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Month: October 2015

Highlights From The Happiest Place On Earth

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Hey everybody! I’m back from my vacation, and it’s so good to be home. I was thinking I probably wouldn’t post about my vacation, because I don’t think in general anyone is really into hearing all the details about a trip they didn’t take and which doesn’t concern them. Maybe I’m just a dick like that. But there were some things that were too cool (and too infuriating) not to share. Today, the good:

The Headless Horseman’s horse is amazing. My family and I have wanted to visit Disney World during the Halloween season for a long time, because the Magic Kingdom goes all out for it. There was generous trick-or-treating (you could visit the locations as often as you liked), awesome fireworks, a Hocus Pocus-centric stage show, and an amazing parade that’s preceded by an appearance from the Headless Horseman face character. Wait, does “face character” apply when he’s got no head?

It’s pretty cool to see a headless man riding a coal-black steed and menacing you with a jack-o-lantern, but you’ve got to figure that’s kind of a dangerous stunt. After all, the rider’s visibility has to be severely restricted in the costume, and there are tons of kids watching the parade who could dart into the street at any moment.  He rides at a pretty good clip. It just seems like a recipe for disaster, right?

At the parade, we stood beside a guy who was an off-duty Disney “cast member”, which is what they call everyone who works in the parks. The guy wouldn’t tell us specifically what his job was, which led me to believe he might have been a character and couldn’t say so in front of guests. He explained that the trick to the Horseman wasn’t the rider, but the horse itself. It’s not only trained to know the parade route (including avoiding the treacherous trolley grooves on Main Street), but also to watch for people who might blunder into its path as it races through the Magic Kingdom with its headless rider. It will stop and wait for the person to get out of the way before resuming its fearsome flight.

Very blurry photo of the Headless Horseman
He’s so fast, it’s hard to snap a picture of him!

The ducks. Following on our Headless Horseman theme, there’s a waffle stand that would make Leslie Knope cry with joy just by the entrance to Liberty Square off the main hub of the park. It’s called Sleepy Hollow, and they serve waffles with Nutella, with fruit, with strawberries and whipped cream, cinnamon sugar, they have waffle sandwiches with prosciutto and arugula, it’s really a strange little place (they also make funnel cakes).

The aforementioned prosciutto waffle
I wasn’t lying.

And the strange little place has an outdoor seating area that is besieged by ducks.

Both times we ate at the location, pairs of ducks roamed from occupied table to occupied table. They would quack until you made eye contact with them, then they would quack some more and obviously eye your waffles. Mr.Jen tossed one a piece of arugula. It wasn’t interested. It wanted waffles and funnel cakes and whatever anyone had that was baked or deep fried.

When people weren’t feeding them, a few of them gathered in the middle of the seating area and started quacking loudly. I imagine they were making an announcement. Something along the lines of “Attention humans! I’ll just take a minute of your time. We would like waffles. We are not paid employees of the park and make our wages in dropped bits of waffle. If you could find it in your heart to please, sprinkle some crumbs on the ground, we would greatly appreciate it. God bless you.”

slightly obese mallard ducks

Off-Duty Fairy Godmother. Be Our Guest is probably the coolest Disney dining experience I’ve ever had. You get to eat in the Beast’s castle, in one of three themed rooms, including the massive ballroom that mimics the movie down to every last detail. There’s even a night sky behind the windows, as well as the occasional snow flurry. When you order your food, you do it on screens in the lobby, then pick whatever table you want to sit at and a cast member shows up at your table with all your food. How? They use RF transmitters located in your wristbands (look up Disney Magic Bands. They’re a trip) or in a rose they give you when you arrive. It’s a completely cool thing.

The main dining room of Be Our Guest, a replica of the grand ballroom in the film
How could you not want to eat here?

I had no idea the location was so popular, so I never made a reservation for it. I’ve since learned that people staying at the resorts should make their reservation something like 180 days in advance. We were like, bummer, maybe next time and left it out of our plans.

On the first night of our vacation, we went to Fantasmic, an elaborate water effects, fireworks, and stage show at Disney Hollywood Studios. While we waited in an enormous line for seating, an older lady started up a conversation with my six-year-old daughter. She asked her how she was enjoying the park, what she planned to do on the trip, and if she was going to eat at Be Our Guest. I said that no, sadly, we didn’t have a reservation. And she asked, “Do you want to go?”

The woman was an off-duty cast member who worked at Be Our Guest. She told us to show up as soon as we could after park open, and to tell them her name and that she’d sent us. And it was as easy as that.

Or, would have been. That night Mr.Jen checked to see if a reservation had opened up, and one had, at 8:55, five minutes before park open. But the fact that this woman decided to do us that solid was fantastic.

There’s a guy who wakes up the ducks. Remember how our restaurant reservation was before park open? They have a system where you can enter the park early, directed to the right place by cast members who make sure you’re staying on track and not using your “reservation” as an excuse to camp out in line for a popular attraction like Anna and Elsa at Princess Hall or the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or something.

So, we’re walking along this designated path, and near the castle there’s a guy with a duck call, quacking at these ducks who’re sleeping on the grass. I asked him, “Uh, are you waking up those ducks?” He nodded and smiled and said, “Yeah, we like them to be awake when the park opens and the guests are arriving.” Like it was a totally normal thing to be doing.

Seriously. There’s a guy who walks around and wakes up the ducks so they’ll be ready to receive guests.

So many employees with visible disabilities. You know what I’ve hardly ever thought about? How invisible people with visible disabilities are in the service industry.

That all changed after my week at Disney. Every day I saw people in wheelchairs, people with prosthetic limbs, people using forearm crutches, doing things like serving food or checking us in at the front gate. Things that you wouldn’t normally see a person with a visible disability doing, because frankly, employers would fear that abled guests would feel uncomfortable.

This was rad, but also kind of disheartening, because I realized I’d never seen so many visibly disabled people working in visible service positions like that before. It shouldn’t be novel to see a person with a visible disability working in hospitality, so why is it?

Now, there isn’t much that’s bad about a visit to Disney World, but the bad things? Are infuriating. I will complain about them at length in tomorrow’s post.

State Of The Trout: Vacation!

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Hi there! This is just another reminder that I’m on vacation. I’ll be back next week, and better than ever!

Well, probably not. In fact, probably slightly less better because I’ll be tired. But I’ll try, damn it!

When I return, I vow there will be more The Afflicted, another chapter of Biter for my Patreon buddies, and a return to our regular recap schedule, because I don’t have to travel again until March.

So many months without travel. I’m salivating just thinking about it.

Anyway, thanks for your patience with all of my absences this year. I feel like someone should call a truancy officer or something.

NEW RELEASE! The Feminist Utopia Project

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Hey everybody! While I spend the week in the happiest place on Earth, you can read this new book imagining the happiest place Earth could be. I have a short piece in here, and there are fifty-six other contributors (including Janet Mock and Melissa Harris-Perry), all imagining a world with true equality for all genders.


cover of the feminist utopia project

What do we want?

In this groundbreaking collection, more than fifty cutting-edge voices, including Melissa Harris-Perry, Janet Mock, Sheila Heti, and Mia McKenzie, invite us to imagine a truly feminist world. An abortion provider reinvents birth control, Sheila Bapat envisions an economy that values domestic work, a teenage rock band dreams up a new way to make music, Katherine Cross rewrites the Constitution, and Maya Dusenbery resets the standard for good sex. Combining essays, interviews, poetry, illustrations, and short stories, The Feminist Utopia Project challenges the status quo that accepts inequality and violence as a given—and inspires us to demand a radically better future.

Amazon • Barnes & Noble • iBooks

Scarecrows. Screw those guys.

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My town has been seeming taken over by scarecrows. Here is the saga (ignore my bike helmet’s askew-ness. One of the pads fell out at the post office today and wouldn’t stick back in, so it just kept slipping back. I assure you, I don’t usually wear it so high up on my damn head) (also, the videos are filmed vertically because it’s hard to ride a fucking bike and use a phone, okay?).

*next one has NSFW language

DON’T DO THIS EVER: “From The Horse’s Mouth” edition

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You write a book. You think it’s excellent. Your beta readers love it. You send it off either to a freelance editor that you hired with the intention of self-publishing, or to a publisher. In the latter case, let’s assume your book gets accepted, and it undergoes a round of edits. Either way, you get your manuscript back and it’s covered–absolutely covered–with notes. Maybe the editor felt a character’s motivations weren’t strong enough. Maybe there were factual inaccuracies in your book. But that doesn’t matter. You know in your heart that your book is perfect, and the editor is trying to stifle your creative voice.

I’ve edited fiction as both a freelancer and for a small press, and in that time I worked with authors who were genuinely grateful for my feedback, as well as authors who had mistakenly confused “editing” with “uncritically praising and applauding” and did not like the dose of reality they received. Some of my greatest hits:

  • An author whose manuscript contained the n-word over three hundred times. When asked to remove every instance of the word, the author balked and insisted that it was needed to maintain the historical accuracy and realism of the book’s Old West setting. It was a vampire book. Bonus: the word was almost exclusively used against indigenous Plains people. Author’s response: “They didn’t have bad words for Native Americans back then.”
  • An author who called me at home after ten p.m. on release day because a minor character who never appeared “on-screen” and whose name was mentioned once in the first chapter of the novel had the wrong middle name when mentioned for the second and only other time at the end of the book. This was my fault, she informed me, because a “true professional” would have caught it (though she didn’t during numerous passes of her own manuscript). The author insisted that “hundreds of readers” had reported the mistake to her, but real-time sales data showed that the book had been purchased twice.
  • A freelance client who refused to pay me for the work I did on her over 100k word manuscript because she felt I was “too critical.” The work was later published, though whether she took my advice, I don’t know. What I do know is that she cheated me out of nearly $700.00.

It may seem obvious to you that this behavior isn’t acceptable, but I find it astonishing how many authors don’t. That’s why I’ve consulted some other editors I know to share–anonymously–their favorite cautionary tales.

• “In recent memory, my worst author response was actually a non-response. I encourage every author to tell me what he/she needs–even if that means they need a different editor. This is a business. I don’t take it personally if a client needs a different editorial style. Just buck up and be honest. Recently, an author emailed me just a few days before her book was due. She said it wasn’t written. I was kind; these things happen all the time. Less than a week later…she released said book.

Now, it was a full novel. She couldn’t have had it written, edited, and revised in 6 days. So clearly, she hired a new editor but didn’t want to tell me. So she lied instead…despite knowing I’d see her posts on her personal profile and author page on FB.

I don’t wish her ill will, and I hope the book sells. But the fact is, she cancelled with too little time for me to fill the hole in my schedule, which means I didn’t earn a paycheck that week. I suspect authors forget sometimes that when they mess with an editor’s schedule, they’re also messing with her livelihood. I take great care to meet my deadlines. It’s a point of pride. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to ask clients to do the same.”

• “I once had an author tell me that she was working really hard, trying to get her book finished as quickly as she could by a fast-looming deadline. Not more than ten minutes after receiving that email, I saw that the same author was tweeting about going to the salon to get her hair colored and her nails done and after that she was meeting her husband for lunch and a movie. “

• “I worked for a publishing house that, despite preaching author equality, had a vastly different set of rules for their bestselling authors vs. the rest of their author pool. Company policy was that all manuscripts must be ‘finaled’ (edited, proofed, formatted, etc.) and turned in to management two weeks prior to the release date.

However, I routinely edited manuscripts for a certain author, who was one of the company’s bestsellers, two to three days prior to the release day because that’s when she’d finish it. The worst was when my designated proofer and I pulled an editing all-nighter while the author sent the manuscript a few chapters at a time because she was still writing the book the night before it released. Actually, make that the morning before it released. I don’t think I got the last chapter until four AM, that morning. It went live at ten AM.”
•  “I was editing an anthology. We were getting down to crunch time when one author finally sent me her manuscript for edits. It was rife with misogyny, plot holes, and characters that were TSTL. I worked for days editing this book and sent it off to the author asking that it be turned around ASAP. Almost two weeks later (less than a week before the anthology was supposed to release), I finally got the book back with a note telling me how hard she’d been working on it. Yet, when I opened the manuscript, not a single edit had been made until late in the evening ten days after the manuscript had been returned to her. The book then sat untouched for another two days when she attempted to do all of the edits and somehow added twelve thousand words in one day. Track Changes makes a time and date stamp on all edits. “
•  “I’ve had more than one author go on social media upon receiving edits to complain about their editor not liking their writing and/or that their editor thinks they’re stupid or failures. Conversely, there are those authors who complain that the reason the edits were so bad was because the editor doesn’t like the genre or doesn’t understand the story. “
•  “I was editing a a book that had been co-authored by two authors. It was an M/M erotic paranormal story. Now, I’m not one who believes that all erotic content should follow some sort of unwritten rule. The sexual interaction can come early on or later. It’s whatever fits the story. However, if you’re going to market a book as an erotic tale, there needs to be some kind of erotic content. As I went through this book, I got about three-quarters of the way only to realize there’d been nothing more than a kiss. And I was only a couple of chapters away from the end. So I asked the authors what any editor would…  there is going to be erotic content in your erotic novel, right? But what’s better is that they both wrote in places they could add some, but neither ever did. Ended up going multiple rounds in order to actually reach their marketable audience.”
• “An author called me at home, crying, because a proofer said that they felt a phrase the character used was ‘a little corny’. This brought on a deluge of angry, hysterical tears.”
• “One author argued with me about whether or not a scene was rapey. Heroine is actively saying and thinking no, she doesn’t want to have sex with all these men. “Heroes” proceed to have sex with her anyway. Or, as it’s accurately termed, the “heroes” rape the heroine.
• ” I was editing a book, and I came across a mistake that, dear god, made me laugh so hard. And it was written incorrectly not once but twice because the author thought it was the correct phrasing… The author wanted to say that the character had gotten angry, but wrote…. ‘and he let all his mad out.’ This same author also continually mixed up your and you’re. When I politely reminded them of the difference they left a comment saying they already knew the difference. They had no idea why there were so many mistakes, then proceeded to mix them up again throughout the edits.”
• “I’ve had authors who insist on keeping ethnic or racial slurs when they’re pointed out, because ‘They’ve become common usage.'”
• “I used to work with an author who, when I would ask a question about a character or the plot, would write paragraphs upon paragraphs in comments explaining it to me. Even after working on numerous books together, this was a regular thing. A good rule of thumb, if something needs that much explanation, that information needs to be in the book, not in comments to your editor. As an author, you aren’t going to be on hand when readers ask these questions. ”
• “The overenthusiastic thesaurus user—As much as authors should avoid repetitive words and phrases, sometimes, it can be made worse than simple repetition. In an effort to avoid repetition, it requires much more than simply pulling up or clicking synonyms in your document and replacing the word. That can lead to some clunky and awkward sentences—particularly when the new word isn’t exactly the same as the word replaced and it actually changes the meaning of the sentence.
So there you have it. Don’t argue with your editors, ignore their suggestions, miss your deadlines, and if you’re going to lie, don’t expose yourself on social media. Follow these way not difficult rules and you should be fine.

The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch, S02E20, “Go Fish”

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In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone has still not learned her lesson about buying Cheez-Its to keep in her office. She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:

  1. Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
  2. Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
  3. Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
  4. Willow’s magic is utterly useless (this one won’t be an issue until season 2, when she gets a chance to become a witch)
  5. Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
  6. The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
  7. All the monsters look like wieners.
  8. If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
  9. Angel is a dick.
  10. Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
  11. Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
  12. Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
  13. Science and technology are not to be trusted.
  14. Mental illness is stigmatized.
  15. Only Willow can use a computer.
  16. Buffy’s strength is flexible at the plot’s convenience.
  17. Cheap laughs and desperate grabs at plot plausibility are made through Xenophobia.
  18. Oz is the Anti-Xander
  19. Spike is capable of love despite his lack of soul
  20. Don’t freaking tell me the vampires don’t need to breathe because they’re constantly out of frickin’ breath.
  21. The foreshadowing on this show is freaking amazing.
  22. Smoking is evil.
  23. Despite praise for its positive portrayal of non-straight sexualities, some of this shit is homophobic as fuck.
  24. How do these kids know all these outdated references, anyway?
  25. Technology is used inconsistently as per its convenience in the script.
  26. Sunnydale residents are no longer shocked by supernatural attacks.
  27. Casual rape dismissal/victim blaming a-go-go
  28. Snyder believes Buffy is a demon or other evil entity.
  29. The Scoobies kind of help turn Jonathan into a bad guy.
  30. This show caters to the straight female gaze like whoa.

Have I missed any that were added in past recaps? Let me know in the comments.  Even though I might forget that you mentioned it.

WARNING: Some people have mentioned they’re watching along with me, and that’s awesome, but I’ve seen the entire series already and I’ll probably mention things that happen in later seasons. So… you know, take that under consideration, if you’re a person who can’t enjoy something if you know future details about it. 

CW: Rape