Monday, February 26, 2007

Justin Suarez. Ugly Betty.

So one of my favorites this season has been Ugly Betty for a number of reasons. Yeah, we all know the show is fabulous.

But from a writer's point of view, it's amazing that an ensemble show can have so many characters that we care about, and who all have a story that makes them self-sustaining... meaning, they're not dependent on another character to have an interesting backstory or storyline.

One of those characters I'm totally loving on the show is the character Justin Suarez, Betty's fashion-loving, high-energy and enthusiastic, odd-guy-out, nephew. Whether he's giving his mom or aunt clothing tips, or singing a medley of Broadway musicals, or just swinging his hands in the air while dancing... we see our 12-year-old selves in him. Well, I do. And I'm sure many other present-day 12-year-olds are, too.

Yeah, we cringe at times. Yeah, we feel the parental/family angst "Is he or isn't he?" But the cool thing is how the writers (and the fictional Suarez family) are letting Justin just be who he is... the way parents and families should let their kids be. Themselves, without trying to change them. And I know it's going to be a great storyline payoff years down the line as the writers delve into the "Is he or isn't he?" subject, but honestly it really doesn't matter.

I'm sure some kids who watch Ugly Betty are loving that there's someone like them on television. Can you imagine a kid like Justin on TV in the 80s or 90s? The show is just so issue forward -- remember the episode where Betty educated her dad on the difference between a transgender and a transsexual? It was a nice "teachable" moment... the way art should be used to educate the general public.

Anyway, this entry has absolutely nothing to do with writing, or books, or all that jazz. But in a way it does... it's nice seeing the writers tackle issues in a way that makes them not issues. Justin Suarez just is... and all of our characters in our fiction should just be... part of the landscape, and allowed to be who they are, as if they're just like everybody else.

In other words, our characters can normalize issues and groups that should already be considered normal.

A site devoted to Justin Suarez.
L.A. Times article, Just The Way You Are
A MySpace devoted to the character of Justin Suarez.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Year of the Boar... or Pig

Happy New Year... again.

The good thing about this time of year is if you haven't gotten around to starting all the new goals of the year you wanted, you get a second chance.

Lunar New Year begins on the first new moon of the new year, which begins February 18. Lunar New Year is a celebration of change, rings in all the good, closes out all the bad. Often, we hear Chinese New Year, which is partly accurate. Many Asian communities around the world celebrate the Lunar New Year, not just China. This is the Year of the Boar. You might see Pig, too.

Besides red envelopes, gold coins, dragon dances, firecrackers, and red clothing (all representing luck and prosperity), I love reading about the various characteristics of the animals represented by the Lunar New Year calendar. These are part of a small handout my office puts together (original source unknown) about Lunar New Year.

Boar (1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007)
Pure of heart, Boar people are generous and kind. Full of inner strength and courage, they can take on any task. A friend who listens, the Boar is sincere and trustworthy. They are driven by their passion and pleasure for life.

Dog (1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018)
Noble and true, the Dog will fight to mend all that is unjust. A loyal and faithful friend, they will make any sacrifice for the sake of another. A hard worker, they will never abandon their post. A genuine listener and confidant, the Dog is the keeper of all secrets.

Rooster (1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017)
Self-reliant and independent, the Rooster is not one to seek counsel. They are confident and aggressive and are most at home in a crowd. A perfectionist, they leave no detail undocumented. Roosters will never abandon their dreams.

Monkey (1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016)
Clever and quick-witted, the Monkey is successful in every endeavor. Inquisitive by nature, they are constantly seeking new opportunities and adventure. Their intellect and versatility allow them to adapt to any situation. Many are entertained by the monkey's good humor and mischievous spirit.

Ram (1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015)
Gentle and docile, the Ram is sincere and kind-hearted. A pacifist, they are never one to question authority. Fueled by compassion, they admire all of nature's beauty. Rams strive to create a secure and tranquil environment.

Horse (1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014)
A free spirit, Horse people cherish their independence. Always on the move, it is hard to slow them down. Given the power of persuasion, they can obtain whatever they desire. Horses need constant stimulation to appease their wild soul.

Snake (1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013)
A natural philosopher, the Snake is blessed with a profound wisdom. Always on a mission, they are dedicated to their chosen quest. Seductive and mysterious, many are blinded by their hypnotic charm. Snakes have an unforgettable elegance and style.

Dragon (1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012)
Never cautious, the Dragon is not afraid when faced with a challenge. They will defend and protect any cause close to their heart. Confident and strong, they enter all battles unassisted. Dragons are known for their powerful and majestic spirit.

Rabbit (1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011)
Wise and insightful, Rabbit people possess a deep understanding of others. Not one to take risks, they are cautious when making decisions. A protector of diplomacy, they seek compromise to all conflicts. Their creativity and style keep them surrounded by beauty.

Tiger (1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010)
Brave and courageous, the Tiger is ready for any challenge. Nothing can tame their adventurous and rebellious spirit. A supreme optimist, they pursue their goals with fierce intensity. Tigers are admired for their vibrant and playful personality.

Ox (1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009)
The keeper of tradition, the Ox maintains a classic and sophisticated style. Iron-willed, they remain true to their beliefs. A strong leader, their hard work and dedication is an inspiration to all. Ox people never stray from their chosen path.

Rat (1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1973, 1984, 1996, 2008)
Full of charm, the Rat is the object of admiration. A true sentimantalist, family and friends remain close to their heart. Their intellect and foresight bring success with money and work. Rats are constant seekers of new ventures and travel.

Enjoy Lunar New Year celebrations, which start Sunday, February 18.... though many restaurants and households will be crowded with huge New Years dinners and celebrations on Saturday evening.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Some Love. Some Pain. Sometime.

As we head into this "greeting-card-company" holiday called Valentine's Day, I can't help but write about what's on many of our minds -- whether it's for happy reasons or not-so-happy reasons.

Not that I'm currently in love with anyone. I'm kinda digging someone right now and we've been hanging out since the beginning of the year when we met. Such vague and non-commiting language, I know. Because I'm not sure if our expectations are on the same level, and honestly because it's been fun spending time with him, I don't want to jinx it by bringing anything up to show we're just not that into each other. If it's fun and flowing, why mess it up?

But I tell you, when expectations don't match -- meaning one likes one more than the other, or one wants a sexual relationship only while the other wants an emotional relationship to develop -- and no one talks about the expectations, that's how hearts get broken. Just say upfront -- I want this, what are you expecting, and I hope we match... or can grow to match in expectations. Or, if the expectations are mis-matched, and you KNOW you're mis-matched, and can psychologically deal with the mis-matched expectations... then by all means... enjoy. Being centered is a good thing in this area.

(If you're reading this... my fun/ny, goofball, still-getting-your-life-together, party-loving, spontaneous scheduler and flaker, server of a mean blended java, twenty-something man of multiple jobs and talents and skills... this is what you get for hanging with a writer type... you asked... we'll talk. hehe.)

So long story short, pick up or read J. California Cooper's short story collection Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime. Great stories about women who choose the wrong man, people who think they'll never find a significant other but do, and femme fatales who use every trick in the book to get a man.

What I love about J. California Cooper's stories is that the characters will tell you/teach you the things your mom or grandma would tell/teach you if they were in the room. That wonderful mother-wit. The stuff we all need. The stuff we choose to throw to the wind when we know we should take it into consideration. Just because he looks good... or makes us feel good, like a Monster's Ball "make me feel good" moment.

But ultimately, it's about J. California Cooper's writing.

Wrote about J. California Cooper before. And my favorite short story by her, "$100 and Nothing," about a haunting kind of love.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Danger Dog

OK. So, this is going to be a stretch. And I'm freaking hungry now, a little after midnight. But this does relate to writing. A little. Just hold on.

Ask anyone in L.A. what this is, and they'll tell you. This lovely treat is called a Danger Dog.

Ask anyone in L.A. when and where you get these, and they'll tell you. It's an after-club L.A. delicacy, and people are frying them up in club parking lots or on the sidewalks outside bars. Or, uh, maybe it seems like a delicacy when you're leaving your favorite night spot, are super hungry, and have just enough singles left to shell out $2 or $3 for one of these numbers.

These hot dogs, wrapped in bacon (seduced by bacon, that's me!), and slathered with mayonnaise, mustard, grilled onions, and a whole jalapeno pepper are FAB-u-lous at 3 am. I know. I had one on Saturday night/Sunday morning. You can only get them from street vendors who work the after-club scene.

Local treats or hangouts... Danger Dogs in L.A., Faygo Pop in Detroit (gimme a red pop!), Harold's Chicken in Chicago, Junior's in Brooklyn... can add to the authenticity of setting as you're writing your short story or novel. Not only are we capturing the "who does what" angle of the story, but we're also charged with setting the scene and developing the environment around the characters.

The city your story is located is very much a "character" and these local goodies are things that contribute to a well-developed character. It's kinda cool when you're reading a story or novel, and you recognize the characters' favorites or hang-outs as your own.

Kinda like another L.A. goodie... that anyone who's spent time in the gay scene can tell you about.... talk about adding authenticity to your location. R-r-r-r-r-osas!

Now, why we call them Danger Dogs? That's a whole 'nother story, but your characters can certainly share their perspectives in your short story or novel.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Jenifer Lewis: Bipolar, Bath & Beyond. L.A.

Love her performances soooooo much. Words aren't even needed. Will be there when the show runs in Los Angeles, February 10 - March 3, 2007.

The new one-woman show starring Jenifer Lewis: Bipolar, Bath & Beyond.

If you can't catch BBB, you can love her in Jackie's Back or the upcoming Dirty Laundry.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Philadelphia: 2nd National Black Church Summit, March 10, 2007

Set in the city of Brotherly love and the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence where all people were declared to be created equal under the law, the National Black Justice Coalition continues the dialogue of equality and equal justice with a nationwide forum on Black Church Homophobia. The summit takes place Saturday, March 10, 2007 in Philadelphia.

Over three hundred people from across the nation will gather to debate the issue of homosexuality and its role within the Black Church as well as provide solutions on how to create a welcoming and gay affirming church.

Black iconic intellectuals such as the Rev. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson plus several other religious leaders both anti-gay and gay affirming will headline the event and facilitate discussion ranging from HIV and the Black Church to debating the legitimacy of scripture referring to homosexuality.

In addition to Dr. Dyson, other confirmed participants include Bishop Harry Jackson (Maryland), Bishop Yvette Flunder (San Francisco), Rev. Eugene Rivers (Boston), Dr. Kenneth Samuel (Atlanta). Rev. Deborah L. Johnson (Santa Cruz, CA), and Rev. Irene Monroe (Boston).

NBJC Black Church Summit Talking Points:

What is NBJC?
The National Black Justice Coalition is a nationwide Black gay civil rights organization headquartered in Washington, DC. The mission of the organization is to end to racism and homophobia within the Black communities across America.

The 2nd Annual Black Church Summit will be held at the historic Mother Bethel AME Church, 419 S. 6th Street, Philadelphia, PA, Saturday, March 10, 2007, 9am- 5pm.

Media Briefings/Interviews:
9am – 11:30am, Saturday, March 10, 2007. To schedule time please and any special requests please contact Herndon Davis, at or at 202-349-3739.

Why is the Black Church Summit important? Why should my media outlet cover it?
The factors of HIV, anti-gay violence and emotional depression are rampant within the Black gay community. Often the Black Church is ill equipped to adequately address these issues which are often swept under the societal rug.

This year’s event will once again attract nationally prominent clergy, civil rights leaders, and many opposed to and also affirming of homosexuality. Our goal is to assist the Black Church on how to embrace their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender friends, neighbors, family, and members of their congregations.

The continued silence of the Black gay community on issues dealing with homophobia has left the entire community vulnerable to the divisive tactics of those who do not have the community’s best interest at heart.

What does NBJC plan to accomplish through the Black Church Summit?
We plan to increase the size of our ongoing Black Church Social Justice Community Action Network which is a national coalition of gay affirming Black churches and clergy who will provide activism on ending Black Church homophobia and discrimination.

What is NBJC’s position on gay marriage?
There is no such thing as same-sex marriage, there is only marriage and we believe that all Americans regardless of race, ethnicity and sexual orientation should have the right to marry the person they love.

Can I receive more information about NBJC or the Black Church Summit?
Yes, please contact Dr. Sylvia Rhue at or at 202-349-3855.