What Dolly Parton means to me

Last night was one of the most amazing nights of my life. Dolly Parton was performing at Wolftrap. One of the things I love about Virginia’s Wolftrap performing arts center (and I think it is the only one in the country) is that it is actually IN a national park. So there is all this lush greenery and a stage and some seating but a large lawn where folks can sit and just listen.

Renee and I originally were going to try and catch Dolly in Philadelphia or Pigeon Forge. As was pointed out, she turned 70 this last January and likely wouldn’t be doing too many national tours after this. Luckily for us, and not so luckily for someone else, they broke their foot and couldn’t attend. The result? Monday night we learned we could go to the Wednesday night performance!!!!

We planned a full picnic. 🙂  Brie (and 3 other kinds of cheese), prosciutto, black pepper cheese loaf, fancy chocolate, apples, raspberries, strawberries, tea, ginger beer, cider. An extra big blanket, another for cover, a body pillow, a regular pillow, as well as snacks and a dish for the dog! Yes, we do snooty picnics. Can’t help it cheese plates are among my most favorite things in the WORLD.

It was lovely and Dolly Parton was in full voice. And I must admit, like the rest of the world, as much as we love her for her songs, we also love her for her wit and charm. She told jokes and shared stories, all the while engaging the audience and making us feel like we were special.

I have very few people on my bucket list and all for very different reasons. But one of the reasons that she is so important to me is because of leadership. That sounds like an odd thing to say about an actor and country music singer but I remember years ago, when i was trying to figure out who I wanted to be and HOW I wanted to be, I found a quote of hers that really spoke to me. It tends to be misattributed to John Quincy Adams, but it is definitely Dolly.

Doly Parton Quote - If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.

If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, then, you are an excellent leader. – Dolly Parton

I can’t say I’ve always gotten it right, but it is who I want to be in the things that I choose to do, whether that is working with policy, politics, fiction, film, or just being me. She trusts in faith, and firmly believes in seeing the good in people and accepting them for who they are. She “shares the candy” in spreading her good fortune with literacy groups, raptor rescue and many others that I don’t even know. Good advice for life, I think. And a good example for life.  That is why I adore Dolly Parton and so desperately wanted to see her.

Thrilled to be able to cross this item off my Bucket List.

 

PS Special thanks to Jen Horan for taking the awesome pic above. Makes it even more special as that image came from OUR concert.

Just Bought My First Lottery Ticket

I’ve never really been one for games of chance, but with the lottery now standing at $1.3 billion, even I can’t resist. So I give you proof of this “first.”

MyFirstLotteryTicket

Touch of Love – Origin Story

In January of this year, I was very excited to see the completion of the short film, “Touch of Love.” It is based on my flash fiction piece by the same name. ToL was one of my first “pro” sales in 2007 – to Daily Science Fiction. (Psst, you can read it here if you like, or can purchase the reprint in the anthology 10 Tales of Steampunk). Since that time, the story has morphed and grown and increased in complexity.

2ndAnnualMinorityFilmmakersShowcaseIt’s debut screening was at Balticon in May of this year and I’m proud to say it made a Top 5 finish. I even posted a few pictures about the weekend. And yes, I loved every minute. In addition, on August 19, ToL was included as part of Baltimore’s Reel Independent Women Minority Filmmaker Showcase. (I really need to post a few pictures from that.) But in all this time, I never really got a chance to talk about the film. I know, I know, a work should speak for itself, but hey, it’s my blog and I thought why not take a few minutes to talk about WHY this film is so important to me.

I love Science Fiction. I love it almost as much as I love Steampunk. And I love them both for the same reasons – they give us the opportunity to look at social and cultural mores and ask, “What if?” Heinlein, Asimov, Norton, Clarke, Butler…all of them looked at the world as it is and wrote stories that made us question our assumptions about it. But it is very difficult to get us to see past our own illusions and ideologies. Our worldview, complete with all of its assumptions and value judgements are well learned, and as they said in the musical, South Pacific, “You Must be Carefully Taught” (referencing racism in particular). I won’t get into it here but there are a WHOLE lot of issues with that musical.

So what better way to reframe the tired arguments, to shake us out of our reverie and force us to consider another way…than another world? Science Fiction has always given us a view into a world that might have been. Dystopias like Brave New World or 1984 warn us of potential outcomes from current pathways, and more idealistic goals such as some of those espoused within Star Trek encourage us to strive towards a more equitable and peaceful future. In a fictional future we can more openly explore, race, disability, gender, nationalism (and jingoism), imperialism, environmental catastrophe and other issues that are so wrapped up in our current news and life that we have a tougher time viewing it in a neutral fashion.

ReelWomenGroupPhotoSteampunk gives us an opportunity to change history and use it as an opportunity to ask similar questions and wonder what our world would look like now.

The short story touches on the issue, but the film goes much further – I wanted to examine the nature of violence, particularly intimate violence and how it is learned. Research has shown us over and over how we learn behaviors and how our worldview is build up from our experiences and that if violence is a common part of it, then violence will be what we know and do and believe to be normal. So what happens if we become more, rather than less accepting of domestic violence; if we build a world that accommodates “appropriate” violence? Our lives, our technology facilitates it? We all know the trope of robots built to love humans; we already are building “companions” for the elderly and striving to create robots that can pass for human.

There’s an interesting paper on Robots, Love, and Sex:The Ethics of Building a Love Machine, the psychology of it, the kinds of ethics and design principles that would be involved that offered some great food for thought as I wrote and rewrote the script.

So, after reading that, I considered, how hard would it be to build robots to accommodate that future intimate violence? What happens when we teach them not only to accommodate it, but to love it? Love, hate, power, those are just words; the emotions connected to them are complicated and messy, so when we teach those emotions to our human analogues, can we be surprised at their mimesis?

Touch of Love Poster - Honeys Face

TOUCH OF LOVE

Honey is a Companion robot, human-like in appearance and biology, assigned to a domestic abuser as therapy. After a recent session, with a blend of injuries both human and machine, Honey is brought in for repairs. In the quiet moments with her builder, Honey learns to express her own feelings about love.

It’s not complicated to conceive of robots that people love. What will truly teach us about human nature is when we build a robot that can love us back. But human nature is a strange and fickle thing, and we might discover that we teach things we never intended.

How does a robot express love? The answer is all too human.

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