Sunday, August 21, 2011

Who has time for a plan B in this business?

Okay, so most of you probably haven't been sitting in front of a person whose opinion you value, showing them your hard work and creative output. This basically feels a lot like opening up and putting your heart on the table in front of them and hoping they don't choose to stab it with a pen.

It's especially hard if it's something you are really proud of, that you poured yourself into. And when they look at you and they make that face and they say, "Oh, is this it?"

Man, that is a moment where you have the potential to just LOSE IT.

Which is my way of saying that the second that Nina first said, "Do you have a plan B?" I felt so much for the designers she was talking to that I wanted to reach through the television and throttle her. It hit a bit of a nerve.

Which is my way of saying I hated this episode. It's no secret I don't tend to particularly agree with Nina either anyway, so yeah. Not a happy camper.

Anyway, dresses and jumpsuits and possibly a coat!

Anthony Ryan

Okay, the whole "two designers chose the same fabric thing" really fizzled so I won't really bother with it. Though I like Becky's better, which I'll get to, this one is still a nice top that I would really love to buy and wear with a completely different bottom.

There's nothing particularly wrong with the skirt, it's just not my style. And I seem to remember it not moving well on the runway, but it looks fine in the picture. Anyway, I feel like it doesn't compliment this top as well as it could. Not sure what I would do instead though.

But really, still a very solid garment from Anthony Ryan, I'm telling you, he is going to do something amazing very soon.


I have to admit, I don't really like this at all. Although I also have to say it would have been terrible in that original mustard color.

Can you even imagine? Could somebody photoshop that please?

But anyway, I just think this is the type of garment that doesn't do a woman's body any favors. It doesn't even make this model's body look all that great, it just sort of falls...I don't find it particularly tailored, so I'm surprised how much the judge's loved it.

This is my major problem though: Anya's reaction to Nina's criticism of the color. I know, I just said mustard was the wrong choice. But at the same time, the entire point of the show, no matter the challenge, is supposed to be to show off YOUR design aesthetic within the confines of the challenge. It's about who you are as a designer. At your core, what do you think YOUR fashion is?

I don't know how it really goes in the high fashion world, but it would seem to me that if I was going to hire a designer to make a dress for me, I would be hiring them because I already believe they have a great point of view and I'm interested in what THEY do, not because I want them to conform to ME and what I tend to buy/wear/whatever. So part of me really wanted Anya to look at Nina and say, "I'm going to make you believe in mustard, because I am going to make something wonderful with it."

There was this episode of Top Chef where the chefs all were supposed to make a dish that reflected their family and history. Tom Colicchio, (the head judge if you don't watch the show) apparently has said before that he hates okra. One of the chefs chose to make okra because it was something her family made, and she was convinced that she could make it well. And when they were at the judge's table, Colicchio had to admit that he had loved it, because she made it well.

Now, I don't know if I think that Nina actually is open-minded enough to be converted like that, and like I said, the mustard WAS a bad choice in the first place, but wouldn't it have been great, just once this episode, to see a designer say, "trust me, I'll make you love this." Where's Santino when you need him?


How much do I want this dress? I don't have any idea if it would look good on somebody of my body type, but if I saw this in the store the first thing I would do is start looking for it in my size, and THEN I might look at the price tag.

I think that this actually is a much better use of the fabric than Anthony Ryan's, but only because the overall garment is better and seems to be working off of the print more than making the print work for it. They're both good, but this? This I want to own. I want to find that fabric and make one of these for myself. I'm still amazed it wasn't top three, though I suppose it wasn't Nina's style.


Blah. That's all I have to say about this. I mean, it's classic, and well done I guess. But it's just a boring black dress. It doesn't say anything, it doesn't do anything. I'm sure he could sell it to a department store and they'd sell a ton of them, but after a woman wore it out, nobody would every remember what she had on that night, just that she must have been clothed or something.


I'm going to admit up front that I have a bit of a vendetta against Bryce because I'm still convinced he deserved to go home last week and that it was a bit slimy of him to blame that atrocity on Fallene.

Plus, he was snooty. I don't like snooty.

That said, this dress looks like something I could make. Actually, it looks like several Halloween costumes and cosplay outfits that I _have_ made. Because I don't actually sew that much and I'm a bit impatient, so my seams are never QUITE as straight as they should be, and my fabric almost always ends up puckering, and my hems take three tries to get them right.

Seriously, WHY was this not in the bottom? Not only is it super boring, but it's made like somebody that hasn't even started fashion school, let alone graduated.

Okay, I'm done being bitter and cranky.


I actually thought it was evident from the casting episode that Cecilia really didn't have the right personality for this, and she wasn't going to get far. She wasn't even a good choice if you were looking for a villain, she was just...uninterested and unimpressed. I don't know, she hasn't really struck me as anything and I keep forgetting she's even on the show.

This dress, for the record, is terrible. I'm not even sure what I can say about it because it's just so evident from looking at the picture. She gave up, she picked up the wrong stuff at Mood (which I still don't get, she's not the first designer to say something looked different in would think a fabric store would have great lighting, but anyway) and instead of mustering up her own ingenuity, she gave up.

I don't really want to see any more of her.


The judges ripped this apart pretty well, and I don't think they said anything I particularly disagree with. Though I do want to point out that they LOVED the exaggerated and comical shoulders on Viktor's outfit and yet couldn't stop pointing out the only slightly larger than average ones on this shirt. Yeah, that made a ton of sense.

Actually, a lot of what the judges said this week bothered me, because they were clearly making decisions based on previous performance and they're always saying that it's just the garment in front of them that they are judging. Listen, you and I both know that has never been the case, but they keep saying it, so shouldn't they at least TRY to do it? And seriously, if that's the case, they should have put Bryce on the bottom again just for being Bryce.

Anyway. I actually think this color could have looked great, but Danielle had the same problem Anya did only in a different way. She didn't stand up for herself enough, but she TRIED to hang on to herself, and what she ended up doing was a mismatched mess.

I wrote this script once, for a class. I wanted it to be about a certain thing, and my teacher heard the pitch and decided it would be better if it was about something else. He didn't change the specifics, but it was originally a comedy about cooking, and it became more of a drama about a dysfunctional family. There's more to it than that, but I don't want to bore you.

Because I had only just started grad school, I was under the mistaken impression that he knew better than me, and I did what he said because well, he must really KNOW, right? But part of me held back, and didn't do it right because it wasn't ME, it wasn't what I wanted to write, and it wasn't what my story wanted to be.

The script I ended up with was junk. Only the bare bones of it were salvageable. And it was because I didn't say, "No, this is MY work, and if nothing else it needs to be what I wanted to write." If Danielle had gone out on this, she couldn't have proudly said, "I at least accomplished what I set out to do."

And that's got to be the worst way to go out, IMHO.


I don't get this dress. I understand nothing about it. Okay, I take that back, I actually like the color combination if there was a LOT less of the orange stuff. I think grey with that orange accent would be great. But really, what is this?

I can say that unlike some of the other garments that went out this week, this one really made the model's body look better. Something other than the orange and I might have loved it, just because of how it fit her.

But as is, it kind of reminds me of those bulky night-shirts with a skinny woman's body printed on them.


Oh, Julie. I actually loved Julie, and I can't even explain to you why.

I don't hate this as much as everybody else seems to, because I see a lot of potential in it. The collar is weird, yes. But I kind of like the asymmetrical hem (because it looks done on purpose, rather than bad construction like Bryce's).

I mean, honestly, the more I look at it, the less nice things I have to say about it. Maybe liking Julie is messing with my judgement. But I think maybe it's just that I like the fabric choice, and I'd love to see a cute little trench made out of that color combinations. With less orange.


I think if this top hadn't been made in this gold, I would have adored it. But the gold made it a little much for me.

I don't think I could rock this (in another color) but I'd love to try. It's fun, and it makes the model look fantastic. It was a well earned win. Though I never in a million years expected Nina to like it.


I honestly don't understand the first thing about this dress. It doesn't look like it fits well, the sheer bits on the skirt go way too high up, and the sleeves just look constrictive and odd.

It wasn't bottom of the list material, since there were at least four that were worse. But I expected more from Laura.

It's a good color though, I'll give her that.


This was was pretty boring too. But the thing that gets me is that it also seemed poorly made, and that confused me a lot. I don't really have a lot to say about it other than it's puckering all over the place.

Although I do have to say this was another set of good color choices. But a pop of color might have made it feel less boring.


I just...I can't...What IS THIS? Why did everybody love it? Did they really think that a woman could wear this outside of a runway and not keep bumping her shoulders into things?

Okay, I'm exaggerating, but at the same time, those are some seriously weird shoulders and I don't understand fashion. They don't look as bad in this picture, but on the show I couldn't really figure out what was supposedly so wonderful about it. The model also wasn't really doing it any favors either, she seemed hunched over the entire time. Why this was in the top three instead of Becky, I don't know.

Like I said, I don't know fashion, apparently.

I'm cutting things a bit short, I've got a shoot coming up next weekend so I'm kind of frazzled. I'll probably be a little late with next week's recap too because we're running Thursday-Monday on the shoot. See you later!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Where's a good "hi top" joke when you need one?

One of my favorite things in the world are actor's resumes. As a filmmaker, I see a TON of headshots and resumes. Most of them aren't anything that you'd remember outside of what you're specifically looking for. But the best part is down at the bottom where they start listing "special skills."

Every actor puts a few things that are really worthwhile in this section, like languages they speak, accents they can do, stage combat experience, etc. But there's also always at least one entry that's designed solely to make them stick out in your mind and make you remember their resume above the others. My favorites have been "Arnold Schwarzenegger Impersonations" and "Stilt Walking." Which brings me to this week's episode.

Thankfully this week's PR will be faster for me to recap since it was a team challenge. The thing that gets me is that it really reeks of running out of ideas. "What haven't we done? How can we avoid repeating ourselves. I know, STILTS!"

I wish I was in THAT production meeting. Mostly so I could have what they were having.

Anya and Olivier

I loved watching the two of them work, with Anya perched on the table. I wish something more impressive had come out of their partnership, but if nothing else they at least showed the rest of the teams what they COULD have been acting like.

This is another one of those garments where there's just nothing all that good OR bad to say about it. I like the fabric, though since it's on a stilt-walker there's just too much of it to be a good thing. It's rightfully the middle of the pack.

Bert and Viktor

What. a. disaster. That fabric isn't hideous, and it could have been made into something nice if it was in much, much smaller quantity. But on a challenge like this where there's supposed to be yards and yards of everything, it's just awful.

Everything about this came out bad, and it's because of the teamwork, or lack there of. While they both get a lot of blame for this going wrong (a lot of the worst decisions did belong to Bert, I admit) at the same time, the poor teamwork should rest squarely on Viktor's shoulders.

At nearly every juncture that he could be dismissive, rude, and a jerk he took it. Bert's comments and problems usually had a root cause, and while he could have taken a higher road, in the vernacular of their behavior: Viktor started it. I found myself thrilled to see him on the bottom even if the major problems the judge's had were Bert's fault.

Danielle and Cecilia

How does that hair even HAPPEN? Please tell me that the hairdresser responsible for that was demoted or at least fined for crimes against decent hair. I know they do what the designers say and so something sent them down that road, but really, how do you do that and then think "Yes, my work here is done."

I can't figure out if it's the hair that sours me on it, but I don't like this outfit AT ALL. I don't feel like the colors really go that well together, it looks really old and old-fashioned. I would be okay with the top if the sleeves were slightly smaller so that it didn't just look like a bunch of fabric swallowed the model.

But I really can't do anything but look at the hair.

Bryce and Fallen

Okay, now we get into the part where I teach those of you that don't sew about a new and shiny thing. You see, I've never been to any fancy-schmancy school for fashion and design. But I do know how to sew, at least enough to make costumes, and I've been doing it since I was rather young. What Bryce was saying about cutting on and off grain was right, although it was explained to me as "with" or "against" the grain, since my mom was using woodworking as a base to explain it, since I understood that already.

Anyway, Bryce is not wrong. You have to go with the grain of the fabric. What Bryce was wrong about was his attitude and his general being a jerk about it. Do you want to know how SIMPLE it is to make sure that every single thing you cut out of a piece of fabric is with the grain, even if you turn it around and mix it up?

You put in a couple pins, going along with the grain of the fabric. Then you can always use those pins as reference. If you're having trouble finding the grain, you go to the edge of the fabric and check the selvages (just a fancy name for the edge of the fabric). And what's even more fun? Sometimes you actually DO want to cut on the bias...All things that I bet Fallene knew perfectly well, she just couldn't keep track of the grain, and I've had that problem a million times when working with remnants and scraps. But if you've ever even picked up a pattern, you've seen these things, because I've never seen a pattern that doesn't explain it when they say how to lay out the pieces to cut them.

So my problem is, how did Bryce, with his fancy schooling, NOT know the trick with the pins? I'm pretty sure I learned that when my age was in single digits, but I forgive Fallene for not knowing. He could have pinned the fabric down, or taped it, so that she could lay all the pattern pieces out and pin them before getting mixed up again. Personally, I think he was doing the hoity-toity "I have SCHOOLING" attitude and didn't even contemplate helping her despite the fact that it's a team challenge and he should have gone down for it.

Because let's face it, even WITH the bodice, this would have been the bottom look, and Bryce would have deserved to go home for it. Because here's the trick: Fallene might be a bad seamstress, but Bryce is a bad DESIGNER.

This look is a hideous mess, and it's not because Fallene cut against the grain. The skirt alone deserves to get somebody sent home, especially considering that Bryce seemed to be spending so much time on it.

When I was little, I had a piece of crinoline with a cheap piece of elastic sewn through it. This doesn't even look as good as THAT. It looks like another evolution of the skirt Bryce made last week with the puppy pads, and Fallene took the blame for it and went home.

That's just WRONG. I can only hope that Bryce goes home next week when everybody figures out he dodged a bullet two weeks in a row.

Josh and Julie

Josh made a very astute observation that the three bottom looks were more costume-y, and honestly I thought with the parameters of the challenge that was a mistake. They asked for garments for stilt walkers, it shouldn't be something boring. Which is part of why I don't like Danielle and Cecilia's look. It's dull for a challenge this fun.

I can't say that I loved this look, and I think the model (as with most of them) went completely overboard with the runway walk, which did it no favors. But at least they tried, and I think they succeeded. I would put them above both Anya/Olivier AND Danielle/Cecilia. They embraced the spirit of the challenge, and they deserve some credit for that.

Kimberly and Becky

This was a toss-up for best look for me. I really enjoyed this one, and I loved the way that it looked. It was also so perfectly tailored, like the judges said.

I love the attitude of it, the fun, the stripes, the asymmetry. I think if the model had sold the look better on the runway it probably would have been a much harder decision for the judges on the winner.

Yet another case for me to think Nina is out of touch with everything. That collar is awesome, and it's just the pop that it needs. Maybe it could have been placed a smidge better, and I think it looked better when it was popped rather than laying down like it is here. But that jacket's shape is BEGGING to be extended past the shoulder by that collar.

Laura and Anthony

This was a really lovely look, and I think it was probably the only one that would look good without the stilts (Becky and Kimberly's would be fun, but not as awesome). But that's why I don't think it actually SHOULD have won.

The challenge was to make a dress for a stilt walker, not to make a dress that could also work on a stilt walker.

I do love this, it's a beautiful red, it flows like nothing else, and the feathers on the shoulder were a great touch. The model also was probably the best one, which didn't hurt.

In the end though, the one thing this proves to me is that Anthony Ryan is the person to keep an eye on.


Also, I'm going to go back to something for a second. Bryce and the rest of the group seemed to be jumping on this ridiculous "these are the things you learn in SCHOOL" junk. You know what you learn in school? How to live on no money because you're in debt.

Okay, I have to say that's unfair. I'm a bit bitter because I was just working out my student loan payment plan for my graduate degree in film. Listen, I think art school can be a great thing, and I have no regrets about going. But I also don't believe that I'm any better than any other filmmaker because I've been to school and they haven't. Their artistic voice is just as valid as mine, and they can probably express it just as well. I have a bit more experience than they do probably, and I feel like school gave me a better safety net in case of failure. I know some more technical things, I have a better vocabulary. I can usually express myself with a little more authority.

But the moment I assume I'm better than another filmmaker simply because of that degree on the wall is the moment I've lost the point of it all anyway.

For the record, we totally cast the girl that listed stilt walking on her acting resume.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Catbox Fashion

Okay, so I'm going to get back into the habit of my recaps of Project Runway! For those of you who have no idea who I am or what I do or why you should care...

Basically, I'm a filmmaker and a former art history student. I've worked in the wardrobe department of several films, and also worked as a photographer for a short period of time. When I do a "recap" of the show, what I'm really doing is taking each of the looks and taking it apart from an artistic point of view, looking at it from (hopefully) a different point of view than the standard "fashion" idea. Because honestly, I don't know from fashion. I know art, and I know clothes.

Sometimes I'll also talk about what the designers do and don't say on the runway, because I honestly think half of them could hire a media consultant to learn how to represent themselves with clients (which is how they should treat the judges). That's something else I do, work with clients as an artist.

Anyway, you'll get the feel for what I do pretty quickly! I'm going to do episode two first, and go back and pick up episode one when I have time.

Honestly, this dress was the clear winner of the top three, and we all know it. I'm a little glad this was the first dress, since I go in alphabetical order. I didn't actually love this one the most, but like I said, of the top three, it was the best. I liked the sunflower seeds and the pattern they created at the neck. But I can't say that I love the fact that the rest of the dress literally was just a muslin base coated with glue and birdseed. Difficult? Of course. But just not the kind of thing I like for these sort of challenges. It's not really creating a dress out of unconventional material so much as it's creating a dress from conventional material and decorating it unconventionally. It's no corn-husk dress. But that's a quibble.

Anyway, the thing is, I actually said at the end of last season that I probably wasn't going to watch if Nina wasn't replaced as a judge. Her comments during the whole Gretchen/Mondo debate proved without a doubt that she is just not with it anymore, somehow. Last week, I thought "maybe I rushed to judgement. I feel like this is the show I missed..." But then this week...she was rude to Heidi, condescending, and she was basing her dislike of this dress on the LENGTH? I felt like it was a problem that had nothing to do with the challenge itself. Yes, a few extra inches on the bottom would have made the shape and size of the dress look better. But considering what else he accomplished and how nice it looked? Not at all a concern.

I'm still a bit baffled by Anya. I've been sewing for most of my life, though not in any serious way. So for her to say she'd never touched a sewing machine until four months before this challenge? I just don't think it's actually possible. It reminds me of people who advertise that they made "no budget" films. Then you find out that they spent a ton of money on their movie, they just pretended that wasn't part of the "budget" so that they would have a marketing gimmick.

Anyway. I don't hate this, but I don't love it either. It's certainly interesting, and a bit innovative. But the halter on the top seems a bit too long and it elongates the model in an odd way. And for some reason it always looked like a dress from the candy challenge a few seasons ago. Ultimately, it's forgettable.

I love this dress. It might have been cliche to go for the aquarium plants, but Becky made something with a cute shape, fun movement, and a lot of nice color. It was a little young, but they didn't ask for anything specific with this challenge (unless I missed it) so it didn't have to be a cocktail dress for a woman in her 20's. I think she did something that reminded me a bit of Chloe's leaf dress from back in the day, only much more colorful. Which is probably why the judges didn't pick it for the top three, even though I would.

This is such an inoffensive and boring little dress. It's okay, there's nothing that makes me go "ugh, how awful" or even really think about it at all. It's just there. Bert's attitude about the challenge though...what show did he think he was auditioning for? Seriously, every season designers complain that they're DESIGNERS why do they have to make things out of trash? Do you WATCH the show? Note to the world: don't audition for reality shows you haven't seen! And if it's a new show, then watch some shows by that production company, or just watch some reality TV. Or just check out some of the super-cuts from fourfour or something. You're not there to make friends, you're there to make dresses out of weird junk.

(For the record, I recall Bert saying in the first episode that he wasn't there to make friends. Since that's so cliche and he didn't seem to be trying for ironic, I'm going to assume he doesn't have cable and didn't watch TV during the time he wasn't designing).

Oh, sigh. At one point in the episode, when Bryce had first started putting the puppy pads on his dress, some of the other designers were making fun of it and I thought "but that doesn't look bad, from that distance I kind of like it, I'd think about buying it if it was real fabric."

That was apparently just the bottom layer. He just kept adding things, and adding. And for the record, I've never seen those things called "wee wee pads." Maybe it's a brand thing, but I've ALWAYS seen them called "puppy pads" or "training pads." So the constant refrain of "wee wee pads" made me want him to get eliminated just to make him stop saying it.

The entire thing is a complete mess, and it was obviously the worst thing on the runway. I don't know how he wasn't even in the bottom two. It looked like (literal) trash walking down the runway, it didn't fit, it didn't move...I just don't understand how he was safe.

Okay, first of all, has anybody besides me noticed that the standard length on these mini-dresses is almost exactly the same as the "too short to win" dress Anthony made?

Anyway, I have nothing to say about this particular design except to point out how much I hated every single design that basically glued bedding to fabric and called it a day. Have you ever really dealt with hamster bedding? Or the papery stuff that I think is for mice? That stuff has a horrible texture, and it looks even worse. It looked terrible, on every single dress that did it. It basically looked like the remainders of a lint trap, or what gets stuck to a sucker that's been dropped on a carpet.

This picture doesn't look that bad, but this is actually one of the better dresses of the ones that went for this "technique." But up close, it was pretty bad, IMHO.

This isn't bad, it's at least interesting. But it feels really 80's to me. I can't be the only one that got that vibe from it, right? I think it would look right at home in a hair metal band music video.

But really, that's not a terrible thing. I mean, it's not a winning look, but it's certainly better than half the other stuff this week.

This dress looks better in this photo than it did on the show. The colors on the show really were off, and the proportions weren't great either. But I really did not understand the sheer volume and intensity of the hate that was heaped on it by the judges. It came across to me like Bert's dress-inoffensive and forgettable. I'm hoping that if Bert didn't have immunity he would have taken Fallen's place in the bottom three.

I do have to comment about her attitude on the runway though. I just finished up with my MFA, so I spent the last three years having my work critiqued (part of the reason I haven't been writing recaps). Sometimes, the films/scripts/work that was being looked at were not my best work, and more than once they were things that I was done with and had more or less wiped my hands of. So I get a little bit of where Fallen was coming from. But you don't SAY those kinds of things to the judges. You can say, "I struggled..." or even "Yes, I see what you mean, I wish I had been able to X..." or even "What I was trying to get to was Y, but I couldn't quite capture it." Usually with what I do, that's followed with, "Do you have any suggestions" which I guess she couldn't do.

But to stand up there and say, (paraphrase) "I can't defend this dress because I hate it, and I wish I hadn't made it?" That's just asking to be eliminated. It's unprofessional as well.

Josh C.
Okay, can you honestly say he deserves to be ELIMINATED for this? I know, it's just "real fabric." But he used the exact same material for his skirt that one of the top three designs did (actually, I think several of them used that lizard bedding stuff). And while the top was fabric-LIKE, it still wasn't as close to a normal textile fabric as, say, Oliver's. Which, you know, won.

They say all the time that they are just looking at what is in front of them THIS WEEK. This elimination proves absolutely that it's wrong. He played it safe, yes. But when you compare it to the blue trainwreck that is Bryce's dress, it's obvious he was auf'd because of last week.

I'm not saying this was a winning design, far from it. It's actually just uninteresting and safe. But the rationale the judges were using to dismiss it were not consistent with their other comments during the same challenge.

Also, that purple on top looks really terrible. He shouldn't have used the part with the dog print. And I don't know that I've ever seen a top designed like this that didn't make the woman look...unsupported.

Josh M.
This picture does not begin to do this top justice. This one is a rare case where I agree with pretty much everything the judges said. The styling was bad, the design on the top was STUNNING, and the skirt was adorable. I don't really like the midriff bit, but I think that with the way he made the top it was probably the only way to make it work.

These aquarium rocks are about the only dress in this episode where I will give somebody a bigger pass for basically just gluing something to muslin and calling it a day. He created a pattern with different colors of rocks, which I think was more impressive looking than even the sunflower seeds on Anthony's dress.

A very solid second place, and only just. If it was styled better it would be the obvious winner.

This dress is just...there's nothing positive I can say about it. I just hope that they donated all of that dog food to a local humane society or shelter.

And then let's just forget this dress ever happened.

I don't hate this top...but I don't love it either. I like what she was going for, I applaud the work she put into it. but it seems a bit haphazard. The tubing doesn't seem to really be forming a pattern so much as it's just THERE. It's almost tangled or heaped on, like she wanted it to make a pattern but she couldn't quite get it to go there so she just glued it where she could and called it a day.

If she could have done a really interesting design with the tubing, I probably would have loved this one.

I didn't LOVE the dog-cone skirt. But I thought it was inventive and it would have probably put Laura in the top. It was way too short, that never would have worked. But I don't understand why she couldn't have done something underneath it to deal with the problem rather than scrapping it entirely and going with this pretty uninspired and forgettable cardboard thing.

I mean, couldn't she have done a cardboard pencil skirt under the cone skirt? Or even just a mini-skirt?

This isn't BAD, actually it's really well done. It looks nice, and probably is the most photogenic of all of the designs. But it's just not got that bit of something that will make people remember it in a couple seasons. I mean, remember Michael Knight's coffee filter dress? And that one made of Twizzlers? THAT is what this show is looking for. The cone was her best chance at that.

Look at this model. You can't tell me she looks like she's standing up straight. And maybe she's not, but this dress would make any woman who wore it look like they were slouching and hulking over as they stomped through whatever they were doing. It makes her entire front look squished. It's bringing up her belly, bringing down her shoulders... aesthetically it's a mess.

And knowing dog beds as well as I do (which is to say, not that well since I don't own a dog, but well enough since a lot of my friends do) the fabric that the top is made of? It would be wretched as an actual garment. It picks up hair, dirt, and fibers like nobody's business. It's not's just a terrible, terrible textile. I actually refuse to buy cat beds that have that woolly stuff on it. And the wood chips glued on the muslin. I think I've already made my point on why I don't like it. I mean, at least it's better than the paper bedding. But just because it made a pretty pattern in a still photo doesn't mean it moved, that it functioned.

If Nina thinks that this is where fashion is heading, then I will be trying my hardest to never be fashionable. This is the kind of dress that would make any woman look worse, even Heidi. It will never do the female form any favors, and it will always make me itch just thinking about it. The fact that it won makes me wonder if I shouldn't have listened to myself so many months ago and given up on this show.

Why in the world wasn't this dress in the top three? I mean, considering how much I hated Olivier's, it's obvious to me that this should have been the replacement. This still is terrible (what the heck is the model doing?) but between the dye job and the banded look of the fabric, I think this looks a lot like what I'm seeing in red carpet photos these days. It's a great color, and if it was made of actual fabric then it would be a pretty middle-of-the-road dress. But considering it's made out of the same puppy pads as Bryce's dress, it's a huge success. I hope Viktor gets some recognition soon, he deserves it.

So there you go guys! I hope you enjoyed, feel free to tell me how terribly not stylish I must be in the comments.

I'm currently filming a documentary, which takes me out of town frequently. I'll try to keep up with the recaps but I can't make any promises. If you subscribe on RSS, then even if I'm late with them you'll still get them eventually!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Electronics aren't evil

So, I came across this article this morning from Real Simple's blogs. Let's leave aside for a moment the fact that the OP actually typed the phrase, “How long have you been playing computer?!?!?!” and get to the heart of the matter.

For a long time, it's seemed to me that parents all around America (and probably the world) are under the impression that television/computers/screens/electronics/anything newfangled is evil.

It's not true. It never has been. And articles like this just remind me of it over and over again.

I should be clear here: I'm not coming at this from a parental perspective, that's part of my point. I'm not a parent, and I don't intend to be. I'm coming at this from the other side, I'm trying to explain this to you on behalf of your kids, whose opinions you seem to be disregarding.

I know why, trust me, I get that. I know teenagers, I remember being one. It's easy to lose perspective, to get completely caught up in things. It's not that you don't realize how unimportant these teenage slights are, it's that up until now that really WAS the worst thing that could have happened to you. You don't yet know how bad life can really get, and that sometimes makes teenagers really insufferable to be around. It's really simple for adults to just chalk it up to "teenagers are stupid and we know better" because, well, most of the time we do.

But when it comes to electronics, you don't, actually. It's well documented how quickly we lose touch with emerging technologies as we grow older, and how quickly and simply kids can embrace them. I remember being in middle school when the internet and the "world wide web" was this weird and wonderful new thing. Now kids can have Facebook pages before they are even born. I've embraced the online world in a way my parents haven't, and probably couldn't. But the generation born even just ten years after me? I'll never be able to get to their level either.

The point of this is that the first thing we need to accept is that as an older generation, we don't live or exist in the same place as "these kids today." We see technology and electronics in a completely different way than they do, down to the most basic and fundamental of levels. And this is coming from somebody who DOES spend a very large amount of time on social networking sites and watching TV.

Which gets me to my next point. Parents seem to be assuming, almost unanimously, that nothing good can come from television/computer use. That's just completely untrue.

First of all, you know one thing you're keeping your children from when you're keeping them from computers? Jobs. The most financially successful people I know at the moment are all computer programmers. Almost everybody I know that has a good, steady job has it because of their computer expertise. It's not that computers are our future, it's that they are our present. The more familiar and comfortable we are with them, the more employable we are. That's the truth of our lives right now.

And it's not even just the obvious things like programmers that benefit from time spent with electronics. Everybody acts like watching television or movies is just sucking the creativity straight out of our youth. That could be true for some kids, but I think we're blaming the wrong thing. I am a filmmaker, a writer, a story teller. It's what I do, it's what I'm passionate about, and it's how I use my imagination to better the world around me. I watched a lot of tv as a kid, and I used it to fuel my creativity instead of draining it. Kids do that, they are good at it.

As an added bonus, if you work to find a way to direct that obsession with television into creativity, you're reaching your child where they are, not striving to make them what you want them to be. Listen, I love to read. It's one of my favorite things, I still routinely stay up half the night reading because a book is just too good to put down. But some kids don't like it, it doesn't reach them. That's just the way they are, it's about they way they learn and how they internalize things. Movies, television, computer games, books, they're all stories. It's all art (no matter what Roger Ebert says) and they all can spark creativity and imagination if you want them to. I can't help but feel that when people start talking about getting their kids to read instead of play games that what they are really doing is trying to make their kid into what they WANT them to be, instead of who they truly are.

Instead of assuming that computers and television are evil, why don't you figure out what it is about them that your kids enjoy? WHY do they like them? WHAT do they get out of it? Are they just vegging because they want to zone out for a while? Then sure, tell them they get an hour of that every day (because as adults, what wouldn't we give for an hour to zone out every day?) But if your kid is programming flash games to play with her friends, then for goodness sakes, encourage her. Sure, you can make sure she does all her homework, but don't act like just because it's electronic it's not worthwhile. Creating a video game, making a short film, even keeping a blog, these are all things that are just as creative and valid as painting, playing piano, and all those other things parents are okay with because they understand them.

On a side note about the homework, I never did mine. I did just enough to get by with A's and B's. It wasn't because of the computer or television. If I had been denied those things (and I was sometimes) I would have found other things to do. Kids don't skip their homework because of computers and tv. They skip their homework because they hate their homework. Find out why, and work on fixing that instead. Maybe their homework is so remedial that they can tell it isn't worth their time. Maybe it's so difficult that they need help but don't want to ask for it. Maybe they have a learning disorder, or the teacher they had before this one was so terrible that they don't have the foundation they need for the class they are in. They have a reason that homework isn't important to them, figure out what it is.

I've been spending the last few months getting to know a group of professional gamers. Most people assume when I say that, I mean game testers or designers. Those are awesome people to, but I mean men (they are all men right now, unfortunately) who make their living as competitors. They train on their chosen game, they travel to tournaments and play for prize money. They have sponsors, they might earn a salary, and while it's a very difficult job to get, it is just as valid a job as being a professional athlete.

All of these guys were once high school students (actually, some of them still are, but not the ones I am filming for my project). Once upon a time, they were just playing a game they loved for hours at a time. The difference is they were good enough at it, and they were determined and competitive enough, that they now make a living at it. I'm not saying your son/daughter is going to become a professional gamer. I'm just saying you should be open to the possibility that your kids passion for electronics could be a career path that you haven't considered, and that career path could be the way to happiness for your child.

And if you don't want your kid to be happy even more than you want them to be successful, then I'm not entirely sure what to say to you.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Is it time for Post-Post-Racial America yet?

I was living in DC in 2008 when President Obama was elected. I was working only a few miles away from the inauguration (though I didn't get to go because my employer decided to take away a holiday and a weekend in order to force us to work because they were afraid the city would implode or something, yeah, still bitter).

So I've heard a lot of talk about "post-racial America." I think most people realize it's a bunch of hooey by now, but I'm tired of it on so many levels, and I really want even the idea to just go away. Race is a part of who we are, it's a part of each person's history and culture. And to make open, honest discussions about racial differences into something taboo is hurting us more than it could ever help.

I would like to take a second to acknowledge that I'm a member of the racial majority in America. I understand that I do come from a place of privilege. I hope that if I say anything offensive in this post, that you'll see it in your heart to gently correct me and share your point of view so that I can correct myself and try to look at things from another perspective.

Now, the reason this has come up for me is that I've seen two people that I know suffer over the last week over racial tension in the workplace (and in one case, open discrimination). I believe that both of these problems could have been prevented if the management involved would have been open, honest, and interested in what all parties had to say rather than seeing that race relations were involved and deciding to CYA and hide.

A friend of mine was working for an upper-class summer camp program here in D.C. this summer, a place called Head First Camps. She was one of the most experienced teachers in the camp where she was working.

One day, she noticed that a book being used in the curriculum for camp could be considered racially offensive towards Hispanics. There were no Hispanic children in her class, and in fact there was only one Hispanic employee at that particular camp: her.

She raised a concern about the book, and was told to discuss it with her supervisor. The supervisor became immediately defensive, and chose to respond to the concern with her own volley of racist language and insults. Upper management told to my friend go on leave while they investigated the situation.

My friend was fired.

This whole situation would have been ridiculously easy to deal with if they hadn't immediately jumped to a kneejerk reaction in order to avoid a real discussion. All the original supervisor had to do was resist the urge to be defensive, say, "I'll take the book to the board and we'll talk about it. But we don't like to rush decisions on this kind of matter, and it may not be resolved immediately. If you'd like to write down what you find objectionable, I'll deliver that with my report." Then they could have just waited for the summer to be over and decide if they cared enough to take the book out of their curriculum or not. Instead, they chose to do something that borders on illegal discrimination.

If a member of a minority group is standing in front of you saying that they feel offended or discriminated against, you should resist the urge to be defensive and admit that as a member of the majority you don't get to decide if they can be offended. I've seen a lot of privileged white guys talk lately about their "freedom" to use racist and sexist language, and they seem to keep falling back on the idea of "it's not my fault if you're so easily offended, I didn't mean it offensively." It doesn't really matter, does it? The person talking can't decide how the person listening gets to feel.

This defensive reaction is partially rooted in the conviction of superiority that happens because of the false allegations. I know that for every false allegation of racism that is made, there are probably dozens of cases of real discrimination. But I think we all know of at least one story (true or not) of someone using an accusation of racism to protect themselves from punishment. It happened to someone I know recently, despite documentation that proved he had done nothing discriminatory.

Knowing these stories (again, true or not), people in power feel like, "Oh, I can't be racist, this is just another situation like that one time I heard about..." This bolsters their false belief that the only people who talk about racism are troublesome minorities with an ax to grind.

Where am I even going with this rant? I guess to sum it up pretty simply: race is still a major concern in the way we deal with each other as Americans and as human beings. We should be open to the concerns and feelings of others. Everyone also needs to be able to admit their own faults and accept the blame for their own actions and behaviors.

Especially when they decide to fire somebody for voicing a minority opinion.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Science is Real (and sometimes wrong)

My sister is four years older than me, and we attended the same university for our bachelor's degrees, although our diplomas say different things. She graduated from Hollins College in spring of 1998. I entered the first freshman class of Hollins University that fall.

As the youngest of three, you can imagine I spent a good portion of my life being compared to my older siblings, but especially my sister. The thing is, as much as we are alike, she and I are also very different. That's why I brought up college. My sister majored in chemistry and studied physics. She's gone on to become a science teacher and at a conference this week she made nanoparticles. I, on the other hand, majored in film and studied art history. Now I'm a filmmaker and writer, and this week I went to professional video gaming event as part of documentary I'm making.

So you would think that she and I probably wouldn't have that much to talk about. Instead, the two of us are constantly finding common ground between our enthusiasms. We love finding the ways that science and art intersect.

All of that is my way of illustrating that I love science, but I'm not always as scientifically knowledgeable as I would like to be. But one thing that I do know, and one of the things I love, is that contrary to popular belief, science is constantly changing. Sometimes, what we thought to be true turns out to be completely incorrect. Because the whole point is that every day, minds more brilliant than mine are spending their time looking at the things we can observe and the things we know, and trying to figure out what they MEAN.

They take their theories and hypotheses, and they test them. Over and over, and they see how they hold up. And sometimes they don't. Sometimes new information comes along and changes everything.

The problem is that we've lost sight of that in our modern society, partially because of shifts in the state of journalism, and partially because we're in a society that seems determined to get black and white answers to everything. Scientists find themselves having to vastly oversimplify their findings in order to satisfy people who don't seem to be interested in the amazing nature of scientific discovery and just want to know "truth" and "fact" in a media soundbite.

The reason I'm thinking about this today is that I just read a story about new evidence regarding the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Like most kids, I went through a dinosaur phase. But when I was into it, nobody really had a good consensus on what actually killed the dinosaurs. There were also a considerable number of different dinosaurs. Comments on the article say Triceratops is back! They were always my favorite.

Anyway, the reason I find this so fascinating is that a couple years ago I noticed that everybody was referring to "the meteor that killed the dinosaurs." I was long out of my dinosaur phase, so I was curious when that became the "truth." The thing is, it didn't. It's just still the theory that's been held up by the most evidence. I won't get into the details because well, I'll end up sounding dumb, but the article I linked shows that there's still some parts to it that remain unexplained.

Which is what I just love. How brilliant is it that we learn so many new things every day? That our understanding of everything can change because of new information? My sister illustrates this point to her students using They Might Be Giants. When my husband first heard me listening to "Why Does The Sun Shine" he got grumpy because it was full of misinformation. But in reality, it wasn't. It was just a very old song written with the information we had at the time.

TMBG realized that our understanding had changed when they were making their album "Here Comes Science." They had to create an "answer song" to correct the previous work called "Why Does The Sun (Really) Shine." I first heard of it when they played it at a concert before the album came out, and came home to immediately report to my husband that they'd fixed his problem and he could stop complaining. When I told my sister about it, she pre-ordered the album to start using it in her classes because like me, she believes that part of what we should learn in science classes is simply scientific literacy.

I wrote in my last post about beauty pageant contestants responses to a question about evolution. I didn't say my own opinion or how I would have answered the question, because it was unimportant to my point. But I know that if I was asked the question, I wouldn't bother to answer it because it's really not a good question. It's unimportant, in the grand scheme.

What is important is teaching scientific literacy. That is the most important thing we can give our next generation. Giving them the tools to think, to reason, and to understand science will make our country better than it has ever been. The problem with the whole evolution question was that it showed a lack of scientific literacy on the part of the people asking it, many of the people answering, and almost all of the people writing/complaining about the whole kerfluffle. I saw one article that complained that the contestants were confusing scientific theories, talking about the origin of man instead of just the evolution of organisms. I know there's a distinct difference between the two, but I also know that the pageant organizers probably don't and that they intended the question to reference the origin of the species, and that's how most of the contestants chose to answer.

The whole situation never would have happened if we valued scientific literacy more. I am not a science-minded person, really. My sister and I fall into some of the classic stereotypes when it comes to scientific and artistic personalities. My husband watches The Science Channel every other day, and I don't really understand half of what they're talking about when you get right down to it. But I'm proud that I am scientifically literate, and that has made a huge positive difference in my life.

I'll leave you with two clips from one of my heroes, Neil deGrasse Tyson:

Friday, June 24, 2011

Beauty queens, evolution, and bad journalism

Okay, so every single blog I read (I exaggerate, it's only been half) has decided to go back to three weeks ago and revive a story about the fact that the Miss USA pageant asked contestants about teaching evolution in schools.

Sources as high up as Scientific American have been saying that the winner, Miss California, was either "the only" or "one of the few" contestants who supported evolution. Jezebel posted a mash-up video of the interviews that presented basically Miss California's answer and then tried to make the other 50 contestants look like they didn't understand the question.

I don't actually care about this from an issue of what I believe or what should or shouldn't be taught in schools.

My problem is that the reporting on this story from nearly every single source has represented a massive failure in journalism and ethics. Jezebel specifically took quotes out of context in order to make these women look foolish, and in at least one case showed someone who clearly said that she supported teaching evolution in schools and took that statement away to make her look indecisive and inconclusive.

I decided to try to accurately categorize the answers of each contest, pull quotes that I felt properly represented their beliefs and their answers to the question, and then see how many women supported evolution, how many supported teaching evolution alongside "other theories" and how many outright rejected the teaching of evolution in schools.

An important note before we start: Obviously, my interest in this subject comes from the fact that I know one of the contestants and attended the pageant in order to film and interview her for my latest movie.

I will not be presenting my opinion on the question itself, because this is about journalism, not my opinion. Though I will admit that my bias probably is peeking through. But I'm trying not to judge the women's answers as right or wrong, but simply present what I believe their opinion is.

Answers will be categorized as follows:

Yes: An unequivacable yes with no qualifiers or other options presented.

No: An outright no.

Yes*: This contestant acknowledges the religious side of the debate but does NOT specifically state that religious perspectives or other ideas should be presented in a school setting. It is my opinion that acknowledging that students will hear the religious teachings in their life is not the same as advocating for religion to be taught alongside evolution in the school system, hence the different rating.

Yes (choice): Answered that it should be taught along with other options to let students choose their own beliefs.

Kinda: They use mitigating terms like "mention" or "addressed," implying it should not be a full discussion on the topic if it is taught.

Maybe: Does not present a solid yes or no, or at least I couldn't decide what they meant.

Contestants answers, alphabetical by state:

Alabama- No. "I do not believe in Evolution, I do not think it should be taught in schools and I would not encourage it".

Alaska- Kinda. "It is part of our history and the belief system that the West has held...However personally I don't believe in Evolution. I believe that each one of us were created for a purpose by God and that just gives my life so much more direction and meaning." (her answer was hard for me to categorize, because she does state that yes it should be taught, but then states her personal belief that it is untrue).

Arizona- Yes (choice). "I think it's good to give our students both sides of the story and let them choose for themselves."

Arkansas- Maybe. "Personally, I never was taught evolution." "Every school is different so if that's something that they think that they need to teach their children, then to each his own."

California- Does not actually answer the question (you could argued there's an implied yes). "I was taught evolution in my high school growing up. I do believe in it, I'm a huge science geek, so I like to believe in like, The Big Bang Theory and you know the evolution of humans, you know, throughout, you know, time..."

Colorado-Yes (choice). "I think that we should definitely open up to offering different ways to teach students about everything...It's important to let students just decide their own ideas on what they want to believe in." "I think they should teach evolution and just other concepts as well."

Connecticut-Yes. "I do think evolution should be taught in schools." (that is, for the record, her ENTIRE answer).

Delaware- Kinda. "I think evolution should be taught in schools but in particular high school...everyone needs to learn these experiences on their own and not just based off of parent's beliefs." States that students can "opt" take it.

District of Columbia- Yes. "I think it's important to see a difference in perspectives to actually be able to formulate your own opinion."

Florida- Yes. "It's something that people do believe in...we really don't know where the first level, the first person came from."

Georgia- Yes (choice). "I think kids need to be taught a wide variety of things, not just be taught one or the other...I think evolution should be taught but maybe the Biblical stuff should be taught as well." "We're smarter than ever these days, so why not teach everything and let people make their own decisions."

Hawaii- Yes (choice). "We have creationa...tism and a lot of other opinions and ideas that are taught to the children. I think everybody should be able to have their opinion taught." She also stresses that families should be there to help guide children to their beliefs "as a family and as individuals."

Idaho- Kinda. "I believe that evolution should be mentioned in school. The thing is it's all about what you believe in, it shouldn't be pushed on you but you should be knowledged(?) about it."

Illinois- Yes. "It is information that should be available to students, it is a theory that people should know about."

Indiana- Maybe. "I don't know. I think we should maybe, we should leave that up to the government."

Iowa- Yes (choice). "I believe that everyone should have equal opportunity in education. If it is available it could be available as an elective, I think." (note: she does mention having taken a class in evolution in college that helped her with her own perspective on the issue).

Kansas- Kinda. "I think evolution should be at least introduced or exposed to students. But I think it's up to the student to either take it in and decide if they want to apply it to their life or not."

Kentucky- No. "I honestly don't think you can ever have too much knowledge on any subject." "But, I don't think evolution should be taught in schools just because there's so many different, different views on do you teach a child the true meaning of evolution when so many different cultures have their different beliefs."

Louisiana- Yes. Note: Louisiana has been getting a lot of grief because she calls it a "tough one" and hems and haws a bit on her answer. But she says yes TWICE, and does not qualify her answer at all. The Jezebel video starts in the middle, taking out her first yes, including her considering the question, and then cuts out again before she reaffirms her statement.

Maine- Yes (choice). "I feel that we should have evolution taught in schools, as well as a belief in faith."

Maryland- Yes (choice). "I think that everything should be taught in school. I think the great thing about America is that we're open to freedom of choice, freedom of religion..." "Evolution is a great theory, it is something that has really helped us evolve as people, to use the word."

Massachusetts- Yes*. "I was personally taught evolution growing up, even in a religious school...I think it's good because it broadens your horizons. I think any learning possibility is good." "I think the more learning you can get, the more educated you are and the more educated you are, the better you come off."

Michigan- Yes*. "I think it's silly to not know both sides and it would be ignorant if it's not."

Minnesota- Yes*. "Yes, it should be. I grew up Catholic, so that's a great question...but I think it's important to understand all perspectives before making up your own decision. And I did learn from my priest growing up that evolution does not go against the Catholic faith and Pope John Paul II did accept the idea of evolution."

Mississippi-Kinda. "I think evolution should be taught as what it is, it's a theory, so I don't think it should be taught as fact."

Missouri- Maybe. "I think if it were to be taught in schools, that would give kids a chance to decide what they want to believe for themselves."

Montana- Yes (choice). "I think that it should definitely be presented as an option. And I think that both sides should be presented."

Nebraska- Yes (choice). "I think in public schools you have to give all credited theories equal amount of time, I think creation and evolution should both be able to be taught."

Nevada- Kinda. "I think there's different ways to view evolution. As everybody can probably agree upon, everything evolves. We evolve as communities that build ourselves from scratch, Nevada is a good example of that." "It does't necessarily have to be about people and how people evolved but it can also be about communities as well."

New Hampshire- Yes (choice). "You know, I work in a hospital setting with children and families and I am constantly trying to provide interactions and interventions as a child life specialist that is culturally respective and sensitive to all points of view. So I think that evolution is one of those things that needs to be incorporated but it shouldn't be the only point of view taught."

New Jersey- Yes (choice). "I think everything should be taught in schools. Every single aspect of evolution and anything you can think of."

New Mexico- Yes. "I think evolution should be taught in schools because evolution is based off of science and I think science is a huge thing that we need to continue to enrich our schools with."

New York- Yes (choice). "I personally believe that evolution should be taught in schools and religion should be taught in schools." "Knowledge is power and it's good for all of our students to have a wider perspective of different beliefs."

North Carolina- Yes (choice). "I think it's great to get both sides of the story." "You can't push opinions or beliefs on children so they need to know every side that's out there." "Yes, I do believe it should be taught, but so should the other side of the story."

North Dakota- Yes*. "Sure, why not?" "I think it's good that people get both sides of the story, so to speak."

Ohio- Yes*. "The youth right now in America, why not keep their options open? You don't necessarily have to agree with it, but I'm not opposed to it."

Oklahoma- Yes (choice). "I think it's important to teach young people kind of every version of everything. A little bit of everything so they can form their own opinions."

Oregon- Yes (choice). "I think that every theory of how we came to be here should get a shout out in the education. So evolution definitely should be presented but I think other options should be presented alongside it, it shouldn't be the only one."

Pennsylvania- Yes (choice). "I think we should explore all philosophies and other theories should be taught as well."

Rhode Island- Yes*. "I think that kids need to know all different perspectives on how the world came to be."

South Carolina- Kinda. "Whether people believe in creation or evolution, everyone needs to know how we were made, why we're here. And I think if the parents are fine with it, then that's okay."

South Dakota- Yes*. "I think evolution is part of basic science and it should be taught. But I also don't think that teachers or anyone should step on the toes of biblical values either."

Tennessee- Yes (choice). "Personally that's not my belief, but I think all ideas should be put out there for people to decide for themselves."

Texas- Yes. "I don't see why evolution couldn't be taught in schools. I think it's something that again, it would be the school's preference, but I think it would be interesting to learn about and to just have something extra for kids to know about."

Utah- Kinda. "It's tough, it's one of those things that either way somebody's going to be offended, so I would say yes but you know, somebody's mad now."

Vermont- Yes. "I think evolution should be taught in schools because not everybody has the same religious background and it's important to have scientific facts about the world and we do know that evolution exists even on a small scale with people and with bacteria that are becoming resistant to drugs and what not. So, might as well learn about it."

Virginia- Kinda. "I think little bits and pieces of evolution should be taught in schools, because it is a theory, and after all we all need to know about different theories so that we can figure out what we want to believe is true."

Washington- Yes. "I think that when it comes to evolution, I think that science is great and when it comes to teaching I think that facts should be stated and we should know the facts as to how the world evolves, because it does. But as far as when it comes to little theories and what not I probably want to stay away from those. I believe in the truth and the truth only not somebody's you know, imagination or hope or what not. So I think facts not theories should be taught."

West Virginia- Yes (choice). "Yeah, I do think that evolution should be taught in schools but I also don't think that religion should be taken out. If you don't believe in evolution, that's fine, but you should at least be informed about it. And if you don't believe in religion, that's fine, but you should at least be informed about it."

Wisconsin- Kinda. "I feel that evolution should be taught in schools only because I think it's a great subject to touch base on."

Wyoming- Yes (choice). "Evolution is kind of a touchy subject." "I would think both should be taught in schools because you should probably know the whole story."

I used this video to make this list. This cut seems to be each contestant in order and the entirety of what was presented by Miss USA. Miss USA edited these answers before they were posted, and unless we ask each of these girls again or Miss USA releases unedited video, we do not actually know their full answers:

To summarize my findings by answer:
Two No: Alabama, Kentucky.

Three Maybe: Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri.

Ten Kinda: Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin.

Nineteen Yes (Choice): Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wyoming.

Seven Yes*: Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota.

Nine Yes: Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New Mexico, Texas, Vermont, Washington.

One Implied Yes: California.

In other words: seventeen were in favor, nineteen wanted to teach "other options," thirteen were on the fence or not completely in favor, and only TWO were outright opposed. That means that there isn't even a clear majority of answers in one way or another, with only a two person lead in favor of presenting other options. Those opposed to teaching evolution were in the vast minority, and it's worth noting only ONE of those was opposed because it was against her beliefs. Kentucky felt that it was too complicated a situation and that it was impossible to present every aspect of the issue.

I did not note how many contests clearly stated they did not believe in evolution, but it was again a distinct minority, which is not at all how the story has been presented in the media.

Another important note is that the contestants answers to these questions had almost no bearing on their performance in the pageant. These online interviews may have influenced the pageant officials who do have some say in choosing the semi-finalists, but to my knowledge the judges for the preliminaries did NOT see these interviews, as the interview portion of the semifinals was done on a different day. From what I can piece together, these videos were intended as a "get to know the contestants" to help facilitate the online voting portion of the program that chose the 16th semi-finalist. For the record, that was Miss Mexico, who was not given credit in ANY article I read for her defense of science.

Once the semi-finalists were chosen, all 16 start with a clean slate and a new set of judges. Only their performance during Sunday night's event was judged. So Miss California's discussion of being a huge "history geek" was taken into account, but her mentions of science were not discussed or presented (unless my memory is being faulty, and I apologize and will correct this if so). I'm okay with the fact that science blogs and nerds in general don't understand the workings of the pageant itself, but I would hope that they might at least try to find out and understand before making assumptions.

Another note before you comment: A lot of responses to this issue have been "who cares what beauty queens think?" Well, Miss Alabama specified in her interview question as a finalist that she is a "future educator." So discounting these women as beauty queens when some of them are actually educators isn't very useful.

Also, I will not tolerate blanket stereotyping of these women as stupid simply because they are pretty or they are in beauty pageants. As I've said already, I was AT the pageant this year to work on my film and I met several of these women, heard them giving interviews with different media outlets, and even learned about them from pageant officials. They are not stupid. Being pretty doesn't mean being dumb. If you want to talk about a specific statement by a specific contestant, that's fine.

Monday, February 28, 2011

What your festival submission should buy you

I'm not a newcomer to the world of filmmaking. I may not know all of the ins and outs of the festival circuit, but I know a lot of people who do. I've got one film degree to my name, and I'm only months away from my second.

I'm telling you all of this so that you understand that I am not naive. I understand a lot of things about festival submissions. I know the list of reasons why you might get rejected, and I understand that "your film isn't any good" actually isn't on the top of the list.

It's all a numbers game really, and I get that. I want you to understand before I go any further that I am not upset about getting rejected by a film festival. While I obviously think that my film is wonderful and amazingly programmable, I know that is my opinion and the judges thoughts might differ for any number of reasons.

I debated never really telling this story in public, and just complaining about it with my fellow filmmakers whenever we trotted out our tales of rejection for one reason or another. But I feel like it's important for filmmakers to have a voice about this topic.

Basically, I want to say what I think my check to a film festival should buy me.

What your submission fee does NOT buy you is simple. It does not buy you acceptance to the festival, just like a college application fee doesn't mean you will get into the school. For most festivals, the fee does not buy you any kind of feedback, not even a sentence explaining why you didn't get it. I'm okay with that, because I can commiserate with festival directors and how often they must get angry filmmakers calling them with death threats.*

So you aren't owed feedback, unless of course, the festival is DC Shorts, which shows each filmmaker their scores and judges comments. Several other festivals do this, and honestly it makes them more worth your time than other fests. We all do this so that we can become better at what we do, and feedback from strangers is the best way to do that.

I expect only two things for my submission fee to a film festival. I would like acknowledgment from them that my submission was received, so that I don't wonder if something was lost in the mail or if WithoutABox glitched. I would also like a formal rejection if I don't get in.

I know that the people who run festivals are strapped for time, and rely on volunteers and interns to get things done. I don't have any doubt about that. I'm not asking for a custom letter tailored to each individual, but a copy/pasted email (you could even BCC it to everybody at once, I don't care) that says, "We're sorry, thank you for trying, but we did not choose your film." You don't need postage, you need a minimal amount of time, and it would be easy enough to do. I bet there are some rejection letter templates online that you could use. Or heck, comment on this blog and I personally will write the rejection letter for your festival to use, free of charge, if you promise to always send one.

Why is this so important? Let me tell you about my experience. Last year, I made a short film that I am especially proud of. Because it is a bit of a niche film, and my budget for submission fees is very low (I've already spent twice the budget of the film), I mostly have looked to local festivals to find a place to exhibit the piece. I have submitted it so far to six festivals and I plan to send it to a seventh when they open in a few days.

I was rejected from the first one in January, and that was okay. I was upset about it, of course. Nobody is fond of being rejected. As I said before, it's a numbers game, and you're probably not going to get into the first place you submit to. So I waited. Mid-February, as I was submitting to another festival, I thought to check the status of my previous ones. I saw a note on WithoutABox that I was two days past the notification date for one of them.

I hadn't heard anything, good or bad, so I thought I would check their website and see if they had an updated notification date.

Instead, they had their list of accepted films. My film wasn't on it.

Again, I have no problem with not being accepted to this festival. That's fine. But it was a bit of a blow to not even be good enough to be told I wasn't good enough. What exactly was my submission check buying me, if not at least that small bit of communication? The first festival was actually a FREE submission because it was in my home state and they waive fees for residents, and they sent me an actual letter in the mail. But what makes somebody take my money and then never contact me again? It's like getting stood up for the prom or something.

I would have probably let this go, and assumed that maybe they mixed up my email or my letter got lost. But I ran into somebody from the festival office at an event a few weeks ago, and when they asked if I had submitted to them I said that I had but that I had never heard either way, trying to be diplomatic and not accusing them of anything. I was told that the DC Independent Film Festival does not send out rejection letters.

I'm sorry if it hurts their feelings for me to say this, but that is wrong. They should be called out for that and starting with 2012 they need to start sending formal rejection letters. I would say that unless they make a statement saying that they will do so, filmmakers should steer clear and NOT submit to them. They are not worth your money, you worked hard on your film, you've worked hard for your funding, and you deserve to spend it on a festival that cares enough about you to at least tell you "No thank you."

Save your money from DCIFF and send your film to DC Shorts instead, or any one of hundreds of other festivals that you can find that will at least respect you on a basic level.

*I am not exaggerating, sadly. Every festival director I've had more than a five minute conversation with has mentioned that they regularly get hate mail and death threats from filmmakers that they pass over. That is uncool, filmmakers. Don't do that.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

How I Learned to Read and Think

I'm going to tell you a couple stories about random moments/things that are important to me and why. This will make sense in the end, I promise.

When I was four, my mom enrolled me in Head Start. I didn't know until I was much, much older that Head Start was a pre-school program specifically for lower-income families. That fact is still a bit confusing to me because for most of my life my family made just enough money that we didn't qualify for assistance programs and not enough to get most of the things that we would be wanting assistance for. I remember there was a summer program I wanted to attend when I was younger that I couldn't go to because we made just barely too much for me to qualify for a scholarship, but there was no way my parents could afford the tuition to send me.

Anyway, that's not the point of the story. The point is, that I have one very specific memory of Head Start, other than the vague memory of how much I loved my teacher. I was four years old, not yet really formally in school, and I remember reading a book on my own for the first time. It was a book about the color wheel, and my teacher actually let me keep it. I still have that book, because the fact that I'm a writer is owed partially to the fact that I'm a reader.

I am a reader partially because of Head Start. My parents and siblings of course also played a large role, but the simple fact is that Head Start is a program that worked for me. Reading a book on my own for the first time was a really big deal, and it happened at Head Start.

When I was a kid, I watched PBS obsessively. I adored Big Bird and the rest of Sesame Street. A few years ago, I went to see Jim Henson's Fantastic World at the Smithsonian. It was like my childhood put in a museum, everything I had loved was represented there.

But it was also eye-opening for me. I was watching the same sketches and videos I had seen on Sesame Street, but now realizing the lifelong associations those videos had given me. Those letters and numbers still lived in the world that Sesame Street had helped create for me, and that was how I remembered them even as I approached 30 years old.

I read about the underlying intentions that Henson had with his projects, how the producers of Sesame Street had realized that children could remember commercials better than they could anything else, and couldn't the same techniques used in those commercials be harnessed for good?

Mr. Rogers taught me different lessons, but he was a huge force in my life all the same. To this day I adore shows on TV that go into factories to show how things are made, and that started with him. But my real love was the land of Make-Believe. I live my life telling stories in one way or another, honing my imagination and trusting my own instincts for creativity. I got that from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.

And we can't forget about Reading Rainbow. I mostly watched Reading Rainbow in school, but I can still sing the themesong now. I would go and find the books they talked about on the show in my school library and read them. When they would talk about a book I had already read, I would be as excited as if they were talking about me personally. I knew that book! That was a great book!

I learned Math from Square One Television, where I would be hooked to the storyline of Mathnet for the entire week, only to almost always end up missing the wrap-up episode on Friday. But I can't hear Fibonacci's Sequence without saying "1, 1, 2, 3, 5, EUREKA!" And whenever I see < and > I think of Mathman.

I learned geography from Where In The World is Carmen Sandiego (another theme song I can still sing). I watched Ghostwriter, 3-2-1 Contact, and Lambchop at various points in my life.

Now, as an adult, I'm a writer and a filmmaker. I try to incorporate science into a lot of my work, and I like being accurate about it. I think even education can entertain, and I try to do both as often as I can.

There is no doubt in my mind that I am the person I am today because of these early influences, both Head Start and PBS. I am smarter, more productive, more successful, and just a better member of society because I had them in my life.

Which is why I'm so upset that right now, in the name of supposedly HELPING the American public, the House of Representatives has voted to end funding for public broadcasting, and they are also attacking the funding for Head Start.

You know what I need my government to do for me right now? Help me find money to pay off the massive amount of student loans I had to undertake to get an education. I wouldn't mind an affordable health insurance plan so I wasn't paying for the ridiculous plan I get through school that doesn't actually cover anything so I'm not allowed to get sick. How about throwing some weight behind the Silver Line extension of the Metro so that I can start taking public transit? Not to mention that it would raise the property value of my house, which tanked right after I bought it. Have I mentioned we owe more than the house is "worth?"

But instead, congress is all twisted up in trying to take away two of the programs that have proven track records, that work beyond a shadow of a doubt. I don't mind paying taxes when I can see the benefits of my tax dollars. Through PBS and Head Start I didn't just SEE the benefits, I am living proof of them.

170 Million Americans For Public Broadcasting
Stroll In For Head Start

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The power of acknowledgement

Like most people in my industry, I have a day job that is not in the industry. I won't tell you anything about it, because that's not the point.

But what I will say is that today I noticed something that might seem really simple but is ridiculously important: everybody is always saying thank you. Today when I left I told one of the managers that I would see her in a couple days. She replied, "Thanks for all of your help today."

Two things occurred to me. First, that I can't remember a day when I've said goodbye to the managers there and NOT had them say thanks. Second, they always are genuine about it, this isn't just some rote thing they say because they're supposed to. They mean it.

It also made me think about the fact that my co-workers are always saying thanks to each other, and that in general we're all just very grateful to each other when we're helping each other out.

This is a really important thing, because it's something I've noticed in every industry I've worked in, for every project I've worked on, and everything that I do. The simple act of saying thank you or acknowledging someone is one of the best and easiest ways to get good work from them. When I'm directing, I try to make sure that I say thank you to each individual crew member, at least once during the shoot. Of course, I also spent the entire month of December writing thirty one posts to say thank you to the people and businesses who supported my last film shoot.

It goes further than just saying thank you, but acknowledgement in general is something extremely powerful. Hearing that I did something well improves everything that I do. It helps me to improve the things that I'm good at, and I think it's good to address your strengths as well as your weaknesses. One of the best experiences I've had in grad school was a long talk with a professor where he laid out the things that he felt I was good at, so that I could work on strengthening those areas and making myself even better at them.

We have a tendency to always focus on what people need to improve and how they can get better. We have performance reviews and tell them what they need to work on. We are always just telling people what they've done wrong, without focusing on what they've done right. But when you take the time to tell somebody they've done something well, it doesn't just change their day but it always is just good management, and it's being a good human being.

So I say you should take today or tomorrow and make sure that if somebody does something that you like, you should say so. Take the time to acknowledge someone's strengths or the help that they've given you. Say thanks.

I promise, I'm not like this all the time. It just was a pretty good day, and I've had a really rough month.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Girls Play Games: Get Over It

I've been a gamer since before I could read, which I suppose some people will think a travesty, but I personally think is awesome.

We had an Atari, and I remember playing the E.T. game that now tops almost every list of "worst video game ever" along with Cosmic Ark, Demons to Diamonds, Frogger, and all the other classics. When I was four, my family got a computer and I became a PC gamer. I still might have gone towards consoles if my mom hadn't put her foot down around the same time and said, "We're not getting a Nintendo, you already have a computer to play games on."

So, PC games it was. Now, I've branched out since then and played some great console games. I actually have gone back and played some of those classic Nintendo games that I missed the first time around.

All in all, I have almost three decades of gaming to my name. Which is not neccesarily that impressive if you consider that most people my age grew up with gaming.

But the thing is, I'm a girl.

I hear you all gasping in shock now. Or maybe you're not, I certainly hope you aren't. Because for some reason, despite the fact that there are millions of us out there, girl gamers are still treated like some weird oddity. Like we're some rare species of bird that you'll only get a chance to see once in a lifetime. Oh my gosh, there she is! A girl with a level 85 in WoW! I hear she even RAIDS too! I can't believe I can mark this off my life list!

Where is this STILL coming from? Why are girl gamers like myself STILL fighting this fight not to be treated like an abnormality? And while I'm at it, what's so weird about the idea that girls are reading comics, and have been for our whole lives?

I thought maybe things were shifting a bit, don't ask me why. For some reason I thought maybe, just maybe people were starting to understand that girls like to pwn just as hard as boys do. Maybe it was because I started to see that we really were almost reaching an understanding in the science fiction fandoms that girls ARE ALREADY THERE so maybe they deserve some respect.

I got hit hardcore with a lesson when I went to a Major League Gaming event here in DC last October. I started keeping count of the number of women I saw, and I never got into double digits. The hotel had actually taken all of the women's bathrooms in that area and put signs over them switching them to men's, leaving the few female stragglers to go to the "family" restrooms.

I was there to watch the Starcraft 2 tournament. In general, I think I saw more girls in the crowd around the SC2 area than anywhere else. But we were still few and far between.

So what is that about, ladies? Is it because there are currently no female pro-gamers in the SC2 world?

I ran into a really nice girl who needed to borrow my cell phone charger (long story) and we sat and discussed the whole thing for a while. She told me if I wanted to spot the girls at a competitive gaming event, I should look for two people standing really close together, because the girls usually came with their boyfriends.

Turned out, she was right. I only saw two girls the whole weekend that didn't seem attached to one of the guys next to them*. What is that about?

Most women I know won't talk in vent during WoW raids or use a mike and reveal their gender, because they've been hit with rampant sexism from other gamers. But at the same time, in my WoW guild we probably are at least 1/3 women, if not more. So are we all hiding? Are women unwilling to go to competitive events because they're afraid of meeting the same sexism in person as they sometimes experience online?

Why aren't we out there? I know there's no way we're actually that slim a minority when it comes to game sales and actual play time.

*I have to admit here that I actually was there with my husband, so I'm coming across as a bit of a hypocrite. But I didn't go because he asked me to, I wanted to go because my favorite player was going to be there and my favorite casters were commentating on the games.