters is poop. That tells me the intended audience is the lowest common denominator. Even the name! "The Emoji Movie" That's not a title, that's a pitch. It's not named after the main character or the theme or setting. It's a clear indication that no one behind the film cares.* This pisses me off because the money that went towards this movie could have gone to the new Labyrinth or Pulp Fiction or even a Men in Black. Something with a little risk. Something without an existing IP.



The Emoji Movie has a high bar to jump to distinguish itself from all the other junk being released these days. And it sure doesn't look like it's going to clear it. I'm not denying it has a chance. If you drop a fork, it has "a chance" that it'll float instead of falling on the floor. But given the evidence, would you take that bet?

*It occurs to me that The Lego Movie had the same thing, and it was awesome. One of my all-time favorite movies. So that may be a point in Tony's favor. However, I'll point out that The Lego Movie did it first, and I believe others are copying it. So this one's a push.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Titles For Women that Need to Change

I recently wrote about insulting and derogatory words and how they need to change, because they all imply femininity, which is not a negative trait. The idea that women are weak and sinful is out of date. But language is not evolving fast enough.

Titles for women aren't so great either. They're based on medieval notions and misconceptions about women's authority, usually based on who they were married to rather than their rank. Let's take a look.

"ma'am" - Short for "madam" which carries a certain definition that, well, I don't need to explain. It's supposed to be the equivalent of the male's "sir". But whereas that one is associated with knights, "madam" is associated with overseeing brothels and prostitution. Madams don't get good reputations. Case in point: Madam Tussauds, Madam Butterfly, Madam Thenardier.

The sad part is it's supposed to be the nominal appellation for women of power -- Madam Justice, Madam Speaker, Madam President. It's got the word "mad" in there, which is unpleasant. And no one knows if the long form is supposed to be "madam" or "madame". Negative points for failing to be consistent. I blame the French.

"milady" - I like the sound of this one, but there's that "my", which implies possession. That "you are mine". No one says "my sir" or "my gent". It adds to the idea that women are property.

"dame" - I think this is the technical title for a female knight. But it's stupid. When I think of dames I think of old British ladies (like REALLY old... like competing with Jabba the Hutt for most wrinkles) or 1920s mobsters (or equivalent pastiche in Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers).

Wait, I just thought of this. Is "madame" a portmanteau of "my dame"? Like "milady"/"my lady"? Jeez, maybe there really is only one word for everything.

"Mrs." or "Misses" - This is what you call your teacher. And for some stupid reason the variations ("ms.", "miss") are based on marital status. This is a big problem if you're job seeking and writing cover letters. How am I supposed to know if someone I've never met is married? It's hard enough telling what gender a person these days, let alone their Tindr profile. Not to mention the double standard implied -- "mister" doesn't have any variations because who cares if they're attached.

"lady" - I guess it's the equivalent of "gentleman" which is out of vogue in the first place. It often appears as a title, but I'm guessing it's not high, like baroness or duchess. Nonetheless, it's a simple noun, not a descriptor. She's not a gentle lady or anything like that.

"mistress" - I mean, come on. This is the word for someone a guy is having an affair with. Don't even try and insult me.

So do I have replacements? No. No, I do not. All these words are rooted in old timey terms of respect and formality. Foreign languages won't help us (try calling someone a "Frau" or "signora"). I kinda like matron as it implies leadership, but it also implies you're taking care of kids.

Ideally, titles would be either gender-neutral or closer in nobility and standing to males (like "sir"). I guess we'll have to make some up like they're doing for pronouns. "Now introducing Sir Derek and Xelatos Margaret."

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Books I Read: January - February 2017

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
(unfinished)

I love Barry Lyga, but I had to stop after twenty-five percent. There was too much telling and not enough showing.

The story's about a teenager who knows all the serial killer tricks because his father was one. So there's analysis, backstory, and thinking, but not much action. Too much of the text is setup for the ongoing series, not the current story. I wanted to know what's happening with the murder now, not ten years ago.

It would have been better if the text was presented in flashbacks so there was more immediacy, instead of recall. The narrator is just not interesting enough to allow him total control.

Afraid by Jack Kilborn

This is a real Suicide Squad -- not some namby-pamby rogues gallery. A half-dozen sociopaths are given CIA mental conditioning and drug therapy. Then they crash land in sleepy-town, USA. Chaos ensues.

I've never read anything as fast-paced as this. Chapters are short, sentences are short, scenes are short. Although the characterization is light, the action is visceral enough and quick enough that you want to see more. You might think it's a Stephen King-style thriller from the cover and blurb -- slow burn, supernatural junk, psychic powers for no reason -- but it's a far cry.

It reminds me of a high-budget B-movie where they went heavy on script and light on special effects. The horror comes from how realistic (as in the killer is a criminal trained to be a soldier, not Pennywise the clown).

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
(unfinished)

I stopped when I reached two bothersome tropes in YA novels that I couldn't overlook. One was the Wild Teen Party. The all-night rager-kegger thrown by the resident Daddy's little princess where everyone's drinking copiously and every room has the door shut. There's mean girls, drinking games, and bros talking out loud about "getting ass" in front of the people they're trying to get ass from. And of course, our heroine goes because her friends are there, but she's too virginal to take part in the hedonistic orgy.

In movies it's entertaining, but in a book, it's the crutch of authors who need a place and time for characters to argue or see someone kiss someone else or some other plot point because, literally, everyone is there. It's a setup to get someone sexually assaulted or overhear/see someone doing naughty which leads to "the liar revealed", "the misunderstanding", or "what did I do last night?". Reality contradicts this to the point of ludicrousness -- parties only have a few friends, finding alcohol/drugs is a scavenger hunt in its own right, and no one acts like a chauvinistic douche in front of anyone who could hear it. Yes, there are parties that turn up to eleven, but they're the exception that proves the rule. The other nine times out of ten, you either play Halo all night or eat ice cream and talk.

Cliche #2 -- our oh-so-precious heroes don't read any conventional books. They read the classics like Bronte and Woolf. And constantly quote them to each other, like it's a ping-pong challenge to prove which one is dumber (of course, neither loses, they know all the lines like Wuthering Heights was "Austin Powers"). No one reads Twilight or Harry Potter. No one reads anything written in the last century. That's too mainstream. We're all Hipster Ariels here.

That's when I stopped reading. There are two main characters, one girl and one boy. They're both suicidal. But one is more "eccentric" suicidal and the other is "dramatique". The boy does it for the negative attention, but then criticizes the girl for doing the same thing. He's like a manic pixie dream boy, like Johnny Rzeznik or the Phantom of the Opera. He's special because he's not one of the jocks who wants sex (see above re: "getting ass"). He's a special snowflake who wants a meaningful relationship.

I read somewhere that "this is a book about depressed teens, not a book FOR depressed teens." That makes death into a game. Like you're watching these teens skirt around the edge of the suicide pool and the big question becomes "will she or won't she?" Which is wrong. There is no glory in suicide. I've looked into that abyss, and I was able to turn away. There's no romance. There's no story. It doesn't release you from your pain, it makes everyone around you feel worse.

At 33% I realized I didn't give a shit about any of the characters. Books about coping with depressing situations? I'll stick with "Eleanor and Park", thanks. Coping with suicide? I'll stick with "Looking for Alaska", thanks.

'Salem's Lot by Stephen King

At one third of the way through, there still weren't any vampires. I'm not saying I need vampires at page one, but they should be part of the plot setup.

But still, this is one of the books that reminds you why people admire King (or did in the eighties). Despite the tedium of character after character after character, the prose still crackles with quaint expressions and sharp dialogue. Even though no one is working towards a goal, the characters are interesting and there are tons of them.Some of whom only get one scene or two and are then killed off. But the difference is, because they get a little screen time AND something you can stick to them (the bus driver who hates kids, the husband of the former beauty queen who catches her in an affair) their deaths have meaning (even if it's only an ounce).

It's the progenitor of many of the Stephen King cliches we take for granted today (setting in Maine, supernatural creatures without origin, one-dimensional bullies, useless police, crazy fundamentalists, rednecks, abusive jerkasses, alcoholics, letdown of an ending) and there's pacing issues abound. Though they crackle, there are long stints of nothing happening, especially in the beginning. Although it gives the effect of making the town a character (so there is meaning when it becomes doomed), it makes me wonder which parts were written on a coke binge and which weren't.

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

A little Dune, a little Game of Thrones, a little Leviathan Wakes, with the rest being pure Scalzi himself. It's a great read, like his others. Not one you want to put down. Add to that the fact that's it fun to be starting a new saga. And the best part is that Scalzi's created one of his best characters to date in Kiva Lagos (mostly because she swears a lot). And that's saying something because Scalzi is not known for character-driven plots.

Like the last two Old Man's War books, this story takes place with a high scope. A forty-thousand foot view. This is not like Zoe's Tale or The Ghost Brigades where you knew one character intimately. And like the last two Old Man's War books, the story stays focused on politics and governmental milieu (although it's not a political thriller).

One negative is that it seemed the good guys win their obstacles a little easy. Like someone grabs the gun from Chekhov's mantle, but the security manager saw him bring in bullets, and they knew who was going to do it, so they replaced the gun with one of those bang flag things. Challenges were nipped in the bud right away so that the goal became how to make it so no one noticed they nipped the bud while finding out who grew the flower.

If you're not familiar with Scalzi's stuff, then this is a good jumping in point. It's closest to Lock-In for style and The End of All Things for content.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

How I Plan to Answer the Common Author Questions


"How do you become an author?"

You become a writer when you first start trying. You become an author when you get published. When your words are on pages and those pages are between two pieces of cardboard, then you become an author. Authors evolve from writers. Writers are the Pokemon who fight the battles, one at a time. And if they keep working, they get to become authors. At first, they just press the A button over and over. Attack, attack, attack. And that's fine. Because as you go on, you learn new things from the other Pokemon--tackle, quick attack, scary face, hydro pump, dodge, sand gust, psychic, sleep, surf. New ways to execute for the same purpose -- beat that Pokemon. And if you beat enough of them, eventually someone can make you legendary. But there are no legendary Pokemon that didn't start in Pallet Town.

"Where do you get your ideas?"

This is the like the "The Aristocrats" of questions. Each author should develop their own answer meant only to amuse other writers. One that fits their style and tone, but still sort of answers the question. Here's my attempt:

There is a land scattered with roasted mushrooms.Take three of these, but not the blue one. The blue one contains only thoughts without z's and while this may be acceptable to some, as z is an underused letter, you will be distraught when the ebras stampede on your head. Using a spatula encased in gold lame, gently sever the mushroom head from its root. Preserve it within a glass case with three parts ammonia and one part lemon juice. This mixture must be refreshed every twelve seconds, keeping the ambient temperature to 109 degrees, which may make the flight back from Zanzibar a wee bit difficult (not to say that you must go to Zanzibar to fetch these mushrooms, but one may ideally make the trip for additional tourism purposes). Take these mushrooms to a man in New York dressed as Moon Knight. Is he the real Moon Knight? Maybe, but you are not there to find out. The one subtle difference, one you must mot mistake, is that he will have an AOL disc on his belt. After he recites all the Sorting Hat poems from the Harry Potter books, you must repeat all the Oompa Loompa poems from Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. This is your code word exchange. Should you get one wrong, or if he doesn't like your intonation, he will take you Bertha, a very corpulent woman who enjoys inflicting pain on poor intonators and your grisly fate will be that of a Leisure Suit Larry game over. If you manage to avoid this outcome, the Moon Knight-impersonator/cosplayer (you're not sure which, because you're not aware of any conventions around the area -- you just came back from Zanzibar after all) will take you back to a tattoo parlor. The main patron will look suspiciously like Bertha, but do not be alarmed. This person actually has a daisy tattoo on her butt. I'm not sure if it's the flower or the duck, so you have to confirm. She takes these mushrooms and grinds them into a fine blue powder. Sniff, but do not inhale. What you will not smell is a lovely addition to any cereal milk. Pour it on your piano, making sure it covers all the keys, then play any theme song from Cartoon Network ca. 1999. At this point, a Zulu warrior should be in your house, the kind with the bone through the nose and red headdress. Accompany him onto a pirate ship while singing one of those Irish drinking songs, like, for ALL the way. One hundred bottles of beer on the wall is acceptable, but you may need to increase the number of bottles. Extra points for drinking those bottles as you sing. I recommend drinking rum and cokes without the rum. Assumably the demographics for this ride should be suitable enough to reach the island of misfit biscuits. These biscuits are being nibbled on by cute little mice in a maze. One of them is about to give birth and it's your job to help her through the laboring process. Don't forget the balloons and boiling water. She would like it recorded too. Not the mouse, of course, but the mother. After the pups are birthed (what do you call mouse babies? Mouselings? Mouselettes? Mousingtons?) you must give them all names, then release the doves. Follow one of these doves--the one going westmost--to a cavern. Bring some Greek yogurt with you. The Greek yogurt is to dump on your head when you do the dance of a thousand and seven veils, which shall be accomplished on a crack across an old ravine. Old Troll River they call it. And if you're lucky you may see one of the trolls. Do not give it your jacket. It will ask you for it, but resist. Not even if it uses that cute hillbilly accent. Now take the bowl of Spaghetti Bolognese with you, which is spaghetti with cut-up bits of bologna in it, and leave it in front of the orangutan. At this point you should notice that a series of Times Square mascots have begun marching to The Simpsons theme song. One of them is dressed either as Ben Hur if he were Donkey Kong or a kind of Mega Man-ish robot filming a documentary on the national epidemic of sewer rats.Take Donkey Kong/Ben Hur/documentarian Mega Man into the battle royale arena where you have to fight him to the death using a lawn chair and a 1950's black and white advertisement for coffee in which the woman is unnecessarily criticized or blamed for the quality of the beverage which her self-esteem hinges on. If you can keep alive or hydrated by the time curfew is called, there will be several programs left on the ground. Inside one is an advertisement for jet packs. Ignore the remarks about fascism and totalitarianism within the copy. Take the jetpack to the Iowan field used in Field of Dreams (I assume it's still there) and strap it on. Make sure all valves and flaps are closed and fuel lines are clear (you know, basic maintenance), then look up at the sky and shout three times "Dicks out for Harambe!" I'm betting you feel terribly silly now, but hold tight. This is by design. Try jumping up and down, it might work. But by this time it should become clear that this is not a jet pack but a set of scuba tanks filled with gasoline. Even though you must not travel to an ocean (any ocean will do) please note that the above step must be taken or you will instead receive intuition about a chess match between Mr. Forbes and Mr. Holland. Now that you are in the air, please take this opportunity to play your Chumbawamba CD. At this velocity, you should notice the altered pitch and rhythm of Track 9. This is actually a secret code which you should write down immediately. The code itself is in binary and was written by a Japanese Tokyo University student, so take it to a Japanese computer. Make sure not to get a single 0 or 1 wrong, or, well, we all know what would happen, wouldn't we? In the code directly, there is a calculation every three or four steps (I forget which) which will translate to a map of a lagoon headquarters where the elite scientists, philosophers, and thinkers are holed up, working on developing the great secrets of the world. There are several consultants milling about, some in the break room, some brushing the dragon's teeth. Find one that looks like Bill Cosby. Use the mobile app to make an appointment and be sure to have your cell phone ready in case you need to receive a text regarding a change of time.

That's step one.

"Have you always wanted to be a writer?"

I'm not really sure I ever had a choice. I've been making little books out of my dad's computer paper since I was five. Little storybooks with Snoopy or Garfield or Roger Rabbit. And at some point, it wasn't so much if I could, but if I would. There was no significant event between the two -- no graduating into a new belt or getting a medal. Just a good idea. A good idea and a void to put it in. And if no one else was going to fill that void, I would have to.


"How do you deal with writer’s block?"

Sinking into despair always worked for me. Actually, I try not to believe in writer's block. When we talk about writer's block we're really talking about writer's delay or writer's despair. And everyone gets it, the "my stuff isn't any good" blues. Stephen King gets it. Neil Gaiman gets it. (Please don't tell me if they don't, I don't want to know.)

Writer's block is not a shortage of ideas. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Executing those ideas is the hard part. That's what writers get paid for. There are dozens of ways to tell A Christmas Carol, but finding a good way is hard. That's the trenches. That's where the writers are, putting word after word. Building the story one Lego piece at a time to make something that resonates and satisfies. You can get the character from point A to B fine. It's making that journey interesting (while following sense and logic) that's hard. Rational yet emotional. Controlling the flow of stimulus and consequence/response. Scene and sequel. Character and setting. All while not being boring. That is the hard part.

"Would you like a movie made of your books?"

Why? Do you know people?

I can't believe there are people like Alan Moore and Roald Dahl who didn't want movies made of their books. I guess they had enough F-U money to say no. But the world of books still feels like a subdomain under the world of movies. Books are written by the morlocks and if you're lucky, one of the angels above ground may pick one to raise into their world. And the angels will know your name and they will look at pictures of you from time to time. But you can never be one of them. Writers are shunned on the red carpet, scripts are passed around like a back alley whore. Visions are shared by 164 different people, most working with computer graphics.

As for me, I don't see how I could say no. Even if they did screw it up Mary Poppins style, at least people would know my name.

"What are you working on right now?"

What am I not working on?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Netflix What If?

If you got "Arrival" and "The Departed" from Netflix at the same time, does that cause a black hole?

What if the Death Star Used Lighsabers?

What if the Death Star's laser cannon is just a bunch of lightsabers or lightsaber crystals fused together. Wouldn't that be ironic?


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The March for Science Write-Up

So as I mentioned before that I was going to the March for Science in St. Paul, Minnesota. And given the amount of trepidation I've had over it, I figure I'd be remiss if I didn't leave a note. You see, ever since Trump was elected, I felt I had to do something against this evil authoritarian/bully. I considered the Women's march successful IMO -- especially given the contrast to the previous day's dismal inauguration. People I admire on Twitter documented it, and I watched. My own sister was there in Boston. And moreover, it emphasized the feeling of "I've got to do something against this regime, because if no one does anything, that's when they win."

So after playing Starcraft for a little while (it's free, you know), I got in my car and headed to downtown St. Paul, toward the Science Museum parking ramp. And I put in my motivational music, music to foster the rebellion's purpose inside me, which was... I don't want to say... Come on, do I have to?


Fine, it was Newsies. But just the good songs, okay? Fine? There, I told you. Anyway, because there was a Minnesota Wild game (playoffs) also happening at 2:00. As a result, parking at the ramp was $20 (which is quite high). I walked up to street level, where the Wild pre-game activities were going on. But it wasn't hard to find some other marchers, so I just followed them. More and more gathered and soon it was a mass that blocked traffic. I don't think we were supposed to block traffic on this route, but it felt like the march had begun. Until we stopped.

At this point, the anxiety began. I felt very exposed and alone. People were taking pictures, marching with friends and family, holding up signs. I was alone in my black polo shirt, trying to blend in. Not that I thought riots would break out, but I'm meant to be the observer, not the observed. Made me wish I'd taken another venlafaxine that morning. There were a lot of families there and it made me miss my own. Not that I asked they be here -- this is something I wanted to do for myself. But it would have made a great Girl Scout project.


The point I stopped was a street corner before Cathedral Hill Park (where the starting point was supposed to be). I could see the Capitol building from my uphill angle. At this point it's about 10:30-10:40 -- the march starts at 11:00, so I had time to kill. But there was plenty to look at -- science signs and costumes, many witty and colorful. I can't remember where I read it, but one of the ways to make a successful movement is to make protests fun. Yes, that seems contradictory, but on-the-fencers won't attend if the process is drudgerous. No one wants to chant like monks walking up a hill, banging a book against their heads. This felt like a convention. I didn't catch anyone around me being too political. Presence there was enough, and there's no point in preaching to the choir.


I could see the march's start -- people holding a banner like a barricade -- and the capitol was not two blocks away. Short march, I guess. From where I stood, I was already halfway there. Then there was a movement of people, and I just followed them. I didn't see anyone there who wasn't already part of the march. Several people were standing at the sides watching, holding signs. I'm not sure why they weren't marching -- they weren't taking pictures and it didn't seem like they would have been in people's way. Nor were they dressed in a way that they wanted to be seen. 

With shuffling steps, we moved to the lawn in front of the Capitol. I was able to maneuver into a shady spot under a tree when I looked at the clock. Ten minutes. That whole thing took ten minutes, and there was still fifty minutes until any speakers were to begin. And it wasn't supposed to end until 2:00.


This brings me to my main thought. It was all... kind of boring. Besides the waiting, the speakers weren't very interesting or notable (all were local). D.C. got Bill Nye and ?uestlove. A few times I thought about ducking out -- I already did my part. I didn't need to listen to people in the science industry eloquenting about the value of science (see prev. statement re: preach/choir). But that wouldn't be very honorable. People were going to be taking pictures of this event and every head adds one. 

Besides some interstitial kids reading prepared statements, there were four speakers. Three worked in the field of science. One was a politician (a St. Paul senator) who didn't sound like she'd written her speech the night before (but I think that's par for the course for politicians). Among the 13-18 year olds, some were better speakers than others. One reminded me of Vanessa Bayer's "Laura Parsons" character on SNL Weekend Update, the child actress who reads news that's way too adult.

It was scheduled to end at 2pm, but at 12:50, the last speaker had finished. And everyone turned around and went home. Like literally. No pomp or circumstance or pledges to take action or resolutions by congresspeople. We just started walking back the same way we came. And it felt a lot longer the way back. It didn't feel as immediate or vengeful (in a good way) as the Women's march was, but that makes some sense. After that Access Hollywood video leak, I would feel defensive and vulnerable too. But also, after all the tweets and build-up (some of which was made in my head), I'm left wondering...

I look over to Washington at the higher-ups on Capitol Hill. I know Donald Trump doesn't give Fuck One about climate change or environmental regulations or "facts". Those things impede his business from making profits. And the congresspeople and cabinet members are either "on his team" or looking the other way so they're not targeted. Is any of this going to change anyone's mind? Did it make a difference? Did I have an impact? Did any of it matter? Was any of this worth the stress I placed on myself?

I guess time will tell.