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Do it Anyway

I have a new personal theme song. It’s Ben Folds Five “Do It Anyway.” The last time I had a theme song it was 1997, and I was newly divorced, and had also just been dumped for the first time after a brief but intense rebound love affair. I was skinny, because I always lose weight when I am in a doomed romance. I had a awesome new hairstyle, because when you are trying to start a new life you definitely need a new ‘do. I even got my belly button pierced. I was an energetic mix of optimism, determination, and  fuck-you-ness. And I think I might have also been writing some bad poetry.

I was renting pool house/efficiency, the kind where your couch is also your bed, and if you cooked you’d cook on a hot plate. I didn’t cook. My narrow refrigerator only had milk for cereal, hard cheese and a pepperoni stick in it. I really liked my place. It was the first place I had ever lived alone. And I really liked my life. I felt like I could do anything, be anyone, (even do anyone. ;P) My anthem during those times, the song I shouted in the shower and blasted in my car was Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping.

Apparently “Tubthumping” is number 12 in Rolling Stone’s list of 20 Most Annoying Songs and it is mostly hated by people who rate music. I am not going to argue that it is good music. But it fueled my fuck-off-ness, which was what I needed then. Because I’d be singing, when I’m winning. 😉

My new personal theme song has much less fuck-off-ness. It is much more optimistic. It is more open. It is sometimes frenetic while also being thoughtful. It hits me where I am right now. And the video has Fraggles in it.

Many of the lines speak to me about specific things I am going through right now, but my favorite lyrics are the chorus:

“Tell me what I said I’d never do
Tell me what I said I’d never say
Read me off a list of the things I used to not like but now I think are OK”

A few months ago I realized that over the last 39 years I’ve built up quite a list of things I don’t like. Most of them were random and irrational. Many I couldn’t even remember why I didn’t like them. Some of them had just become jokes, like my hatred of Kevin Bacon, “because he is noodley.” Like, the first time I tried running, back in 2005, I hated it. Now I sometimes love it. I used to dislike Van Morrison, now I’ve totally found the appeal.

It’s exciting to challenge myself. To notice when I am disliking something and asking myself “why?” and if it still makes sense in my life, if it ever did. It feels good to shed some of the negativity I’ve accumulated over the years. I am challenging and shedding all over the place. I’m running. I’m hanging out with new people. I’m getting involved. I even applied for a job, (only one day a week.)

I think I have always been a pretty honest person and I’ve always tried to meet challenges. I’ve even created challenges, just for the fun of it. I thought of myself as a person who wasn’t afraid to do the hard thing. But now I have found there are even more layers to that. There is even more that I can do to become more the person I want to be. Plus + Fraggles.

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Sometimes I just get tired of watching movies where 5 out of 6 characters are men, and a man is the protagonist, and a man is the villain, and a man is the best buddy, etc.

I thought I would go through the big movies of 2012 (not all the movies that came out because that would be 100+) and see how many women are represented in the more popular films.

The Top Five – The Avengers, Dark Knight Rises, The Hunger Games, Skyfall, and The Twilight Saga – Breaking Dawn Part 2.

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The Avengers was the biggest movie of 2012 and, like this picture, it was overwhelmingly male. I admit I was disappointed that Joss Whedon, one of the more feminist directors out there, didn’t have more women in his movie. You could say he did a good job with what he was given. The cast was already chosen before he was tapped for the job. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, and Nick Fury were already cast in preceding films. I am not sure why he choose Black Widow out of the 20+ other female members of The Avengers (like Wasp, The Scarlett Witch, and Tigra) or why the female characters from the preceding movies like Jane Foster (Thor) and Betty Ross (The Hulk) were left out of this movie. Pepper Potts only had a very small role in the beginning and almost got a phone call from her lover and partner Tony Stark at the end.

Part of the problem, the same problem that I have seen over and over again the last several years, is that Hollywood isn’t writing anything new, but just rehashing popular movies, television shows, comics, video games, theme park rides, etc from the 1960 – 1980s, a time with few good female characters. If Hollywood keeps going back to the safe tired place of retro male action heroes we are unlikely to see change in this dynamic.

I hear the next Avengers movie will have more female characters. I can almost believe that since Joss will be directing again. But even if they double the amount of female superheroes from this movie to the next, that wont be near enough.

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The next big movie of 2012, also based on a comic, was The Dark Knight Rises. The consistently wonderful Anne Hathaway played Catwoman, a female character who was intelligent, a force to reckon with, and an agent of her own destiny. Marion Cotillard SPOILERS might have been playing Talia al Ghul, the daughter of Liam Neeson’s character from the first movie. She was just using Bane to finish her father’s plan to destroy the corrupt city of Gotham. But there is other talk on the net that Miranda was not Talia, which I hope is true because Talia has a much more important role in Bruce Wayne’s life. Okaaaay… I’m getting off topic. Miranda may have been the mastermind but Bane was the real villain of Dark Knight Rises. He might not have been very scary or even intelligible, but he had more screen time than Cotillard, as did pretty much all the other male characters in the film (Gordon, Blake, Fox), except maybe Alfred.

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Another huge hit of 2012 was The Hunger Games, our first movie to have an honest to goodness female lead. Many articles have been written about Katniss Everdeen and her bow. The books were huge and the movie was the third highest grossing film of the year. Katniss is kind of a superhero too but she was created in 2008, not 1963 (The Avengers) or 1939 (Batman.) She is from a Dystopian future where children have to fight each other to the death for a chance to sit at the buffet table.

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Skyfall was the 4th highest grossing movie and, after Bond himself, the most important role in the movie goes to a short seventy-eight year old woman, Judi Dench. Bond’s partner, played by Naomie Harris, is strong, cool, and sexually adventurous, but I am not sure about the job she ended up with at the end. And I have a real problem with Bond jumping into the shower, unasked, with a victim of sex trafficking. Yeah, think about it. That is what happened. 😦 On pure action alone this was a great Bond film. But Bond has become an anti-hero, not cool but cold, and even cruel. He has always used women but you got the impression that sex with Double O was worth it. In Skyfall the sex is hot but it is also really cold. Overall I feel conflicted about the role of women in the latest Bond movie.

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I did not see Part 2 of Breaking Dawn but I did see the first two movies and I read the books, so I can imagine how it went. The finale of the Twilight Saga was actually the fifth highest grossing movie of the year. We have 2 movies with female leads in the top 5, one that appealed to tweens of both genders and one that pretty much only drew in women (only women i.e. 1/2 the population).

So, 2 of the 5 highest grossing movies of 2012 had female leads and they were also pretty equal in number of male and female named characters. And both were also based on books written in the last 10 years.

Bond was both good and bad in its portrayal of women. Created in 1953 by Ian Fleming, this Bond has been updated for a modern audience, although not always for the best.

Dark Knight Rises had Catwoman in a central role but the ratio of main male characters to female was 7/2 and of named males to named females was 11/3. The ratio of The Avengers was 8/1, unless we include Agent Hill and Pepper Potts, which would mean we also have to include every named male character, bringing the ratio up to 12/3. But Agent Hill and Pepper Potts had fewer lines and screen time than the other non-supers.

Other notable films of 2012: Lincoln, Argo, The Hobbit, Cabin in the Woods, and Les Miserables.

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Lincoln. What to say about Lincoln? The reality is that a drama set in the House of Representatives during the Civil War is going to be about white old men. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t like the movie or that it shouldn’t have been told. The problem is not that there are stories to be told that center around white men, it is that Hollywood overwhelmingly chooses to tell those stories.

Sally Field was great and gave a edgy energy to every scene she was in. But I don’t think she had more than a 30 sec conversation with the other female character in the movie Gloria Reuben, who was supposed to be Mary Todd’s confidante.

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Argo is the first movie on this list that I haven’t seen yet but it might win several Academy Awards so I thought I should include it. Here is a quote from Nico Lang at Thought Catalog. You can read his whole article here.

“Of the movie’s thirteen or so lead roles, two of them are played by women — the relatively unknown Kerry Bishe and lesbian icon Clea DuVall, who hasn’t been near a lead role in a major film since 2004’s The Grudge. (Two of her last three efforts went almost straight-to-video and the third, the 2010 Hilary Swank drama, Conviction, she was barely in.) Playing the supportive yet timid wives and girlfriends of men with larger parts, DuVall and Bishe get to stand around and look nervous, and Bishe looks forever on the edge of tears. I can’t recall either of their characters’ names or a distinct thing they actually do in the film, and the actresses get to share the scraps of lines thrown to them. (My generous estimate is 20.)

However, they get off better than poor Taylor Schilling, who plays Affleck’s estranged (yet still supportive) wife. Having acted in a major film in the last year (the Zac Efron vehicle The Lucky One), Schilling is the de-facto most famous woman in this film — which is a tallest Hobbit situation if there ever were one. Schilling’s only other big role was in the shockingly inept 2010 adaptation of Atlas Shrugged, and Bishe’s most famous work was on the last season of Scrubs, aka. Scrubs University — that no one watched. Despite her relative fame, Schilling doesn’t get any lines in the film, and you can see her face onscreen for three-ish seconds. Her job in the movie? She gets to hug Ben Affleck, a feat of acting prowess I bet she can’t wait to add to her IMDB profile.

With Schilling in the part, I imagine that her role was reduced from a larger one, and her plot line screams of Phantom Storyline syndrome. Throughout the film, much reference is made to Affleck’s wife and son, a device used to garner sympathy for his character, Tony Mendez. (He’s not just a tortured CIA agent; he’s a tortured CIA agent who cares.) This plot point isn’t necessary for the overall arc of the main action, and so I can see why Affleck whittled down its screen time. However, Affleck is able to give roles, jobs and actual lines to no less than 10 name character actors (like Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman and Victor Garber), TV actors (Kyle Chandler, Chris Messina and Bryan Cranston) and lesser-known-but-respected vets (Richard Kind and Tate Donovan). Arkin and Goodman, who steal the film, get ample screen time to cut up and be merry, and Garber and Donovan, who play smaller parts, are allowed to have a part in the narrative in a way the female characters simply are not.

Part of the movie’s marginalization of female characters can be rationalized away by the true-life nature of the film. Because the movie is “based on a true story,” Affleck and his screenwriter, Chris Terrio, have to somewhat stick to the facts and show the story the way things happened. But unlike this year’s Compliance, which told about as accurate of an account of real-life workplace abuse possible, Argo plays fast and loose with the facts for cinematic impact — to ramp up the drama and intensity. (If you needed someone to tell you the airport chase probably didn’t happen that way, you have no idea what the definition of a movie is.) Thus, the “we-had-to-stick-to-the-facts-so-no-lines-for-womenfolk” argument doesn’t hold up. If you can make room for an airport chase, a protracted dénouement where Mendez is awarded an Intelligence Star, a speech from Jimmy Carter (that adds nothing to the film) and a gratuitous shot of Affleck’s abs, you can give one woman something to do. Anything at all. I’m not saying they should create a new role for a woman or magically create a female spy (it’s not Alias, after all), but the women here deserve more than virtual silence.”

Well said, eh? I think I am going to have to start following Mr. Lang. Based on what he is looking for in a mate I think we would be besties.

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Um…

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Oh yeah. Heh.

I am so glad this movie got made and I don’t care that much if the awesome Kate Blanchett was in it or not. Tolkien wrote great literature (Yes, I am calling it literature and not fantasy) that was pretty much devoid of women. In the book the only female Hobbit mentioned is Lobelia. And there are, apparently, no female Dwarves, no female Goblins, no female Trolls, no female Wizards, no female Elves, etc. Maybe someday someone will figure out why Tolkien wrote such a sausage fest, but it was the story he was inspired to write and it was well done.

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Cabin in the Woods is our third movie with a female lead. It also has Joss Whedon written all over it. CitW was hilarious, intelligent, surprising, and dark. If you haven’t seen it yet, let me tell you that it is not the movie that you think it is. It plays with tropes, including the “whore” and “virgin” characters seen in most horror movies. I don’t want to say too much, other than this movie got it right.

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Les Miserables has very strong box office numbers so far, coming in as the second biggest Christmas opener ever. This is yet another story drawn from times gone by where women only existed to give men something to struggle for. But Les Mis is larger than its stereotypical gender roles. It is a story about humanity, both large and small.

The named characters were 6/4 male to female. Jean Valjean and Javert were the leads but you could easily argue that Anne Hathaway, as Fantine, did much more with her role than Russell Crowe. Her time on screen was painful yet captivating. I’m really happy for this very interesting woman and accomplished actor. Besides starring into two huge movies this year she has also played great characters in some other very good movies, like Brokeback Mountain, Becoming Jane, and Rachel Getting Married, the last truly showcasing her talent. Hathaway is also an LGBT rights activist, and involved in various charities for women, children, human rights, and arts advocacy.

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Children’s Movies of 2012 – Brave, Frankenweenie, Wreck-it Ralph, and Rise of the Guardians.

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Brave was Pixars first movie with a female lead. Which is kind of crazy to think about, given how much we love Pixar. But still, it’s true. Pixar came out with 12 feature films before they had one with a female lead. At one point I did a break down of male to female main characters in Pixar films and, before Brave, it was 24/9. That isn’t good, but it is even worse if you compare male supporting characters to female, there you have something like 106/26. With the addition of Brave that goes up to 116/29. What is up with that?

I think we can say that Pixar had a lot to answer for with Brave. Unfortunately it didn’t say what I wanted to hear. Brave was beautiful, for sure. But it was not as funny as most Pixar films, it did not work on two levels, like most Pixar films, and the female was mainly dealing with the bitter fact that she was female, rather then just having an adventure, making choices, being a hero, like the male characters do in most Pixar films. Brave is still totally worth watching. If I wasn’t expecting Pixar to right all the gender issue wrongs in one fell swoop I would have enjoyed the movie more.

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Unlike Brave, Frankenweenie was clever, had humor that reached out to both kids and adults, and had zombie pets. While Brave dealt with gender roles  and mother/daughter relationships, Frankenweenie dealt with highly intelligent children (a subject that is also near and dear to my heart), passion, and science.

This movie still had 8/3 male to female ratio, although none of the boys or girls fit into tired old gender stereotypes. It was a very nice, heartwarming movie.

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Looking at this picture you can do the math, 2 guys and 2 girls. Two tall, two short. Two powerhouses, two with other useful skills. Two have dark hair and two are blond. But only one goes barefoot. Wreck-it Ralph is another movie that did it right. I don’t just mean the male to female ratio. It was funny, interesting, well plotted, nostalgic, and also very modern in it’s themes and sensibilities. Also we all love Sarah Silverman and Jane Lynch. Wreck-it Ralph gets 4 Gold Stars.

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I didn’t see Rise of the Guardians and I don’t plan to. I’m just not up for seeing another “super-hero” movie, this one based on a series of illustrated books that came out in 2011 and 2012, with such a lopsided representation of male to female characters. In RotG, the Tooth Fairy is the only female with powers. The other main non magical character is a boy, Jamie Bennett. Really Dreamworks? Is that how you are going to do this? *sigh*

Some of these movies also didn’t pass the Bechdel Test. Which is a pretty easy test, made up of three parts.

1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man
These movies didn’t pass:
The Avengers
The Dark Knight Rises
Lincoln
The Hobbit
Frankenweenie
Rise of the Guardians
These did:
The Hunger Games
Skyfall (Just barely passed, with one conversation in the beginning between M and Eve)
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (which doesn’t mean this movie is a good example of feminism)
Argo (which doesn’t mean this movie actual did anything more than have two female characters talk to each other for 1 minute)
Cabin in the Woods
Les Miserables
Wreck-it Ralph
So what is the point of all this? Am I saying that Twilight was a better movie than Lincoln or The Hobbit because it had more women? No. I’m making a point that although women make up half the population we are still woefully underrepresented in films. This is a problem. Both women and men and boys and girls need to see films that represent the reality that women are real people, with their own motivations, drives, agendas, and stories. A few women may be getting more complex roles but they are still enacting those roles in a man’s world. I think Hollywood can either add to and support the male dominated establishment that harms both men and women, or they can aim for equality. Of course, Hollywood is going to focus mostly on making movies that make money. So it is up to you, the audience, to spend your dollars wisely and be that change you want to see in the world. Speaking of equality, let’s look at those movies again to see how many people of color are included… Seven. Seven characters in Fourteen movies. Jesus… Movies, we are doing it wrong.

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Out and About

Some of you already know this. Some of you aren’t going to want to hear this. Some of you probably just don’t care, and that is fine too. But here it is anyway. I’m bisexual. And this is me officially coming out as a bisexual person.

Why now, you might ask? What does it really matter what a 38yo married woman’s sexual orientation is? Well, the problem is that it does matter to some people. It hurts me when I read about gay people being discriminated against and hated. It makes me sick to my stomach and shaky to know there are people out there who would hate me and possibly want to hurt me just for who I am able to love.

Of course I realize that coming out as an bisexual female isn’t that big of a deal. It’s been trendy for awhile. Be that as it may, it is still something I have been too scared to admit almost my entire life. I even kept it secret from the men I’ve been in serious relationships with, until I started dating B. I was twenty-seven then and I said, “This is who I am. I hope you can be okay with that.” And he was.

Now I am thirty-eight. Forty is looming large ahead. After all I have been through I feel strong enough to say, “This is who I am. I hope you can be okay with that.” And if you are not, well, at least we know who we are.

Okay. That is that. You can be done reading if you want. Or you can continue and read one person’s opinion regarding some myths about bisexuals.
 
1.There is no such thing as bisexual.

The people who think this are not always the same people who think that homosexuality is a choice. But I really really want to tell you that bisexuals exist. I have a theory that there are a lot more of us than you’d think.

I think sexuality is on a continuum and some people are all the way straight and some are all the way gay and some are mostly straight or mostly gay but aren’t totally opposed to the idea of trying out the other side. And some, like me, just love people and are sexually attracted to people, and gender doesn’t matter. And maybe sexual orientation isn’t set in stone. Maybe some people “experiment” in college, and that’s it. And maybe some people loosen up when they get older. I don’t know. To me it makes total sense that we can love and be attracted to anyone, because love is amazing and sexual chemistry is mysterious.

2.Bisexuals are sluts.

Heh. You wish. No really, according to some studies (so says wikipedia) bisexuals do have more sexual fantasies and bi women have a higher sex drive. But, being bi doesn’t mean you can’t be faithful or content. Bisexual people can be as happy in a committed monogamous relationship as any other person.

3.If you are a woman you should be careful around me, because I might try to make out with you.

I’m sorry but no. Personally, I am attracted to intelligence, sense of humor, and a kind of quirky personality. Also, like many people, I find people who are attracted to me to be more attractive (it’s that sexual chemistry thing). So, I’m not going to try to jump on any straight women. Actually, I’m not going to jump on any women, because, um… I’m married!  😛 (p.s. you are still free to fantasize about me trying to kiss you, if you are into that. And wikipedia says that most people are. ;))

4. Bisexuals want to engage in threesomes.

I’m sure some do. So do straight and gay people. Who cares really? Whatever floats the boat of three (or more) consenting adults, right?

5. Everyone is bisexual.

No. But these people are: Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Drew Barrymore, Leonard Bernstein, David Bowie, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Marlene Dietrich, Ani DeFranco, Lady Gaga, Greta Garbo, Frida Kahlo, Anna Paquin, Cole Porter, Michael Stipe, and a lot more people you know and love.

(so were Caligula and Aleister Crowley, but… whatever.)

I’ve been bisexual for as long as I have been any kind of sexual. For the most part I hid my feelings and my orientation because I was afraid. But I don’t feel like I should have to hide anymore. Nobody should have to.

I am saying this now because I know it has helped me to feel safe, understood, and accepted to witness other people come out as bi, gay, lesbian or transgendered. I think we will overcome  discrimination through love and understanding, and while I don’t assume this blog post will change anyone’s mind, maybe people who loved and cared about me before this will decide they still love and care about me. If they don’t feel like that right now, then maybe someday in the future. If not, that is okay because I can see the world moving forward to a place where LGBT orientation is known to be normal, natural, and just another beautiful expression of love. (Kum-BI-ya My Lord, Kum-Bi-ya!) 😉

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A plain

Elliott

Fairfax

Austen

Eyre

Jetson

Baby

Calamity

Darling

Cobb

Doe

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New Traditions

Today we went to a friends house for their first Winter Holidays party. They were celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas and the Winter Solstice. We had food, s’mores, hot cocoa by the chiminea fire. We also sang songs to celebrate the holidays, including songs about the sun. When it got dark we lit the Hanukkah candles and watched them burn.

I am grateful that we have already made friends here that invite us to their parties. We had a really nice time.

 

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I <3 New York

So, those of you who don’t know your east coast geography very well. New York is less than a 2 hour drive from Philadelphia. We are now closer to Manhattan then we used to be to Chicago. Isn’t that exciting?!

Yesterday we drove to New York for the first time since moving to the east coast. We met some friends at The Cloisers in Fort Tyron Park. The Cloisers is part of the Met, but a separate museum, built from the stones of European Medieval Abbeys and housing an amazing collection of medieval art – sculpture, paintings, illuminated manuscripts, and stained glass windows. The building, with it’s gothic arches and cloister gardens is a work of art itself.

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The most famous pieces of art in The Cloisters are probably The Unicorn Tapestries. There are seven tapestries depicting the hunt of a unicorn and Unicorn in Captivity, which I have pictured, is probably the most famous for all the flowers and it’s bright colors.

For lunch went through Tyron Park, and it’s Heather Garden, into the Bronx for lunch and had croque Monsieurs in a very cool cafe, Blue Evolution. I should have taken picture there. It was like a funky museum itself.

Then back to The Cloisters to see more amazing medieval art and spend time (but not too much money) in the gift shop. It was a fantabulous day! But too short with our friends. Thanks A. M, R and H for meeting us there!

 

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November is National Novel Writing Month.  I am writing a supernatural story about a girl who was born at midnight and as a “chime child” she can see and communicate with the spirits of the dead. Johanna is really on the fence about this whole Ghost-Seer thing but what is she supposed to do when Buddy Holly prods her to take a summer job at the local haunted house?

I first did NaNoWriMo in 2006 and I completed it/won. But writing 50,000 words in 30 days is not really my best writing style, so I didn’t think I would do it again. But I really need to shot in the arm to get back into writing and I think nanowrimo is the best medicine.

Also, this story isn’t a total waste. Joh/Johanna is a character in the 4th book I want to write, Ghost Girl. Skeleton in the Closet is Joh’s origin story.

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