Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Books She Read: 2018

What a year, y'all. I got married and went to New York City for the first time! (Separate events.)  I also read over a hundred books in a year, for the first time since I started keeping track, after moving to Utah in autumn 2011. Whoo!! 

 Books Read: 103
Fiction: 41
Nonfiction: 62

Top Ten of 2018

1. Timekeepers -- Simon Garfield
I love Simon Garfield! This is the second book of his I've read, and the second year in a row he's on the top ten. He has such a way of taking a gigantic topic, such as time, and breaking it down into fascinating bits-- how time is portrayed in movies, different calendars that have been considered, the challenges of creating time zones and standardizing clocks. I hated how little time it took me to read this book, because I wanted it to keep going. Read Simon Garfield.

2. Incendiary: The Psychiatrist, the Mad Bomber, and the Invention of Criminal Profiling -- Michael Cannell
The best true crime book I've read, and I have read my fair share of true crime. A bomber terrified New York for more than a decade, and a psychiatrist teamed up with the NYPD bomb squad to figure out how to narrow down their suspect list from the millions of people who live in and around New York with only a few clues. I love Criminal Minds, which deals with criminal profiling, but this was real life, which makes it so much better.

3. Junius & Albert’s Adventures in the Confederacy: A Civil War Odyssey-- Peter Carlson
I found this book in a bargain bin at Barnes & Noble on my lunch break when I needed something to read on the train ride home. Best four dollars I ever spent. Two Northern journalists are captured by the Confederate army, survive multiple prisons, and finally escape and try to make their way back home. Full of humanity, heart, and tenacity, this is a five star adventure.

4. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
Yes, it's shameful that I haven't read any Asimov until now. But better late than never. This story collection thoroughly messed me up. Robots aren't good, they aren't spiteful, they're just extremely, painfully logical.

5. A Train in Winter:An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France-- Caroline Moorehead
Holocaust books are tough. Because it is such a horrific, evil thing. But it's critical that we not forget, not let the sickening feeling that comes when reflecting on legal genocide make the Holocaust something we put on a shelf and don't talk about. This is a book about women who fought against the Nazis, and most of them were killed for it. But to have friends, even in the darkest despair of a concentration camp, reminded me that platonic love is not to be scoffed at.

6. Big Little Lies-- Liane Moriarty
What I love about Liane Moriarty is that she focuses on the disconnect between our appearance and our inner turmoil, especially when it comes to suburban women. Big Little Lies starts with a death, and then flashbacks several months. Knowing what's waiting at the end, but not who died, makes every conflict feel like a clue. The chapters alternate between the perspectives of three women at the heart of everything. Emotional and satisfying.

7. Emily Post: Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mistress of American Manners-- Laura Claridge
Biographies are the best, because they take a person that you maybe knew by name, had a certain association with, and shine a light into a life. Laura Claridge did a fantastic job of making Emily Post someone I deeply cared about and rooted for; she did a whole lot more than write about which fork to use at a dinner party. Her emphasis on kindness being the key to class resonated with me. She also dabbled in gardening, architectural design, and the war effort. I love Emily Post after reading this. Long, but worth it.

8. Thunderstruck-- Erik Larson
I enjoyed Erik's Larson's Devil in the White City, but this one was better. The juxtaposition of creating the wireless telegraph and long distance radio with the build up to a truly gruesome murder (don't read if you're squeamish) is flawlessly done.  Larson brings the time period to life vividly and fills it with energy so that it seems it could be happening now. Extremely well done.

9. The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer-- Anne-Marie O'Connor
Art books aren't usually my thing. I don't have an art history background and although I love having symbolism or inside jokes of artwork pointed out to me, some art authors are way too academic to make it worth it. But this book is so much more than an art book. It starts with an artist, the subject of a portrait, and her family, and follows them through World War I and II, and onward to today. I highly recommend it. Even if you don't like art books.

10. Murder on the Orient Express-- Agatha Christie
Another classic that I hadn't read yet. Agatha Christie at her best, need I say more?

Honorable mentions:
Clementine: The Life of Mrs Winston Churchill-- Sonia Purnell

The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture-- Glen Weldon

Best dedication is from Carrie Fisher's book, Shockaholic. "For Billie and Barack, who make my world a better place. Despite the obstacles you've had to overcome-- whether posed by my antics or the uber unfortunate antics of the Tea Partiers and the rest of their distressing ilk-- long may you wave."   

Now on to the overall list, alphabetical by author. As always, rereads are marked with *** and recommendations are bolded. If you have any questions or recommendations, hit me up!


Lincoln's Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency-- Dan Abrams
If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look On My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating-- Alan Alda
***The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance-- Elna Baker
Contagious: Why Things Catch on-- Jonah Berger
Sandra Day O'Connor: How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became Its Most Influential Justice-- Joan Biskupic
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail-- Bill Bryson
American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, and the Birth of Hollywood-- Howard Blum
Incendiary: The Psychiatrist, the Mad Bomber, and the Invention of Criminal Profiling-- Michael Cannell
In Cold Blood-- Truman Capote
Emily Post: Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mistress of American Manners-- Laura Claridge
Junius and Albert's Adventures in the Confederacy: A Civil War Odyssey-- Peter Carlson
What Happened-- Hillary Rodham Clinton
A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership-- James Comey
Madame President: The Extraordinary Journey of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf-- Helene Cooper
The First Tour de France: Sixty Cyclists and Nineteen Days of Daring on the Road to Paris-- Peter Cossins
The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion-- Meghan Daum
***Four Seasons in Roe: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World-- Anthony Doerr
There Are No Grown Ups: A Midlife Coming of Age Story-- Pamela Druckerman
The Great Movies-- Roger Ebert
Bright-sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America-- Barbara Ehrenreich
Zachary Taylor-- John SD Eisenhower
American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures-- America Ferrera
Millard Fillmore-- Paul Finkelman
Shockaholic-- Carrie Fisher
Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France -- Leonie Frieda
Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds-- Ping Fu
Timekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed with Time-- Simon Garfield
The Battle of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History-- Robin Givhan
The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon-- David Grann
Autobiography of a Face-- Lucy Grealy
Franklin Pierce-- Michael F Holt
The War of the Whales: A True Story-- Joshua Horwitz
Because I Said So! The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids-- Ken Jennings 
The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History-- Boris Johnson
Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World-- Steven Johnson
Caesar's Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us-- Sam Kean
Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung-- Min Kym
Thunderstruck-- Erik Larson
Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir-- Jenny Lawson
What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, a Life-- Marc Leepson
The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie-- Wendy McClure
I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer-- Michelle McNamara
Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History-- Antonio Mendez, Matt Baglio
A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France-- Caroline Moorehead
The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer-- Anne Marie O'Connor
Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning-- Leslie Odom Jr
Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners-- Therese Oneill
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage-- Ann Patchett
Clementine: The Life of Mrs Winston Churchill-- Sonia Purnell
Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead-- Cecile Richards
Staying True-- Jenny Sanford
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks-- Rebecca Skloot
Dinner With the Smileys: One Military Family, One Year of Heroes, and Lessons for a Lifetime-- Sarah Smiley
A Wish Your Heart Makes: From the Grimm Brothers' Aschenputtel to Disney's Cinderella-- Charles Solomon
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption-- Bryan Stevenson
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail-- Cheryl Strayed
Heroines of Mercy Street: The Real Nurses of the Civil War-- Pamela D Toler
The Dragon Behind the Glass: A True Story of Power, Obsession, and the World's Most Dangerous Fish-- Emily Voigt
How to Ruin Everything: Essays-- George Watsky
The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture-- Glen Weldon
First Bite: How We Learn to Eat-- Bee Wilson


The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: The Pox Party-- MT Anderson
The Bear and the Nightingale-- Katherine Arden
I, Robot-- Isaac Asimov
Britt-Marie Was Here-- Fredrik Backman
The School of Essential Ingredients-- Erica Bauermeister
The House With a Clock In Its Walls-- John Bellairs
***Wuthering Heights-- Emily Bronte
Grave Peril-- Jim Butcher
Crooked House-- Agatha Christie
Murder on the Orient Express- Agatha Christie
Peril at End House-- Agatha Christie
The Last Mrs Parrish-- Liv Constantine
***The Maze Runner- James Dashner
***The Scorch Trials-- James Dashner
The Death Cure-- James Dashner
***Room-- Emma Donoghue
A is for Alibi-- Sue Grafton
B is for Burglar-- Sue Grafton
C is for Corpse-- Sue Grafton
D is for Deadbeat-- Sue Grafton
***Just Ella-- Margaret Peterson Haddix
Pictures of You-- Caroline Leavitt
***A Song of Ice and Fire-- George RR Martin
***A Clash of Kings-- George RR Martin
A Storm of Swords-- George RR Martin
A Feast for Crows-- George RR Martin
Five Carat Soul-- James McBride
***Anne of Green Gables-- Lucy Maud Montgomery
Big Little Lies-- Liane Moriarty
The Husband's Secret-- Liane Moriarty
What Alice Forgot-- Liane Moriarty
Little Fires Everywhere-- Celeste Ng 
***Wyrd Sisters-- Terry Pratchett
Sourcery-- Terry Pratchett
Pyramids-- Terry Pratchett
Guards! Guards! -- Terry Pratchett
Eric -- Terry Pratchett
***Kissing in America-- Margo Rabb
***Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince-- JK Rowling
The Lovely Bones-- Alice Sebold
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society-- Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Annihilation-- Jeff VanderMeer

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Snow White and the Several Dwarves

My littlest sister, Lydia, asked me to write her a script for a play she can do at home. I've never been so flattered. It wouldn't be me without adding snarky and feminism, so here's the result, to be done with a smaller cast than the normal number of dwarves, because that's a lot of dialogue. A short, silly thing to hopefully make her smile.

Snow White and the Several Dwarfs

Cast List
Narrator / Magic Mirror / Prince
Snow White
Evil Queen
Huntsman (can double as Bashful)

Narrator: Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, there lived a young princess named Snow White. Her father was a good king, but his wife was more worried about being beautiful than about being kind. The queen’s anger was stirred as she saw how lovely Snow White grew, and she made her do many hours of chores and never let her wear new dresses. But Snow White had a pure heart, and nothing the queen did to her could make her give up on her dream of finding a better life.
Enter Snow White.
SW: Another day of scrubbing the corridors done. I wish that my stepmother would at least tell me I am doing a good job now and again! She must be very busy to never come and see my work. She sits, tired.  I wish I could go to a place where I was appreciated and loved and everyone did their fair share. Here the birds are my only friends, and I’m sorry to say they are not very good at conversation.
Prince, off stage: Snow White, thou art the fairest maiden in the land! Say that you’ll marry me, and I will take you to my own castle.
SW: Umm, another day, perhaps. How can I marry a man I do not know?
Prince: Don’t be so picky! There are many girls in towers who would be thrilled to accept. In fact, I’m off to give the same offer to one right now!
SW: (sighs) This is not the dating scene I had hoped for.
Exit Snow White. Scene shifts to Queen’s chambers, with hand mirror. Queen is applying makeup.
Queen: That girl grows more beautiful every day, even in rags! I must consult my mirror to make sure that she has not surpassed me… this new brand of lipstick promised that I’d be the most beautiful woman at any party. If it is not so…. (she glowers) (addressing mirror) Mirror, Mirror, in my hand / who’s the fairest in the land?
Mirror: Can anyone really say who the fairest in all the land is? There are so many types of beauty, and it’s really a very subjective thing…
Queen: Out with it!
Mirror: Yeah, it’s Snow White. Her heart and soul are beautiful, not just her face.
Queen exclaims in anger.
Queen: I will sue that lipstick brand for false advertising!!!
Mirror: That does take quite a bit of paperwork, my Queen.
Queen: Silence! Fetch the Huntsman.
Mirror: Huntsman, please report to the Queen’s chambers ASAP.
A few moments, then Huntsman enters, out of breath.
HM: What is it?
Queen: I have a task for you. You must take Snow White deep into the forest and kill her! Cut out her heart and deliver it to me in this box.
HM: That seems super dark. Isn’t this a kids’ show? How about I just, like, give her a bad haircut?
Queen: GO!!!!!!!!!
End scene. New scene : Huntsman and Snow White are alone in the forest.
HM: Snow White, I must warn you, the Queen is out for blood. She will stop at nothing to destroy you. This is my first job since graduating from the hunting academy, but it seems like murder is not a normal job request.
SW: I can’t say I’m too surprised. She has been growing more and more angry these last few years.
He hands her a bag of supplies.
HM: Here, take these. I know a small cottage you can go to. The forest can be a frightening place, but I’ve spent a lot of time in it, and no harm will come to you.
SW: That’s very kind. Are you sure it won’t endanger you?
HM: I’m a huntsman, I can take care of myself.
Narrator: As Snow White and the Huntsman walked through the forest, they talked of many things. The princess felt glad to be out of the castle and with her first human friend, and the Huntsman was happy to help. Soon they came to the cottage in the clearing.
HM: Now, full disclosure, I have never met the people that live here, but I’m sure they’ll be nice, living so far out here they probably don’t get many visitors. I have to go back now and throw the Queen off the scent, but this should be a good place for you.
SW: Thank you again, kind Huntsman. (she hugs him)
Exit Huntsman. Snow White enters the cottage and looks around.
SW: What funny little chairs! They must be children here! How odd that children would live all alone in the middle of the forest, but stranger things have happened. I’ll just tidy up for them so they’ll know I’ll be a good houseguest.
(optional-- “Whistle While You Work” plays / she sings )
SW: There, that’s much better! As I always say, a clean house is a happy house. I’m now feeling very tired, I guess it won’t be too rude to use these little beds for a nap.
She sleeps. Enter the dwarves.
Grumpy: Now, I don’t mind telling you, something is not right. This cottage hasn’t been cleaned in years and suddenly the windows are sparkling! It’s black magic, I tell you. We ought to just go build a new one somewhere else, or sleep in the mine tonight. Who knows what has taken residence here?
Doc: Now Grumpy, don’t be absurd. We all know it’s serfectly pafe, I mean, perfectly safe.
The dwarves creep up on the beds.
Happy: All right, fellows, let’s let our guest know how delighted we are to have them by waking them up and yelling, surprise!
Bashful: No, that’s not gonna happen.
Grumpy: It could be a dragon!
Happy: Pretty small dragon, if you ask me.
Doc: It falls to me as the brave leader to once again take charge. (He crawls to the bed and whispers, “who are you?”)
Snow White continues to sleep.
Grumpy: Oh for crying out loud. He bangs loud objects together. Who are you and what are you doing in our house??
Snow White wakes suddenly.
SW: Oh! I’m terribly sorry, I was waiting for the children to get home. (She looks around) But you’re not children, you’re little men! Oh, my, you really have no idea how to keep a house clean.
Bashful: we do, but-- (hides face)
SW: (laughs) Not to worry, now we can all enjoy this clean home.
Doc: I beg your pardon?
SW: I’m going to be staying for an extended visit. My stepmother, the Queen, is envious of my beauty and my friend the Huntsman brought me here. Otherwise, I don’t know where I’ll go. Please let me stay.
Grumpy: No! There are plenty of other kingdoms and cottages.
Happy: Just a minute, Grumpy! We’d be HAPPY to have you! That’s my name, Happy!
SW: An unusual name, but you quite live up to it.
Doc: All dwarves are named after their most noticeable attitude trait.
SW: What’s your name?
Doc: Doc.
SW: ….are you a doctor? Is that a personality trait?
Doc: You ask a lot of questions.
Bashful: Maybe we should…. (hides face)
Happy: Invite her to dinner! You’re exactly right.
Narrator: The dwarves and Snow White ate dinner together, and then danced and sang till late in the night. Snow White felt very lucky to have found these new friends.
(Optional dance sequence)

Scene: the next day
Happy: Well, Snow White, we’re off to work!
Bashful: Have a… garsh, you know (hides face)
Doc: And don’t open the door for anyone!
Grumpy: Bah humbug. You’ll be fine, obviously you have no problem with taking over our house, so any other problems will be easily dealt with.
SW: (Laughs) Grumpy, I will bake your favorite kind of pie tonight and we’ll see what you say then.
Grumpy: (stomps foot)
The dwarves exit, singing “hi ho.” Snow White goes into cottage. Almost immediately the Queen enters, in disguise.
Queen: This is a foolproof disguise! I boiled up a potion to make me appear completely harmless. With ingredients like the meow of a kitten and comfy pajamas, I now appear to pose no danger to anyone. Snow White will never recognize me. But that will be her last mistake…..
She knocks on the cottage door.
SW: Hello?
Queen: It is I, a harmless peddler.
SW: That’s strange, the dwarves said that no one had visited this cottage in years.
Queen: It’s a new route. We’re reaching out to new customers.
SW: How did you find this place?
The Magic Mirror is seen sticking out of the Queen’s basket. We flashback to hear him say, “recalculating…. Recalculating…. Please make a U turn at the next tree)
Queen: Umm woman’s intuition. Now, do you want to buy some apples?
SW: Grumpy’s favorite pie is apple, I heard him say so last night. Yes, of course.
Queen: Oh, that was much easier than I expected. Wouldn’t you like to taste one first, to make sure that they’re good?
SW: Oh, you look so kind and trustworthy, little a cute little kitten in pajamas. I’m sure their wonderful.
Queen: (to audience) Blast! My disguise has worked too well!
Queen: (to SW) But I insist! These are wishing apples!
SW: Wishing apples?
Queen: Yes. You must think very hard of your dearest wish and it will come true with the first bite.
SW: Wow.
Queen: Yup, an amazing deal. Please, try one.
SW takes an apple.
SW: I’m wishing…. I’m wishing that I will be able to live here in peace and that the Queen will realize that women shouldn’t be tearing each other down over looks, we should support each other in sisterhood. (she takes a bite)
Queen: Wait!!
Narrator: But it is too late. The Queen’s poisoned apple has worked the instant Snow White’s lip touched it, she falls to the ground in an enchanted sleep.
Queen: I now realize the error of my ways!! Snow White was right, women shouldn’t be competing over who is more or less beautiful, we should work together to make a better world. I regret the time I lost not connecting with my stepdaughter. (weeps bitterly)
The dwarves enter, having taken a very short work day.
Grumpy: What has this kitten in pajamas done to Snow White!??!
Happy: I am UNHAPPY about this. And that’s not a good way to feel.
Doc: Now, hold on just a minute, you helpless looking imposter. You must be the evil queen that Snow White ran away from.
Queen: Well, yes, that was I, but I had a mighty change of heart, and now I am full of bitter regret.
Bashful: Gosh. (exits, bashfully)
Happy: How can we break the spell? That’s the only way I can be happy again.
Queen: The antidote to the curse is a kiss from someone with a heart as pure as hers. My mirror kept going about how Snow White was beautiful on the inside as well as the outside, and so I figured it would be a nice touch of irony to make the curse about inner beauty. But how will we ever find someone so good?
Huntsman enters.
HM: Oh, no, Snow White! I led her here out of the goodness of my heart, to keep her safe, at personal risk to myself and no profit, and look what has happened.
The dwarves and queen all look at him like, “AH HA”
Queen: Hey! It is I, the Formerly Evil Queen.
HM: (does a double take) Are you sure?
Queen: Yes. There’s no time to explain, kiss her! You have a pure heart!
HM: Umm I feel weird about this, but a peck on the cheek won’t hurt. (kisses SW’s cheek)
Snow White sits up , yawning.
Narrator: And so it came to pass that the Queen learned to respect her fellow women based on actions, not appearances. Snow White said a fond farewell to her dwarven friends, although they remained fast friends. The cottage was just a little too small for her. She went back to the castle, and the Huntsman was promoted to Castle Greeter. (It might not seem like a promotion, but this was a much better fit for him.) And they all lived happily ever after.

Thursday, September 27, 2018


I've been thinking a lot about justice lately, and the many sides it takes to get there. Working in a court for the last six months has been fascinating in many ways-- even though it's just class B and C misdemeanors, it's a side of life I've never been acquainted with beyond a traffic ticket or two. Let me tell you, there is a shocking amount of shoplifting going on. Wal-mart, Smith's, and all the other stores that have ever examined my receipts are not being paranoid. One lady took a birthday cake and when the judge asked her why she said, "It was my birthday."

I'm such a Lawful Good alignment that it can be difficult for me to imagine what would lead to a person to become a repeat offender. Some of the defendants come in and clearly have drug problems and/or mental health problems. It's really sad. It can also be frustrating trying to explain the system to them, and being yelled at for your trouble. I'm trying to help you! But in their mind I'm the face of The Law, and that has come to have a very negative connotation for them.

Sitting at the clerks' table keeping minutes for a bench trial yesterday, I was struck by how the trial is a triangle, with all three sides being crucial: the police (the state), the legal defenders (lawyers), and the judge (or jury).

I've been pretty vocal in the past about my strong belief that the police system is flawed, and that police brutality is unfortunately still a real threat to minorities, especially black men. This is still true. But it is not now, nor has it ever been true, that I am anti-police. Working in the court you talk to a lot of officers. The overwhelming impression I've gotten is one of duty and truly trying to protect and serve the community. My stance that body cams should be much more widely used, and wrongful violence should have immediate negative consequences is not saying, "All officers are like this." It's because the vast majority aren't, and they should be protected from the bad apples. 

Being a member of the police force is like being part of a family that literally risks their life, and that bond is tighter than anything most of us can imagine. They see the seedy, crime underbelly of the city, and that can be a jaded perspective, but I believe that most honestly want to help improve things. That may be through arresting or charging people, which obviously the defendants don't see as a positive thing.

That brings us to the second point of the triangle, the defense. Legal defenders do a lot of work in my court, because we have a lot of low income people who wouldn't be able to afford an attorney of their own. Watching Hillary, our legal defender, work is amazing. She's clearly not in law for the money, she's in it for heart. She fights for people who have no legal experience, no idea what's going on. She stands at the podium and turns into a force of nature arguing for burden of proof and chain of custody and saying, this isn't what happened. They shouldn't be convicted. She stands up for people who would otherwise not know where to start with a defense. She also sees the lowest of the low, but she doesn't see the solution in incarceration. 

Sometimes she wins, sometimes the state wins. But they both are crucial, two sides of the same coin. The third, deciding factor is the judge or jury. This must be a neutral position. These rulings must not be tainted by emotion or bias. The judge knows the law, and can only rule by what has been proved in court. The jury is carefully selected and given strict instructions about what can and cannot be considered. Our judge is an amazing lady, the first black judge in Utah. She doesn't allow emotion to color her rulings, she explains them all with cold, hard logic. I love her.

I'm in a play, 12 Angry Jurors. It's a gender mixed version of the 1957 film 12 Angry Men. A man is on trial for murder. What's a reasonable doubt? What is more important- the life of the murdered man or the life of the accused murderer? The play is set in 1963, and my job gives me a great appreciation for how much hasn't changed, in this regard. Almost everything else is radically different than it was in the sixties. But the law-- the lawyers, the prosecution, the verdict-- the process is still the same. The judicial branch is the most impartial of the three branches of government, and it is crucial to preserving law and order. 

I have a lot that I could say-- about how oddly emotional I've gotten after helping someone understand what an arraignment is, or being told, "I was scared to come to court, but it wasn't so bad." We've seen tons of societies with corrupt justice systems, and the law is a joke. The Gilbert & Sullivan show Justin and I did this summer was exactly like that. Justin played a corrupt (typical for the era) judge who sings, "All thieves who could my fees afford/ Relied on my orations/ And many a burglar I've restored to his friends and his relations!" It was funny, but if that was our reality, how terrifying.

The law is not a matter of emotion, it's fact. Even on the lowest level, where I work, it has to be neutral. The state brings officers to testify for the prosecution, the legal defender cross examines and speaks for the defense, and the judge or jury rules on the matter. We HAVE to be able to trust our judges.

It's important. It's really, really important.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

My Halfway Through the Year Resolution

I love New Year's Day, because it's a clean, fresh slate with no mistakes in it and unlimited potential. Through the year I can lose sight of that potential. January is simply a word on a calendar, there's no reason I shouldn't sit down and set goals in July. Recently I've been thinking about what I prioritize in this the latter half of my twenties. And before I buy a ticket for the grand adventure that is starting a family, I really, really, really want to get more theatre in it. A lot of theatre. It's been six months since I was in a show, and at that time I didn't appreciate it as much as I should have because I was also trying to plan a wedding.

I don't plan on making that mistake again. (Not appreciating a show.) (Although I also don't plan on planning any more weddings.)

In preparation for the flurry of July auditions, I printed out new resumes for this stranger who is Rebecca Cook. I have been signing up for auditions left, right, and center, even though I don't dare type the names of the shows I'm auditioning for fear of jinxing it. Theatre gods are capricious creatures. Idk, man. I'm not superstitious, but I am a little stititious.

Auditions make me The Most Anxious™. Or maybe that honor belongs to callbacks. On second thought, it definitely belongs to callbacks. What torment could be sweeter than knowing that you're within spitting distance of getting what you want, but not at all guaranteed of a slot on the cast list? Audra McDonald said that an actor's job isn't to get cast, it's to audition well. Sometimes I don't feel I can do either. But I want to. I want to audition well! And I doubly want to get cast! (Not caring about something may be the key to success, but I've never been good at that.) 

Mood when you realize that the director has no obligation to cast you even though you've dreamt about performing this show since you were seventeen 

Because I care so much about auditions and I despise failing, I've been known to talk myself out of auditions because "it's not like I would make it anyway." No more! Not this year! Not this married lady! I am going to go to every audition I'm even remotely interested in until I get cast. Life belongs to those who show up, after all. And even a "failed" audition can lead to valuable experience, or connections, or maybe they have free cookies there or something.

Rejection, they say, doesn't necessarily mean you aren't talented. It just means you aren't right for this show. My oh my, it feels much more personal than that, and it seems like the people who say stuff like that just happen to always be right for every role.

I feel like I'm a good cast member. I think most of my directors have liked me. But the sucky thing about auditions is that everyone feels that way and everyone thinks it's their turn, and the directors don't ask for essays extrapolating on how much you want this. Quote from my 2017 journal: "I know that casting is subjective, but does it have to be subjective so many times in a row?" 

So, if you know of any auditions, hit me up. Anticipating auditions is a strange high because you never know, you might do FANTASTIC! This could be the show that I'm a perfect fit for! Mayhap they'll even forgive my dancing because the light in my eyes is so bright, or whatever. (#SingerWhoMoves) And if you have any audition tips that have helped you, please share! Rebecca Cook is here and she's only been rejected twice and she's hungry to be onstage.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

An Open Letter to Meghan Markle

Dear Ms Markle,

You are getting married in just three days! That’s pretty awesome! I’m getting married in three days too. (We picked the date first.) Along with much of the United States, I’ve been obsessed with the royal family since William & Kate got married. Having a royal wedding AND a royal baby in one year is almost too much goodness to bear. (Have you met Prince Louis yet?) Sharing an anniversary with the second Royal Wedding is the best present I could ask for.

Are you nervous? Are you excited? Have you had awkward small talk with the Queen while the corgis sat on the couch looking judgmental?

Can I just say that I am dying to see your dress? Kate had a fairytale princess dress, but I have a feeling this one isn’t going to be the miles long train style. Kate is a perfect bride for William, just like he’s the ideal eldest son, heir to the throne. She’s classy, like you, but you’ve got the edge factor. I mean, your engagement photos had one with a sheer top and people wrote articles about its significance. What a world.

I fell in love with my dress the second time I put it on. I wanted to feel like a princess on my wedding day (my originality is truly shocking) but it turns out that basically any wedding dress made me feel like a princess so I had to give my favorites a second go around another day, and that’s when I knew. Your dress won’t be revealed until you walk down the aisle in it. Even the designer is a closely guarded secret. All I can wish for you is that when you put it on you don’t ever want to take it off, because that’s how I feel.

Meghan, are you okay with giving up your career as an actress? It must have been strange to end your most recent show, Suits, with a wedding for your character. It must be surreal to enter a world that your family will never be fully integrated into, especially with all the drama around them lately. Hopefully Kate takes you aside and gives you some pointers on making it was a come lately royal.

Rachel Zane's wedding dress. We can only speculate what Meghan's will be.
(I think this one is five stars and would have stolen it from set.)

Do you compare yourself to other brides? Kate’s wedding was the spectacle of the year, and yours is on track to be the same. There are countdowns on television to the big event (my coworkers tell me the countdowns are for me). People are going to compare the two weddings. And that’s tough. Because you and Kate are different women. I have to tell myself that when I see someone completely gorgeous and poised and who also made two hundred silk flowers by hand for wedding favors. We’re different women. Weddings aren’t a competition.

Do you ever catch your breath at your good fortune? I’ve never been one for gingers (although Justin does have some red in his beard), but does looking at Harry make you feel like the luckiest lady alive? You deserve that feeling. He seems completely smitten and anxious to start a family. (Honestly I’d hope that the kids take after you but again I’m not one for Weasleys.) You must be someone very special to get him straightened out and on his way to Windsor to take his vows. He had some wild years…. And he’s inviting his exes to the wedding… but girl after Saturday he is yours officially so grin and bear it!

I wonder if royal marriage is hard. I mean, I know regular marriage is going to be hard. But do all the public events make it more or less difficult? Does it bring you and Harry closer or farther apart? “Don’t forget to have date night” is a bit useless when it comes to giving advice to someone who is photographed every time she leaves the house (castle).

Anyway I’m nervous and excited and jittery and in love and it makes me feel better to know that there’s another woman out there who is prepping for this life changing ritual, on the world stage, at Windsor Palace with millions watching. I'll take my greenhouse with a gazebo. But come May 19th we’ll both be wives. Justin calls me a princess too. Good luck, and God Save the Queen.

Much love,

Thursday, March 22, 2018

When You're Falling in a Forest....

How do people keep friends? How do adult women make people want to keep talking to them year after year, or even month after month? I am finding that I'm..... not good at it. I'm getting ghosted by people I thought wouldn't ghost me. And I'm kind of dying.

I feel like I'm okay at making friends, especially in the confines of a theatre when we're mingling every day for three months. And then when a show ends I'm lucky if I see anyone from it ever again. I'm used to those mini friendships ending but lately it seems like some major ones are falling by the wayside too. I want to figure out what I'm doing wrong so I can knock it off.

Hopefully I'm not completely unpleasant. I try to be a good friend. Introversion is my natural state, but I thought I did a decent job at maintaining friendships via occasional lunch dates and text messages. Most of my friends are introverts too so this worked well. But now the radio silence is deafening and I'm getting scared that I just don't get to have best friends anymore, and I don't know why.

I have Justin, who is a lifesaver, and truly the love of my life, but but no man could possible be expected to fill the emotional crevices that my girlfriends do. I have cherished friends in faraway states who would be there for movie night if NASA would get around to inventing teleportation, but alas. And there are friends who definitely tolerate me but have a real circle of friends. Best friends. How do people make the jump to the real circle, and stay there?

Dealing with the loss of a best friend is hard because break ups are publicly acknowledged. But saying "Well so and so won't talk to me anymore and I really love her" doesn't seem like something people do... I am at my wit's end and maybe all my friendships are going to end with silence.

The opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference. In middle school I got the nickname "Shadow" because I followed my friends around, begging for attention. It was humiliating, because if you have to beg for attention, are you actually friends? When I reach out repeatedly only to be ignored I feel like I've been flung back to middle school, which I believe is the literal definition of hell. I'm cringing while typing this because GUESS WHAT it's another attempt at reaching out into the void of human interaction and that's just yikes

I know life isn't a popularity contest. I know that social media is a toxic wasteland that presents a carefully cultivated image of lives that are likely as chaotic and confusing as mine. I know that friendships have an ebb and flow and that getting engaged has taken up a ton of my time. But I would really love to believe I could have a girls' night with better attendance than me and a cardboard cutout of Taylor Swift. I miss venting and laughing hysterically and going out randomly. I miss being around girls who really knew me. I am scared that I'm not enough, and that for the rest of my life I'll have an amorphous circle of 'friends' who I like, and like me, but we aren't all that close. And how am I going to be a soccer mom if I don't know how to make friends with the other moms at PTA???

I am truly grateful to the people who haven't shut me down. Please keep giving me chances. I am extremely sorry if you're reading this and I've done something that made you feel like I didn't want to be friends. Please help me improve so that I don't drive more people away.

How can I be better at making and KEEPING friends? I want to fix the problem!! Ad how do you deal with women you deeply admire, who are so COOL, ignoring you? The anxiety that tells me I am the most irritating person in the world is flaring up pretty on a regular schedule these days-- like, if given the choice between me and being punched in the face, would you hang out with me?

Cuz I'm tap, tap, tapping on the glass.....

Saturday, March 3, 2018

A Train in Winter

Yesterday I finished A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead. I haven't been this affected by a book in a while. It tells the story of over a hundred French women who were part of the resistance when the Nazis occupied Paris, and then were sent to Auschwitz. Only forty of them lived, but that even forty did is incredible. They did it by protecting each other, finding humanity in the very depths of hell, and somehow not losing their will to live.

This book really shook me. I've read my share of World War II books, but the relationship of these women with each other, their sisterhood.... it was so strong. They sustained each other. Through the worst, blackest, cruelest events. One woman was an unofficial "nurse" to the victims of the disgusting medical experimentation that went on for the cause of eugenics and racial cleansing. She would swear that the prisoners were going to recover so they wouldn't be sent to the gas chambers, as happened immediately for anyone perceived too weak to go on.

When another woman was transferred to a small farm near the concentration camp to grow vegetables and other food for the SS, she requested five of her friends be transferred with her. This almost certainly saved their lives, as they were spared from the harsh, hours long roll calls where women collapsed and died daily. Another prisoner was beaten to death for offering a drink of water to a woman on her way to the gas chambers. Lulu, one of the forty to survive, said that she and seven of her friends made it their mission to brief every new arrival to the camp. "We told them that they should never say they were tired, and should do everything they could to appear healthy. We told them to never admit to being Jewish. And we told them about the importance of looking after each other, which was the only way they were likely to survive."

Other women passed around stolen medicine and whispered rumors of Allied forces making advances against Hitler's regime. Songs were punished with beatings, as so many acts of defiance were, but the women found small ways to remember where they were from, to cling on to their humanity even as horror became daily ritual. One women held on to a paper drawing of her son for the entirety of her captivity at Auschwitz, and then for the rest of her life.

These incredible Frenchwomen were just regular people before they joined the resistance and were eventually sent to concentration camps. They were from all walks of life, and then when evil found their country they said, "No more." Even though it cost them their lives, and in my cases the lives of their families. Many families were arrested as units, but only one or two members made it out alive.

On the other side of the coin are the regular people who became Nazis, informers to the Nazis, even prisoners who were elevated to quasi guards. The book was full of horrific scenes that made me feel ill. But this picture affected me the most, because I'd never seen it.

I saw it during my lunch hour at work and I just sat at my desk and stared for three or four minutes. They look so, so happy. Completely carefree. And they're so young. The girl doing the little pose captivates me; she's my age (as were many of the women in the camps). She could be my friend. Auschwitz murdered as many as two thousand people in the gas chambers each day. Each day. Prisoners were beaten to death for as not responding to a command in a language they didn't speak. And there were people who could be part of it and still smile brightly while palling around with their friends on picnics.

The message I took from this book was that the bonds we form with others are the most vital thing there is. Each of the women said that if they had been on their own they would have died. Helene, one of the Frenchwoman, broke her leg the month before the survivors of the camps were rescued. This was a death sentence if any of the guards were to find out, especially so close to the end of the war. (When it became clear the Allies were going to win the war; death numbers at Auschwitz went even higher in a sickening attempt to destroy the evidence of mistreatment.) The other Frenchwomen, who had lost so much and so many, rallied around her to hide and protect her, going so far as to put another dead body in her bed so the guards would stop looking for her. She made it out.

We cannot always change our circumstances, but we can change our relationships with those around us. We can resist evil in the best ways we know, and be there to strengthen each other. We must protect others. Jut this week I listened to this episode from one of my favorite podcasts, Radiolab. There are good people in this world. Let's all be part of it.

"I know that there are those who say: 'they died for precious little.' To such people, one must reply: 'it's that they were on the side of life.'"  --Jean Paulahn, resistance newspaper editor