Scheduling, Time, and a Lack of Both: a Holly Rant

Hi internet–here is a slightly garbled collection of thoughts about scheduling and time management. Proceed with caution if you are expecting coherence.

I learned a lot from my time in the ballet company as a youngster–and beyond just technique. Very quickly it became obvious (to me) that talent alone was a poor substitute for dependability. If you wanted to be in the piece, you needed to show up for rehearsal, no matter how good of a dancer you were. Particularly as a Junior and Senior in high school, I gained a reputation for showing up regularly and on-time, as well as maintaining a solid grasp of choreography–and I suspect this got me further than my admittedly middling talent.

Now as an adult, I just plain do not understand how it is so hard to say you are going to do a thing–and then DO THE THING. There is no easier way to get on my shitlist than to commit to a rehearsal or a show and then cancel at the last minute. There is no easier way to lose opportunities than to say “oh sure yeah I’ll do the thing” and then flake out later.

I have ESPECIALLY strong feelings about this in a ballroom context, because if you ditch on an event or rehearsal–you are also ditching on your partner. People–especially professionals in a given field–need to recognize the time commitments necessary for events like, say, a theater show, and then budget accordingly.

And let’s clarify–I have no problem with people saying “I have a competing thing scheduled , I’m not going to be able to make x/y/z rehearsal”, as long as they state this in advance (as in a week in advance). Perhaps on of my failures in empathy is my compete lack of understanding how some people can’t seem to figure out how to get themselves to the place they say they are going to be, at the time they say they will be there.

And people always say “but Holly, it’s life, sometimes stuff happens and I’m just late/can’t show up”. To which I respond, “yes, it’s a chaotic universe, so give yourself some buffer time–both in getting from point A to point B and in balancing all the tasks you need to do in order to make your life happen.” Is that callous? Or too strict? I don’t think so, but clearly others have differing opinions.

And now–let us dispel the notion that I am any kind of saint. In planning and scheduling, I have a tendency to over-commit and say yes to all of the cool projects that I and others dream up–probably from a deep-seated fear of missing out. But I am getting better at recognizing when my schedule is packed to bursting. And once I’ve agreed to something, I NEVER cancel a rehearsal with someone unless I’m a)vomiting blood or b)my car exploded or c) there are two feet of snow falling from the sky (Looking at you, Stella).

Here’s how I deal with planning: I keep a meticulously updated Google Calender, as well as paper calendars at my desk that I cross off and scribble on. I check my calendar before I agree to things, and I agree to things in a more-or-less first-come-first serve sort of way. People who know me well know that they need to book me for some kind of event or project two months in advance. This is actually where I fail myself sometimes–I was considering a relaxing summer, buuuuut surprise, I’ve already agreed to or invented my own projects that will have me hopping back and forth across the country. Oops. 😛

Anyway. Enough ranting. So to summarize–if presented with an opportunity, analyze your schedule, say yes or no to the thing based on interest and availability, and then stick to what you’ve agreed to do.

Also always show up 10-15 minutes early-but that’s a rant for another day. 🙂

Bookish Academy Awards

Hi Internet!

So I know I’m a bit behind the times, but last night I watched Regan of PeruseProject‘s Bookish Academy Awards BookTube video, and I knew I wanted to get in on the fun.

Here’s the premise: Take the books you read in 2016, and pick ‘award winners’ based on the Oscar categories.

Best Actor/Best Male Protagonist 

This award goes to the gloriously morally-grey Victor from VICIOUS by Victoria Schwab. He’s dark, he’s clever–and gawd knows I’m a sucker for a not-completely evil mad scientist.

vicious

Best Actress/Best Female Protagonist

She may not be the flashiest of characters, but Lady Trent from IN THE LABYRINTH OF DRAKES by Marie Brennan (the fourth installment in the Lady Trent series) is just the best. She’s witty, resourceful, and has grown into a wonderful character with so much to say about colonialism, feminism, and dragons.

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Best Cinematography/Best World-building

This one I agonized over–but in the end I’m going with THE WATER KNIFE BY Paolo Bacigalupi. It’s dark, it’s intense, and the world is built so well you can taste the dust as you tear through it.

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Best Original Screenplay/Best Plot-twist

And the winner is MORE THAN THIS by Patrick Ness. This pick transcends ‘plot-twist’, as the whole narrative is perfectly constructed to increase suspense and (non-irritating) ambiguity right up until the last page. One of the best YA books I’ve ever read.

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Best Costume Design/Best Book Cover

For all my irritation with this series, the cover for INVASION OF THE TEARLING by Erika Johansen is freaking fantastic and exactly sets the tone for the text.

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Best Supporting Actor and Actress/Best Supporting Characters 

Basically everyone from THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL, ANGRY PLANET by Becky Chambers. ‘nuf said.

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Best Adapted Screenplay/Best Book-to-Movie Adaptation

I’m gonna preempt this one a little, since the Hulu mini-series has yet to be released, but the trailers give me FREAKING CHILLS every time I watch them. THE HANDMAID’S TALE is terrifying and relevant and I am totally going to watch it from behind the couch.

handmaid

Best Animated Feature/ Best Book-to-Animation Adaption 

For this award I’m going to go with “book that would make a good animated movie” since none of my 2016 reads have been made into animated films (as far as I know). So the winner here is READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline. So much of this takes place in a digital world as is, so might as well go the distance and make it all animated.

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Best Director/Best New Author 

This category is a bit tricky, since basically everyone I read in 2016 was ‘new’ to me. I’m going to go with Octavia Butler, since finally reading FLEDGLING made me want to find more by her.

Runner-up would be Patrick Ness, since reading one of his books made me seek out another.

Best Visual Effects/Best Action 

When I started out, I told myself I wouldn’t award repeats, but the fact of the matter is that this book simply had the best action scenes of any book I read all year. So here we are again with VICIOUS by V.E. Schwab. It’s just so good.

vicious

Best Short Film/Best Short Fiction

I didn’t read much short fiction last year, but luckily what I did read I enjoyed. The winner of this award goes to EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan McGuire, for its dark and compelling premise.

heart

Best Documentary/Best Non-Fiction  

Obviously APOLLO’S ANGELS by Jennifer Homens. I would watch the heck out of a mini-series (or macro-series) documentary of this book. Ballet is at its core a visual art, so a film version would be fabulous.

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Well that’s that! What do you think? What would be your picks for the Bookish Academy Awards?

IT’S REAL

Hi internet–I know, it’s been a while.

To be honest, the reason I haven’t written is because there’s only one thing I’ve wanted to write about, and I’ve not been able to write about it for reasons of not counting eggs before they’ve hatched.

WELL.

THE EGGS HAVE HATCHED.

ALERT THE DINO-KEEPERS.

Er. Ok.

The short of it is this: I’ve been accepted to Florida State University for a Graduate program in Dance! And I’m going! It’s REAAAAAL.

excite

I gotta keep this a little bit on the low-down for job reasons, but if you know me IRL, feel free to message me if you want more details. wacky.gif

I’m resorting to .gifs, because I’m not sure I have words to explain my excitement other than EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE and adkfaoigadlkfhga;ldfugaoig.

kermit

Patience is not one of my virtues, and to be able to say this is real after so many months of anxiety and waiting is just amazing. On Saturday, while driving to ballet class, I honestly started crying happy tears, because I’d done it.

When am I leaving for Florida?

Not sure! Probably August, though we may be leaving Syracuse in late June/early July. Everything is very fuzzy at this point.

Where in Florida?

Tallahassee!

Will you miss the snow?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah–no. If I want to see snow, I can always visit my parents in VT.

Alright. That’s all the info I can really reveal for right now, so I’ll let Bilbo say it best:

bilbo

 

(Hopefully my adventure will involve 100% fewer trolls and goblins).

Feminist Reggaeton?

Hi Internet,

So those of you how know me IRL will know that I have a particular love for music with a strong, syncopated beat–and by that I don’t mean Swing, I mean Samba. And Reggaeton. Obviously Samba is originally Brazillian, and has been in the Ballroom musical lexicon for many years. Reggaeton is newer, a mash-up genre of hip-hop elements via the Puerto Rican  underground music scene in the 1990s. It’s made its way to the mainstream Top 40 charts these days, with huge artists like Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber borrowing the rhythms and I am loving every minute of it.

(Yes yes,  I know, appropriation. But that’s a conversation for another day.)

So recently, a song that’s hit the Top 40 radio rotation is one called “Rockabye” by Clean Bandit. I heard it while driving, car-danced, and then went home to look up the song. In doing so, once I found a lyric video on YouTube and was surprised–nah, shocked.

It’s sort of…feminist?

Now, for those of you who aren’t familiar with reggaeton, it doesn’t exactly have the greatest reputation for, well, progressive lyrics. There’s a reason I laughed myself silly at finding this parody video about the genre:

So look–I like reggaeton, but I do kind of have to turn my feminist brain off to enjoy it.

HOWEVER. “Rockabye” tells the story of a single mother working to support and comfort her kid. It’s probably the only reggaeton song I’ve heard from a female perspective, and it’s definitely the only one I’ve heard that isn’t about clubbing and grabbing body parts and sexsexsexsex. In fact, it’s in a way about the consequence of the men from all those other reggaeton songs having not kept it in their pants and eschewed their responsibilities to perhaps find more ladies in the club.  (I jest. Slightly.)

My first thought upon reading the lyrics was “This is totally subversive.” People are going to be bopping along in the club to a song with a positive social message.

How does the music video stack up? Let’s have a look:

[sigh] Ok. So the music video in my mind complicates things. I’m a bit over the “single mother has no options but become stripper” trope–BUT. There are some saving graces here. The lady in question is minimally sexualized over the course of the video. In fact, I might go so far as to say that the video promotes the athleticism and art of pole dancing, especially with the sequences when she’s in the forest. She’s performing for herself there, away from the male gaze. And despite the fact that yes, she’s wearing fishnets and a bikini, her movements are less suggestive than those of dancers in other reggaeton videos, which takes the focus off the sexualization of the pole dancing and focuses our attention more on her life outside the bar and her kid.

It’s not a perfectly feminist representation, but few things are. What it does do is complicate the traditionally misogynistic atmosphere of the modern reggaeton experience, and that’s worth something.

So what do you think? Is “Rockabye” subversive? I’m obviously not Puerto Rican and Spanish isn’t my native language–people who know more about reggaeton music and culture, what do you think? Are there other example of song with pro-feminism (or at least not anti-feminist) messages?

Just Books, I Swear

Well.

Yeah.

So.

It’s been a month, hasn’t it?

I have been ridiculously busy, more so than my usual due to some exciting developments from a plan I set in motion 6+ months ago. I know that’s irritatingly vague, but I really can’t say anything conclusive yet. I promise I will update everyone soon.

So, with that in mind, let’s detract ourselves from the trash fire that is global politics, shall we? YES LET’S DO THAT.

Sadly nothing I read this month blew me out of the water.

THE DIABOLIC, S. J. Kincaid

diabolic

This new-ish release follows a genetically-modified bodyguard and her struggle against a failing, decedent dictatorship in space. As one might suspect, the most interesting part of this far-future sci-fi thriller was the world-building. The main characters were passable, the narrator grew on me, and the nascent romance followed YA tropes–but in way that actually made sense in context. I’m not sure I’ll read the sequal, but it was an enjoyable ride.

Rating: ****

YOU ARE A BADASS, Jen Sincero

badass

See, here’s my problem with self-help books. As well-meaning and energetic as this one is, it’s fundamental goal is to motivate the reader to DO THE THING. Well, I don’t really have a problem motivating myself to DO THE THING. In fact, I need more help SAYING NO to too many things. As far as self-help books go, this one’s not the worst, but just not terribly useful for me.

Rating: **

HOW TO BUILD A GIRL, Caitlin Moran

girl

This is a coming-of-age story, one that I probably would not have picked up if not for the Banging Book Club–a monthly podcast/bookclub about sex, sexuality, and gender run by three Brits in London. As such, GIRL suffers from a bit of cultural insider-knowledge–I don’t have a good an understanding of class struggles in England as UK readers, so some of the references and nuance were lost on me. Still, it’s entertaining, if not overly memorable.

Rating: ***

THE QUEEN OF BLOOD, Sarah Beth Durst

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Finally, we’re back to fantasy. This new release follows a world where humans and aggressive elemental spirits live in a rapidly deteriorating peace. I enjoyed a lot more that I anticipated from the first few pages.  I’ll be honest–the writing isn’t great. It’s passable, but not particularly quote-able or memorable. What was interesting about this was the plot and the world-building. I’m on this quest to read every fantasy/historical fiction book I can with the word ‘queen’ in the title, and the queens in this volume did not disappoint.

Rating: ****

THEN WE CAME TO THE END, Joshua Ferris

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This one’s a weird one. It’s a slightly surreal look at office life in the early 2000’s, and as someone who currently is living the office life, there’s more than a few scenarios to laugh at. But it suffers from length, and drags out longer than necessary. It’s never good when I pinpoint a scene near the end and think “that should be the last sentence” only to continue on twenty more page.

Rating: ***

THE HOUSE OF GOD, Samuel Shem

house

Here’s another weird one. A slightly dated, slightly surreal look at the insanity of the medical residency life, this book weaves in and out of dream and fantasy and reality to tell the story of several interns at a hospital in the Northeast. Apparently this book kick-started the movement for reasonable treatment of those underlings on their way to being full-fledged doctors. I found the distorted reality a bit hard to follow, but it solved in the end in such way that I could why we had taken that route. It also contains a sizable amount of what’s basically medical erotica–which, given your persuasions, is either a pro or a con.

Rating: ***

And that’s a wrap! Go worth, read lots, and try not to scream too much into the void!

 

On Marriage, and Proposals

Hi internet.

So this morning I read this post by the fantastic publishers of A Practical Wedding, one of the wedding websites I used when planning our shindig. I still peruse them from time to time, as they post things beyond the nitty-grittys of planning, about relationships, family, and feminism.

Today the post that caught my eye was a discussion of attitudes around proposals, and how to intelligently navigate becoming engaged with a partner. This is a topic that I have Feelings about, so buckle up.

My fabulous partner in crime was the first one to bring up marriage. I was still in college, and honestly hadn’t really considered that engagement, let alone marriage, was on my horizon. I panicked a bit, hit the pause button, and said we needed to discuss further.

Flash forward three months, I had graduated, and we were in this awkward transition period between my exodus from the dorms and us finding our own place. We were sitting on the floor of his miserable, humid apartment, frustrated and upset over some trivial piece of housework. In that moment, I realized three fundamental things at the exact same time:

  1.  We were frustrated and angry at the situation and each other.
  2. We were going to work it out.
  3. I wanted to keep working it out with him for a long time.

So I leaned over and told him as much–basically “Hey you. I want to marry you.” And that moment, arguably is when we became engaged–a solid three months before our official proposal event.

Why am I recounting this? Well, the APW post is all about communicating with your partner to figure out if the ‘marriage track’ is something you are both heading for. It’s about not leaving the engagement event in the hands of the man, in a heterosexual situation. It’s about taking charge of your life and your relationship, recognizing that you have the right and responsibility to decide what you want and how you want it–as well as working with your partner to balance their wants.

To me, there’s nothing romantic about being blindsided by a proposal. One should only ask someone to marry them if they are 99% sure that someone is going to say yes–and the only way to be that sure is to discuss it in advance. You can still have a magical time out, celebrating your relationship and officially ‘becoming engaged’, even if it isn’t a complete surprise to one or both people in the relationship. The discussions around the proposal event–ring, no ring, private vs public–are the first in a series of many conversations about expectations and desires that will come up during the wedding-planning process and beyond. I see no reason in starting a new phase of the relationship off with a shock.

(Also in general I’m not fond of surprises–but the point still stands!)

So here’s my dilemma: when people ask “how did he propose?” what do I say? Do I describe the afternoon picnic and dance in the park by the lake, painting a beautiful picture but feeding into the traditional engagement narrative? Or do I tell the long-winded, circuitous tale of feelings and self-reflection–so much less conversationally convenient, but true. Like most things, true human stories resist simplicity.

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Thoughts from A Guest-Teaching Gig

Last week I had the pleasure of guest-teaching an intermediate-level ballet class at a local studio. It’s been a while since I taught ballet, and I was nervous I would forget the correct terms/tell a dumb joke to a crowd of teenagers/generally make a fool of myself. But luckily, it went rather well!

And in the process, I noticed a handful of interesting things.

  1. I talk a lot.
    Not much to add here. I have many thoughts. I like to share them–though I do try to stick to the “talk less, dance more” motto.
  2. I can’t really plan a full class.

And this isn’t from lack of trying! I’m Ravenclaw Secondary (more on that here), I make lists and plans, my brain has a built-in Excel module. But every time I’ve tried to write down a full class, I always end up going “huh?” halfway through the actual teaching and ditching my notes. It’s the one place I prefer to go off-the-cuff and play off what the students are giving me. I benefit from planning themes and ideas, but I really do enjoy seeing where the class takes us.

3.Ballet classes need to be 2 hours.

There’s just no way around this. You simply cannot fit everything in under that length. Yes, I’m sure there are accomplished professionals who can creatively squish all the necessary exercises into a shorter time, but for students–particularly teenagers–they need the full two hours. The problem really arises in the center, as I would prefer to repeat adagio, turns, and jump combinations twice–once to get the steps, another to work on corrections and to build stamina. But, with only an hour and a half, we didn’t have time to get to grande allegro–one of my favorite things!

4. I’m never going to be the hard-ass.

I was raised in a studio that had high expectations and higher competition. I will forever be thankful and grateful for the training I received, but it wasn’t without its stress and anxiety. I myself have high expectations of my students, and recognize the value of tough love and pushing people farther than they think they can go, but I also don’t want to make them miserable. And I like telling jokes too much. There’s a balance to be struck between strict and entertaining, and I hope over the coming years I can hone that edge so as to be both memorable and educational.

So that’s a collection of thoughts from my stint as a guest teacher! I like teaching dance a lot more than my teenage self imagined, and I hope I have more opportunities to do so in the future.