Sunday, April 2, 2017

Parody, squared

There was one true statement in yesterday’s post: I am having a lot of fun with Parodies for Charities. But as I’ve said, P4C aims to make the world a better place, and enlisting me to solve your math problems would not further that goal.

Contrary to yesterday’s claim, my math skills aren’t dazzling, but I do have the ability to read a calendar. Happy Day After April Fools’ Day.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

My businesses are multiplying!

I’ve been having so much fun with Parodies for Charities that my mathematical side wanted to get in on the equation. Introducing Solutions for Contributions! Got math problems? Send ‘em my way! (You’re on your honor not to send me your homework.) I will dazzle you with my cunning calculations in exchange for a donation to the Number One Foundation, a charity that does the important work of looking out for its members. Starting rate is the square root of $100; a 50-cent surcharge applies if you need that square root calculated for you.

Your problems are my problems. Email for solutions.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

What Mary Meant

A blog about children's books can also be about what stories mean to us, especially if that meaning starts when we're young. So here's what The Mary Tyler Moore Show meant to me when I was in middle school and began watching it on Nick at Nite, or maybe it was TVLand:

It was a very funny show with great characters.

I probably should've been more focused on the fact that it was a show about a career woman. I would've applauded it for that, if I'd thought about it. But I don't remember thinking about it back then, at least not much. Mary was a grownup. She went to a job and did other grownup things.

You know why Mary's career didn't seem like a big deal to this '90s kid? Because career women were fairly normalized by the '90s. You know how they got normalized? By shows like TMTMS. (Among other things, obviously. But as we know, representation matters.)

I've been re-watching a few episodes this evening, and of course, by now it's very clear to me how amazing this show was. Though it was an ensemble show (with one of the first explicitly Jewish characters I remember seeing on mainstream TV), it was Mary's name scrolling over the screen during the theme song, Mary who carried the show. (Her previous show, you may recall, had her TV husband's name on it.) There's no extended love interest on TMTMS, and though some episodes focus on her (rather feminist) dating life, others focus on many different aspects of her existence. Friend stuff. Job stuff. Personal growth stuff. In the episode I started with at random tonight, sweet Hufflepuffish journalist Mary Richards spends a night in jail rather than reveal a source. You. Go. Girl.

All this is to say how sad I was to hear of Mary Tyler Moore's passing. (My initial reaction, actually, was more like a yelp of indignation.) Her best-known character seemed like a friend when I was young because she was sweet and funny, and now that I understand more about her, she seems even more like a friend.

And if representation matters, then God bless Mary-as-Laura Petrie for wearing pants.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

A song for the Women's Marches

to the tune of “The People’s Song” from Les Miserables*

Do you see the women’s walks?
For if we sit this out, then when
will we speak up to say that “people”
means a whole lot more than “men?”
When the thousands taking part
echo the world’s variety,
maybe the powerful
should listen attentively.

Will you join in our crusade
just like so many have before?
Beyond the mess we’ve made,
is there a hope you can’t ignore?
Then join in the fight,
and you might find that women can roar.

Do you see the people march—
furious women, angry men.
Follow the footsteps of a peaceful wish
for hope to come again.
When the beating of your heart
echoes your pounding winter boots,
maybe a modern movement’s coming,
and you’re its roots.

Will you give what you can give
so people have the rights they should,
if it’s marriage, if it’s healthcare,
if it’s planning parenthood?
A lot’s going wrong here,
but you can be part of what’s good.

Did you hear when Dr. King,
during some marching of his own,
said that he dreamed of truer freedom,
said, “we cannot walk alone?”
Here we are, still waging words,
fighting the necessary fights.
Let’s walk together, march for humans
and human rights.

*chosen by popular vote, via a Twitter poll asking what song Parodies for Charities should commission from itself in honor of the Women’s Marches

Friday, November 18, 2016

Parodies for Charities!

Proceeds are currently going to The Trevor Project.



When in the course of inhuman events it becomes necessary to remind the powerful that, for one thing, the word "consent" appears right in our nation's first founding document (look it up), it also becomes necessary to do something about it. For we held these truths to be self-evident, but apparently they bear repeating: that we (including but not limited to straight white dudes) are endowed by our creator (regardless of our belief or lack thereof in any particular creator) with certain in-freaking-alienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which at this point pretty much requires that we laugh.

Okay, so here's the thing. I keep wanting to respond to the gigantic need for help right now, but most of what I come up with is words. So I finally asked myself, how can I turn words into more tangible contributions?

By selling them and donating the proceeds, of course.

And so, I invite you to commission a parody (of anything--a poem, a song, a children's book, a historical document...). Ridiculous requests encouraged. It can be something for your own entertainment or inspiration, or something to stick in a Christmas stocking or share over a plate of latkes. I'm happy to write about people I don't know and in-jokes I'm not in on; just feed me some details.

All proceeds will go to organizations that could use some proceeds. The first $50, which I'll match, will go to RAINN.

Starting rate is $10; rates negotiable for long or especially complicated works. To be clear, Parodies for Charities provides words only, as my attempts at visual arts or singing would not further the goal of making the world a better place.

Lead time: We'll talk. A week should usually be plenty; if I think it'll be more than that at the time of your request, I'll let you know that upfront.

Email shoshana dot flax at gmail dot com for all your parody needs.



Sunday, November 6, 2016

Reality. On TV.

My first memory of something in the news is from an election when I was little. As far as I can tell, it was a million times less contentious than the current one (which is why I'm skipping the specifics--no one deserves the comparison). I was not exactly politically aware, but my parents explained to me what was happening in basic terms, and I knew which candidate they hoped would win.

The day after the election, they told me that the other candidate had won, and I remember being very surprised. To my young mind, this thing happening far away, involving two men I'd never met, was a story. And stories were supposed to have happy endings. (Which were defined by the adults around me.)

It's easy to feel like what's happening in the news is a story, even when we understand it a little better than I did way back when. Most of us don't know the candidates personally, but we've been told a lot about them, so they become characters to us. It's somewhat natural for them to occupy the same space in our brains as, say, Hermione and Voldemort, even natural for us to want to rubberneck when one of them does something shocking. I know I've been guilty of that sometimes. I've even caught myself assuming things will turn out okay, because that's how the story's supposed to go.

The thing is, we have no power over the (canonical) fate of Hogwarts. We--at least, probably the majority of people reading this--do have some power over the fate of a lot of other things.

 Like many others, I keep thinking lately of Mrs. Banks and her "Sister Suffragette" song in the Mary Poppins movie. Mrs. Banks wasn't real, but the people she sang about were, and so were their counterparts here in the U.S. They knew that the stories they read in the newspaper were real, and they wanted to do something about them.

Well done, sister suffragettes. Now it's our turn.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

You can have your ghosts and goblins. I've got public speaking.

I have a recurring nightmare: I'm in front of a crowd at an author event. Someone asks me a question, one that I could answer just fine if I could just sit down and write, and possibly rewrite, a response. But everyone is looking at me! They're all waiting for me to respond, and I'm very aware that they're waiting for me to respond. This awareness replaces all coherent thought in my mind, and all I can manage is an eloquent "Aaaap. Baaaaap. Bah." Which is immediately quoted on Twitter. #authorfail.

Okay, my feelings about speaking in front of groups aren't that bad. Really. But like many people who like to communicate through writing, I'm not quite as comfortable in front of a group as I want to be. (Insert thinkpiece here about introversion. Insert second thinkpiece about tropes and bookishness and movies with women who have to overcome their glasses.)

I've been to so many speeches, readings, and panels where authors were engaging, inspiring, hilarious, or all three, and it made me care about their ideas and want to read their books. The ones I went to when I was younger made even stronger impressions, and if I'd ever been brave enough to ask a question, I would've held onto the answer forever.

That's the kind of author I want to be. The writing itself is the most important thing, but I also care about being part of the children's book community, and I hope I can create good meeting-the-author memories for some young readers. If those memories can be free of aaaap-baaaaap-bahs, even better. I want to be able to think less about the fact that I'm Up in Front of People, and think more about what would be interesting or helpful for those people to hear.

So I decided to do something about it: I've signed up for a public speaking class. The first session was this past week, and yes, the first time I got up to speak, I was really aware of all the people looking at me and waiting for me to say things. Supportive though the environment was, I know I talked too fast, and if someone had asked me a tough question, I would've had a hard time giving a thorough answer.

And then the second time I got up to speak, I talked a bit more slowly, and thinking was a little easier. Funny how that works.

Halloween, schmalloween. I'm conquering my own fear this October.