Words have power. Fact. We live in an age where anyone can say anything and be believed. An age where fact checking is only reliable if it aligns with your beliefs. Words. Have. Power.
But power to what? To sway, to innovate, to encourage, to bring hope – and in their absence limit important forms of expression necessary for real communication. A few weeks ago two events brought these thoughts to the surface. And while both cases are based in fiction there are real world implications.
In every story that you read,
a heroine or hero fills a need
and the day is saved—not with luck,
but with courage, heart, and a bit of pluck.
The story of The Heart of the River begins with a family announcement. A little over three years ago I learned I was going to become an aunt for the first time. Excited by just the idea of her existence I put pen to paper and after a few months had a first draft of what would turn out to be a little girl’s journey of discovery.
While in the process of trying to pull together a reflective piece on Hamilton as public history, my friend Sarah H. had a dream where she saw me rewriting the lyrics to “Ten Duel Commandments.”
What follows is the first of three completely different posts on the musical. You should be aware I wrote “Ten Ham Commandments” on a five-hour bus ride between DC and Newark, and in doing so I now have a reinforced appreciation for Lin Manuel Miranda’s skills. Seven was ridiculously hard to re-write (internal rhymes!), and refers to a response Miranda gave during his recent interview at the National Museum of American History about what he wanted his own legacy to be. You can listen and read the original lyrics here – with annotations. Thanks to Sarah H. for helping me edit. In the end this parody is really about how much Hamilton connects with a more inclusive view of the past. Continue reading “Ten Ham Commandments”→
“We are such stuff as dreams are made on…”
At the end of each year I get hit with a double dose of nostalgia and romanticism. I feel regret at the time I wasted from the year before but believe in the opportunity of the many days left ahead. So this year when I sent out my holiday/new year cards I asked my friends, co-workers, and loved ones for their dreams for the coming year.
But what are dreams? They are wishes and hopes. They are goals and tasks for a better life. For others it is a broadening of skills and minds.
Dreams are a search for something more, something different. They are an acknowledgement of change. Often though dreams cannot be bound by a single year, and need to be broken up into pieces.
Sometimes dreams are for others. They are a hope for strength, for well-being, and a wish for them to have peace of mind.
My dreams aren’t simple. In my first post of the year I laid out some resolutions: to become more focused, take control, and to define success for myself. My dreams are linked to these resolutions. I hope to control the uncontrollable while also letting fate take its course.
In clearer terms. I want to know I’ll always be happy. Satisfied. Able to withstand change, loss, and uncertainty. I want to be able to accept love or disaster when they arrive at my doorstep. I want to know how the story ends. I want to be brave. So really, I want a TARDIS of my very own.
It’s tough to keep a show going after ten years. Scripts start getting creative. Having a helicopter land on someone’s head becomes normal (Oh ER, when are you going to end up on Netflix?), and you lose sight of who the characters are amidst the drama.
I started watching Grey’s Anatomy in the middle of season 3 and vowed to stop watching last year when Sandra Oh’s Cristina Yang departed.
Best. Laid. Plans. When the show premiered again this fall I was back, ready to hear of the happenings at Grey-Sloane Memorial Hospital including, spoiler alert, the introduction of yet another sister for Mer.
But this is not a post about Grey’s Anatomy. This is a post about diversity and storytelling from Shonda Rhimes the creator/writer of Grey’s, Private Practice, Scandal, and the executive producer of the new How to Get Away with Murder. Two weeks ago she gave an interview for the Smithsonian Associates at the National Museum of Natural History, and I thought what she had to say about diversity and storytelling was worth repeating. Continue reading “Nobody Knows Where They Might End Up”→
It’s not a great feeling. A self-instituted pressure combined with a tingling in my fingers as they rest on a keyboard waiting for words to come. My head feels full, as if perched on a cliff expecting something to push it over the edge. And then there are all the ideas jumbling, tumbling, and pushing me around.
This story was origionally posted on the Indian American Story the blog for the Smithsonian’s Indian-American Heritage Project.
In early April, pop star Selena Gomez incited media buzz when she appeared in public wearing a bindi. She is not the first celebrity to wear something Indian, but I have to ask:
Should I feel offended that someone has chosen to appropriate a piece of Indian cultural identity for entertainment? Or is it another sign of how elements of my heritage have trickled into the American subconscious? If she “meant well,” is it OK? Or is it never OK for someone who is not Indian to wear such a symbol without preserving its meaning? And, at what point does something go from being culturally appropriate to cultural appropriation?
Let’s consider three scenarios.
Scenario 1: So You Think You Can Dance contestants perform a Bollywood-style dance number. The performance includes elements of hip-hop and classical Indian styles.
DAVIS (shaking his head): When we really first met. We were in London they had just announced the end of the war and you were there taking care of Lady Weschester….that night…it changed my life. It gave it meaning.
S. HARROW (shaking her head violently): We talked. Nothing more. You’re reading into it too much–what about Lady Victoria.
DAVIS: Damn Victoria! It is you that I love.
The invitations were sent. The silver polished. Footman stood at the ready for one of the finest soirée’s Buckinghamshire had ever known. All that was left was for the director to call action.
For the last two years I’ve participated in a murder mystery club. It started with a friend’s birthday party which was set in the 1920’s–your typical murder mystery out of a box with villains, heroes, heroines and of course……murrrrrrrrder.
Somewhere along the way three of us started to write the mysteries ourselves, taking a gander at figuring out motive, means, opportunity and a gaggle of red herrings to confuse and bewilder our guests. In the past these investigative forays took place in the Wild West, the land of fairy tales or at an intergalactic peace accord signing (guess who wrote that one). For this spring’s adventure I embraced my love of pop culture, gossip and history and set the tale on the set of a Downton Abbey rip-off called Mulgrave Manor.
When I started this blog in 2009 I had intended for it to serve as an outlet for these words I constantly have churning in my head. Words floating around after I step out into the world, asking–begging to be written down. These words are more than just a way to express myself, they are a way for me to paint a picture, tell a story, form a narrative. They are letters that form sentences that lead to ideas.
So when I look back at my words this year, I realize that 2012 was filled with milestones. When this blog goes live it will be my 108th post*, and the nineteen posts that made up this year have a few common themes. Some were labors of love (the history of Jim Crow, and my piece on public history, the American Revolution, and 1865) while others looked to my travels from Wisconsin to Washington State. I also attended some gorgeously produced theatre productions that pushed storytelling to the next level (not to mention the big Disney buys Lucasfilm news). With every word I put down I tried to embrace the connections between what we read, see, and watch and what we think following these experiences.