Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sometimes Comedy Isn't Pretty, But It Doesn't Have to Be Cruel

After giving it some serious thought, I removed "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" from my Netflix lineup. It is a great show and I was pretty excited about it. However, the cruel lampooning of a real person nags at me. I know it wasn't THE thing that precipitated Dr. Brandt's suicide. It shouldn't have happened, period. The showrunners didn't need to ridicule someone to make "Kimmy" funny.

In some ways, this casts the same kind of pall that the shtick about bullying Gary/Jerry/etc. did over Parks and Rec.The inevitable pile-on on Jerry always made me wonder if the creators of the show really thought it was funny..

The only conclusion I can come to is that the people who write this kind of material have never been bullied or maybe they've never been bullied enough to understand the impact it can have. I can speak from personal experience, having been and still being the "Jerry" in many situations and having a costume director actually create character's look based on my appearance for a mainstage show while I was an undergraduate at Memphis State in the late 80s.

What happened this week brought back a lot of bad stuff I thought I'd left behind. No matter how good or bad your life is going, there is no way that public ridicule can not affect you. It hurts. It makes you feel that you are less than a person and if you aren't particularly outgoing, it makes you fearful, sad, and feeling that the only safe place is alone. Worse, there is no way to fight back because you are not in a position of power.

I think for me the worst part is that these are women-driven, women-centered shows that are marked by dick moves. I expected better.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Love the Work You're With

by Jas Faulkner

Yesterday I received an email from someone I've chatted with online since 1996.  1996.  The people born that year are starting college or careers or enlisting in the military or any number of things that mark them as grownups.  Wow.

So anyway...

She wanted to congratulate me on hitting the one year mark with my website.  (For the few of you who actually only know me from this blog...all...two of you? The site she was talking about was  She went on to say that many ventures don't make it to the six-month mark, much less a whole year. And then she said a lot of nice things that at the time I wasn't sure were actually true.

Then she asked me how I'd sum it up.


The most important thing the past year has revealed to me? It has been an object lesson in what happens when you get what you want. It has also been a year-long crash course in learning to be the grown up.

Not that it makes any sense, but my vision of creating an online magazine never included managing other people.  It was possibly my least favorite aspect of collaborative work. That sort of thing has always left me not liking what parts of my personality come to the surface.  By nature I am not a leader.  Heck, I'm not even that great when it comes to following. Still, there was no way to get around it.  If I wanted the website, I would have to learn to lead.

So I learned, not just from the editors of other sites who took the time to advise me, but from the writers who stuck by me and the site over the last year. It hasn't been without some highs and lows.  Relationships have changed.  Some of them are stronger for the experience.  Some of them revealed weak places and broke from the strain.

The highs, even the smooth places have been pretty good.

The lows were memorable in ways that will provide fodder for a future story.  I think the absolute low point for me was logging into the online press room one morning to read a message from a writer who declared that he was in charge and called the site a "trainwreck".   Four staff writers LOLed and gave him virtual high-fives.

I shut off the computer, had a Holly Hunter from "Broadcast News" crying jag, and then spent the rest of the day asking myself how much I really wanted this. It turned out that I wanted it quite a bit.  The next day I logged in to the website, ignored the conversation, and got down to the business of planning the relaunch with a new hosting company.

I had almost completely forgotten that incident when an intern who was reading the and cleaning out the message boards in the press room came across the conversation.

"What did you think when you saw that?" he asked.

"I thought, 'I suck at this and I need to quit and turn the whole thing back into a handmade goods store.' That was my first thought.  Later on that day, I thought, 'You need to go.' Then I decided to hold off and see what happened next."

"It's fucking cruel," he said.  "Say that shit in backchannel, not right there where everyone can see how you feel.  Better yet, just quit if you have little respect what someone else has built."*

I told him that the incident really hurt at the time.  It also taught me a valuable lesson about how I taught people to treat me and my work.  It stuck with me.  Going forward, I learned what wasn't instinctive about being the boss.  I also learned respect for what I was doing and how to extend that to everyone around me as a way to nurture and demonstrate what I wanted.

So the highs that came in September and October, the first anniversary and beyond, those were all the sweeter for having dealt with everything that came before.  It gave me a sense of confidence, something I need as I move forward to 2014.

Here's the thing.  You can invest everything, and by everything I mean all that you are and all that you have in the material, emotional, and the spiritual sense.  The condition is that your work has to love you back.  By that, I mean the good days have to outnumber the bad. You might get tired, but there is always some aspect of it that pulls you away from being depleted. It makes you smile, even on the bad days.  Going past not minding, you are happy to be there.  Mind boosts spirit that in turn boosts body that boosts mind that boosts spirit and so on...

A friend once explained a difficult choice he had to make as an answer to the need to take care of himself.  He said at that point, it would have to come first.  He's right.   If you're reading this and wondering if the self-care (possibly professional self-defense) you're contemplating is selfish, I'll venture a guess on your behalf and say it isn't.

No matter what perks you might think you need to offer, what bells and whistles you can add as tools, the main thing you have to offer is yourself. The nice part is, its your choice to make that person cared for and confident and ready to off care in return.

So yeah, love yourself enough to care about yourself and you'll find that your work loves you back or it ins't the right work.

*And with that, he made up for nearly deleting the whole site the day before.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

An Open Letter To Victoria Jackson

Dear Ms. Jackson,

First of all, welcome to Tennessee.  Like many natives, I have a Faulknerian love/hate relationship with my native state, so it always feels a little hypocritical to say, "Howdy! You're gonna love it here!"  The simple truth is, you are going to love it here, at least I hope you will. It seems like a lot of transplants do and you know?  That makes me feel pretty good.

Welcoming you here is one reason I wanted to write this letter-blog-post thingie.  Another thing I wanted to talk to you about is Middle Tennessee religious life. Quite a few people have this notion that Middle Tennessee is a hotbed of Protestant Christian homogeneity.

Most of the population around here is one flavor or another of Protestantism: Southern Baptists, The Church of Christ, Presbyterians, Pentecostal Holiness, Methodists, Lutherans, COGIC, D of C, Episcopalians waving hi!... There's no doubt we're the majority. There are other kinds of Christians around here as well.  You'll find a large number of devout Roman Catholics who attend masses in (the last time I counted) three different languages.  There are Greek and Russian Orthodox communities of faith.  With a little searching you can find some Coptic and Messianic congregations as well.

But, Victoria?  (Yeah, I am going to be forward and call you by your first name because I'm a Victoria, too, and it's a fun name to type.)  All of those people are just one piece of a bigger picture.  Go to any event where there is a cross section of people from this part of the state, say a Titans game.  You'll see Atheists, Agnostics, Sikhs, Jews who are extremely observant and Jews who wouldn't turn down a decent plate of BBQ, Pagans, Wiccans, Asatru, Jains, Buddhists, and yes, Muslims.

Those people are an important part of this place we call home, too.  They're Tennesseans, just like you and me. They're our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers, they might be family by blood or marriage or a meaningful bond that just happens. One of the nicest things about living here is that nearly everyone is from somewhere else. What they bring with them makes Nashville a dynamic, interesting place to live.

I bring this up because I read that you want to oppose the opening of a mosque in Rutherford County. From what you've said in the past, I take it you're afraid of the people who will be using this building. Why?  Like anyone else here, they want to work, raise families, and be a part of the larger community.  I imagine they are too busy living their own lives to give much thought to disrupting anyone else's.

That's why I'm asking you to at least think about accepting this place for every aspect of what it is. I hope you'll open your heart and explore everything Nashville has to offer.

Jas Faulkner

Sunday, May 06, 2012

She'll Jus' Dah!

One thing I love about my job is that it gives me some respite from the rhetorical battlefield that is US political discourse. You and I know the Religious Right has declared war on women. This is a pretty bitter pill to swallow.  It makes me wonder how the smart, capable Republican women I know really feel about the situation.  Maybe I should ask them.  After all, a few of my friends on that side of the aisle had some choice words when McCain picked Sarah Palin over any number of women who would have shown the party in a far better light. One woman spent at least five minutes listing who should have been on the dias instead of Ms. Palin as her husband nodded in agreement.  (When Carol stopped for breath, he patted her knee and she snapped, "I'm not finished!"  So yeah, this is a sore point for nearly every proud conservative woman I know.)  

But I digress.

Working (mostly) as a sportswriter and editor, I get all kinds of news tidbits when the situation even remotely involves an athlete. The particular bit that caught my attention concerned the fiance' of former Saints tight end, Eric Johnson. Jessica Simpson (who usually doesn't register at all in my world) and Elle (What's that?) seem to have teamed up in an effort to further liminalise women who fall outside of the narrowing definition of what is acceptable behaviour for anyone sporting a uterus, boobs and a hairdo. For those of you who haven't heard about it yet, here's what she said:

 Ah swear, ah will croak if she asks me for a pair of Nikes instead of Christian Louboutins!”

I'll give you all a minute to facepalm before I continue. While you're doing that, I will weep over the fact that the same state that produced Ann Richards and Molly Ivins would somehow let this one slip past quality control. 

Jessica, Jessica, Jessica, is this an expression of your subconscious fear that your daughter might turn out to be something other than a pretty blonde pop princess? Not that there's anything wrong with being a blonde pop princess,  Sometimes they can be fun to listen to and it's kind of cute to watch little girls go through their pop-dolly phases.  (I think Ke$ha and Katy Perry are hilarious and adorable. Sorry, haters.) 

What isn't cute is the message that this sends to anyone still paying attention to Jessica Simpson. Not every girl can be a crack athlete, but every girl should be encouraged to find ways that she loves to be active. Ask any woman over thirty-five -especially those of us who grew up in the Southeastern US- where being anything other than a booster and cheerleader for the boys was more often than not discouraged. They and I will tell you that we should not go back to a time when girls were expected to sit demurely on the sidelines and cheer as the boys get dirty and sweaty.  

My friend, Lauren, offered her own head-shaking response to Ms Simpson's odd statement:

"I'm lusting after an expensive pair of running shoes a friend of mine just purchased...and if I could fit my foot into a Louboutin (and there is the minor detail of being able to afford them) I'd buy both in a minute. On the same shopping trip, no less."

and Dahlia observes:

It's sad that JS thinks a girl has to pick Nikes or Louboutins. Some of us like both.

Of course this is about more than shoes and shopping, really.  I suspect, and deep down I hope I'm wrong, that Jessica is afraid her little girl won't be pretty if she prefers the locker room to the mall.  Allow me to offer a few examples:

This is Manon Rheaume:

and, this is Manon Rheaume:

Okay, I will admit that I'm not the best person to judge this sort of thing; but I assume that few if any straight men or lesbians would run screaming if she expressed an interest.

Mia Hamm:

and of course there are the Williams Sisters.  They're powerful, beautiful women who know how to impress on the court...

and the red carpet.

I hope Jessica knows that the Littlest Simpson-Johnson could do a lot worse than the Williams sisters for role models.  Aside from their athletic careers, they've also made names for themselves for their tastes in clothing and they're enthusiastic students and patrons of fashion.  Check them out sometime, Ms. Simpson. When little Maxwell asks for a racquet or a pair of skates, please don't sigh or worse, say no.  See what it is that makes her love that activity and encourage her.  If you're supportive of who she is, she'll feel it and will want to do the things that you love, too.   

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Hamsters Are Back!

Please visit my sports blog, Greetings From Smashville to see what they have to say about the NHL Awards!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Three Women In Search Of The Perfect Marked Down Paint Tube

Deep in my black little heart, I knew by two this morning that I would not make it to Bridgestone to take pictures.  That was roughly the time that HH the Doggy Lama Niklas Lidstrom decided that he could not bear to sleep quietly one more minute and stood in the middle of the hallway to howl at...well, to howl at something.  I had initially dropped off to sleep at around 1:15 am.

When big dogs howl, there is a magnificence to it. There is something primal and grand and bigger than the present in the howl of a large dog. 

That magnificence was not present in my hallway as far as I could tell.  Well, maybe it was there in Niklas' little bitty mind.  Niklas is a shih tzu.  He weighs nine pounds and is roughly a foot tall standing on all fours.  Watching him try to howl is like watching a dust mop throw a tantrum.

I opened my bedroom door a little wider and he trotted in, hopped on my bed and then creatively sprawled in a way that made my sharing it with him almost impossible. His predecessor was a bearded collie/sheepdog mix who weighed roughly 125 pounds, was taller than me when he reared up on his hind legs and yet he and I managed to share my bed quite comfortably during storms.  I'm not sure where this "What's yours is mine and what's mine is mine" ethos is coming from with the current Dogboss.

So I attempted sleep, failed, then got up and took my mother to her doctor's appointment.   While I was waiting and pretending to be productive by editing the roughly five thousand pictures that are currently sitting on my hard drive, my phone rang.  I saw the exchange and immediately assumed it was Sarah making her initial salvo in the now eight year old War To Make Jas Go To Bonaroo With Sarah. 

I answered the phone with:  "I don't need to go to Manchester to see hippies. All I have to do is talk to my mother."

There was a pause and then Amy asked me if I was really turning down a chance to go to Bonaroo. She counseled me to sleep on that decision.  After I asked her how she and her very lovely and wonderful husband were doing, she caroled a single word into the phone:


Oh, yay!

Oh, crap.  I was so ready for sleep.  But...butbutbutbut...JUNKET!

Okay, you're probably picturing some outing where a hand full of women pile into a car and go to Green Hills or Cool Springs and squee over mass produced cuteness.*  Nothing could be further from the truth.

All of us, right down to the girliest of the group.** hate to do that kind of shopping.

There are two kinds of junkets we make.

Food and Books -  In some ways they're kind of the same thing in terms of where they fit in our lives. A real score is finding something on any of our PaperbackSwap wish lists for less than five dollars.   I would tell you where we look at/for books but then I would have to apply for the witness protection program.

Art/Phography Supplies - No big secrets. If there's a good sale at Plaza or Jerry's, that's where we go first. If not, we check out the clearance aisles at the local home improvement stores and those temples of home schooling craft genius: Joann, Hobby Lobby and Michael's. 

Today we got a shock as we stood in the wedding wares aisle at Michael's and stared dumbfounded at the wall of baskets that had replaced their clearance section.   A sweet, perky clerk walked up and asked who the lucky bride was.  Alice pointed at me.

The clerk squealed and started wiggling my arm.

Don't ever squeal at a group of artists, especially if two of them are wearing hockey sweaters. 

"Awesome!  I love it when older people find loooo-uuuuove!"  She squinched her cute little nose. I considered pinching off Alice's cute little head.  "What does he do?"

"Well, there's not really a he,"  I said.

Perky's eyes widened and she nodded slowly and said, "Oh... I don't think we have a cake topper for that, but we could make one.  So who is the lucky girl?"

I glanced at my friends to see who was going to volunteer.  Amy raised a finger.

"Actually, she's coaching hockey in Saskatchewan right now. They made it to the postseason! I hope they manage to have short series so she can come to Tennessee before she gives birth."

By this point, PerkyClerky had the same look that I've seen animals in PeTA ads have when they've chewed off a limb to get out of a trap. 

"You never really can tell..." she stammered.

"Tell what?" I asked.

"I don't know!" she practically shouted.  "Um, okay. If you ladies need anything.  Holler."   And then she speedwalked away.

We watched her go, all of us silent as if we were waiting for the Chuck Jones dribble of gravel that inevitably follows all good cartoon mayhem.

 "Our work here is done." Alice bowed her head, looking almost beatific.

"Was that really necessary?"  I asked.

Amy nodded.  "She started it.  Bitch shouldn't have taken away our clearance section.


* We are nothing like the ridiculous radio ads that seem to be in high rotation on every station advising women to get surgical or chemical help to make them all 25 again and to withold sex if they don't get a big, sparkly product of forced child labour from a third world country.  They suggest "getting a headache" if you don't get a diamond.  Excuse me?  Sex is actually good for headaches.

**I am actually the second girliest although my standing might have slipped now that the phrase "punch (x) in the junk:" seems to be a permanent part of my idiolect.

copyright 2011  Jas Faulkner

Saturday, March 26, 2011

You Only Think You Want To Be Married To Lloyd Dobler

All of us have -or at least I hope we all have- an internal filter that goes off when we start to say the wrong thing.  I call mine my "Not helping, Sister!" filter and sometimes its not quite as effective as I would like for it to be.  Earlier this week was one of those times.  I tried to be Switzerland when someone called on me for some female solidarity. 

I guess this blog post is my chance to say what I didn't get to say that afternoon.  It will probably cause at least a few people who read me to mutter, "Throwback." and delete me from their RSS feeds and bookmarks.  Oh, well.  Here goes...

Okay, you have every reason to assume that I'm going to be sympathetic with your significant other's desire to spend an afternoon at Big!Huge!OutdoorManlyManEmporium! with the guys looking at fishing lures and deer pee and whatever else they look at when we're not around.  However, you are probably coming to this conclusion for all of the wrong reasons.  Let's get this out of the way right now.  Yes, I work in a field that has been traditionally the domain of male interest and is still dominated by men.* I enjoy the company of the people I share a camera perch with and am lucky to cover a group of guys where are decent and drama-free. 

In spite of the fact that I spend a large portion of my week knee deep in all things macho, there are times when I just want to be around other people who have voices as high as mine and talk about shoes and knitting. Does this make me anti-male because I want time with my girlfriends?  No.  The flip side to that is that your husband's or boyfriend's desire to do  things with his buddies is not anti-woman or anti-you or anti-anything.  It's a healthy desire to identify with his own sex whether it entails sitting in a duck blind at dark thirty o'clock or comparing the munsell scale of tubes of cerulean blue acrylic paint at Plaza. 

As his life partner, you should be his best friend and his favourite person in the whole world. As his BFF and his FPItWW, you should also recognise that he needs time with his friends following his interests just as you should be wanting time with your friends following your interests.  Have you ever been in a relationship where the other person seemed to have no friends and no enthusiasm for anything beyond spending time with you?  Does it sound like something out of the movies?  Is it the manifestation of the fantasy we're all supposed to have where Lloyd Dobler steps right out of the screen wearing his trench coat and  blares his damned boom box full of Peter Gabriel at your bedroom window? **

Let me tell you from personal experience that being completely, totally responsible for someone else's happiness is a bigger burden than you think it's going to be.  Let's face it, even if you did end up with Lloyd Dobler, the first week you might be thinking, "Lucky me waking up next to Lloyd Dobler! He looks just like 80s' vintage John Cusack. I done good!" But from roughly Wednesday of the second week on, he'd be telling you that all he wanted in life was to be at your side while you'd be thinking, "Please, for the love of God! Go read a book or something!"   I've been there and believe me, the man who looks to me to complete him is the man who will cause me to run for the hills with my trusty shih tzu at my side.

So listen, girlfriend.  He was complete when you married him or you wouldn't have wanted him. Does he want to spend ALL of his time with his friends instead of you?  No?  Are his friends jerks or are they respectuful of you as the person he has chosen to be with?  Respectful?  Check.  Okay, then. The fact that he has a group of decent friends who are either happily attached themselves or are what Benjamin Franklin might have called "unclaimed blessings" and they think enough of him to want to spend time with him says a lot about his good character. Unless they're all out buying crack or hiring hookers, that time spent isn't hurting anyone.  If anything, it reestablishes that you trust and respect who he is. It should free you up to follow some of your own interests.   Just my .02.

*For the few of you who don't know, I'm a sports columnist and photographer. According to my BGBF, Kevin, who submitted a bunch of pictures to Getty (via his current media wonk squeeze) on my behalf last week and caused me to curl up in a closet and breathe into my yoga bag for twenty minutes, I am now the real thing.

**I've been told that "Say Anything" is supposed ot be the ultimate in Chick Movie romantic fantasies.  This supposition must have come from a focus group composed of two dozen male college students who were working on their degrees in marketing.