The Arrival

Ryan had used the many miles he’d accumulated traveling for work to buy us two round trip tickets to Paris. We were flying business class and only had to pay the taxes on our tickets. Oo la la.

I’d spent a couple of disastrous months as an au pair in a charming city near Versailles at the age of 21. It’s a long story, but suffice to say the only joy of the experience came from weekend visits to Paris. I’d long wanted to return under different circumstances, with a partner, and with the benefit of adult means.





We were all set with logistics. Ryan had booked us in a hotel that had received rave reviews on Trip Advisor.

Why, don't you *look* ever so charming?

I set out to research all we should eat, drink, shop, and see. I collected literary passages tied to key places (The Beats and 9 Rue Gît-le-Cœur, Julia Child and Les Deux Magots, Hemingway and Shakespeare & Co, Zazie and Le Metro), traced maps, made flexible itineraries, booked reservations. It was practically all I could think about!

We arrived in Paris on Wednesday, December 7th in the evening. Ryan had booked a car to take us from Charles de Gaulle to the hotel. It took another two hours to get into the heart of the city but the moon was full and we could watch it through the moonroof. It was raining – a good sign because, as Audrey Hepburn tells Humphrey Bogart in the movie Sabrina:

“This is what you do on your very first day in Paris. You get yourself, not a drizzle, but some honest-to-goodness rain, and you find yourself someone really nice and drive her through the Bois de Boulogne in a taxi. The rain’s very important. That’s when Paris smells its sweetest. – It’s the damp chestnut trees.”

Arriving at our hotel, the courtyard, with its tiny Christmas lights was as picturesque as it looked in the photos on their website. The interior of the lobby was tiny, the elevator tinier, but this was Europe. Then I stepped inside our room and my heart sunk. The room was almost as small as the elevator. The bed, which was merely a double, had two hard small excuses for pillows. There were no night-stands. I took a deep breath and decided not to say anything because how often does one get to Paris? I’m lucky to have traveled internationally at all – let alone several times, and with my partner.

But the bathroom shower, while it looked clean, smelled like a high school boy’s locker room. There was some gross bodily fluid or other on the wall next to the toilet. The spare blanket in the closet was covered in hair. There was nowhere to plug in Ryan’s CPAP. It reminded me of places I stayed when I took a tour of Europe at age 14. It reminded Ryan of places he’d stayed while traveling through Europe at 23.

Were we too tired to see the charm? Were we too grown-up to stay in such a place? Were we being too snooty by thinking that maybe we were too adult to stay in such a place? How much would we end up spending by moving to another hotel? Could we rally and move then and there – or should we spend the night and think on it?

That our jet-lagged minds could even form questions at what was now after 9:00pm Paris-time and over 15 hours of travel was of surprise. While I sat there having a muddled debate in my head about privilege, our current finances and our known expenses for the coming year, my husband quietly pulled out his iPhone and booked us for a week at the Westin Vendome. Ryan for the win.

Down the stairs we went. We fully intended to pay for the first evening and just eat the cost. But this was Paris, and apparently checking out of a hotel isn’t always so easy.

You can’t check out. You’ve booked a week. And if you don’t like the room, that’s not our fault. You picked it.”

“You misrepresented it online. We’d like to pay for tonight and cancel the rest of our stay.”

The receptionist picked up the phone, called the manager, and handed the receiver to Ryan who was told that we could not cancel our reservation because it’s just not done and that – –

“It’s your fault. That’s not a good room.”

!!!!!???? Excusez-moi?!?!?!?

We were offered the chance to see other, presumably “better” rooms but had no interest. If you offer rooms in your hotel that even you think aren’t up to par then why the hell would we think that anything else would be better?

We asked what the cancellation policy was and the manager, sensing a losing battle, pulled a figure out of his ass. Before I could argue further, Ryan paid it and we left. (It turns out there is no official cancellation policy on their website and we are American suckers.)

So please now picture us, exhausted, rallying to drag our suitcases through Paris at night (though also invigorated after our first Very French cultural encounter) trying to avoid dog poop (which Parisians en masse refuse to pick up) and finally arriving at the beautiful Westin hotel to find ourselves much, much happier. Twice the price is apparently also infinitely more comfortable.

Tres Jolie!

We made a pact that this comfort would be our Christmas gift to each other. Sealed it with a fist bump. And finally fell asleep.

Bon Noël à nous!

I’ve been trying to get my husband, Ryan, to go to Paris with me for years. Horrible stories about rudeness, free-roaming cats, and lack of attention to what we Americans would consider proper food handling and hygiene had turned him off of the French.

But on a business trip last year he found himself having dinner in a centuries-old farmhouse in Bordeaux. And he tasted the bread. And that marvelous French butter.

And I think the experience may have piqued his interest.

Of course, he’s also traveled to many places in the past decade: Norway and Korea, Germany and England, Australia and Japan – he’s become accustomed to, adept even, at embracing different cultures with grace (or at the very least, professional patience). Some of these places we’ve been able to visit together. But Paris wasn’t yet one of them.

A Surprise for Zazie

On our first date – nearly 13 years ago – we’d sat at the B&O on Capitol Hill, ate cake, and chatted about our favorite books. He said I reminded him of Zazie, the eponymous heroine of Raymond Queneau’s Zazie dans le Metro.

Zazie is a potty-mouthed, smarty-pants little girl who on a visit to her uncle in Paris for the weekend only wants to do one thing – ride the metro.

But the metro is on strike.

This, naturally, pisses Zazie off to no end.

“Oh, the dirty bastards!” Zazie exclaims. “Oh, the buggers! To think they’d pull a trick like that one me! . . . Oh shit, it gives me a real pain.”

Ryan said that the book was hard to find, and that he would procure me a copy. Procure he did, and presented it to me 2 days later on our next date. (He’d had it overnighted from San Francisco.)

A few years later I found out that the book had been adapted into a film and directed by Louis Malle.

I called local gem, Scarecrow Video, and by coincidence, they had just procured a large inventory and had a copy on VHS which I bought and gave to Ryan.

Zazie dans le Metro was recently released by Criterion, and I dropped a hint on Facebook – something of the ZOMG! variety.

Ryan had been informed by his friend, Kristofor, that whenever a woman posts something on the social networking site with a link and a ZOMG! that means she wants it. So – a none too subtle hint it was.

For my birthday, which, by the way, is also the national French independence celebration, Bastille Day, I received a beautiful copy of the film. I hugged it to my chest and said, “Oh, Ryan. Will you promise to go to Paris with me someday?”


“For reals?”

“For reals.”

“Even though you don’t like the French?”

“Yes, Jen. I promise I will go to Paris with you someday.”

Not believing him in the least I proceeded to check out the interior material of my new DVD. Nestled inside was an envelope addressed to “Zazie.” The card read “Meet me in Paris” and then had the dates 6 December – 13 December.

I couldn’t believe it!!!!! On y va!

*Illustrations by Jacqueline Duheme from Olympia Press edition of Zazie dans Le Metro.

I am so excited – – The first Geekquality podcast is live!

These awesome women were inspired by GeekGirlCon to create their own community to address Feminism, Race, Ability, Gender and Sexuality in Geek Culture. Take a listen, and follow them on Twitter (@geekquality) and Tumblr for more updates on their website and podcasts.

Additionally, Geekquality read Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology in preparation for their first podcast and there is a bonus podcast where I chat it up with Alice Marie and Elyse!

Hey Scoobies! It’s Week 48 of the Great Buffy Rewatch – – and I’m back to discuss Bring on the Night, Showtime, and Potential!

Previous contributions to the Great Rewatch of 2011:

Prophecy Girl

Graduation Day

Tonight’s Miss Representation: Seattle Screening at the SIFF Cinema Uptown is Sold Out! So excited for GeekGirlCon to be screening this in partnership with SIFF, Reel Grrls, and Women’s Funding Alliance – and honored to have been asked to participate in the post-screening discussion as a panelist. Looking forward to talking about media literacy and activism with a great crowd!!!

The Muppets was wonderful perfect. And, if like me you are a child of the late 1970s/early 80s bring lots and lots of tissues. I was choked up, teary, smiling and clapping through the whole darling thing.

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to interview Karen Falk, head archivist at The Henson Company, about the Jim Henson Retrospective touring the country through SITES. We chatted at length about Kermit’s inception in 1955 as a glorified sock puppet, Henson’s experimental film work, and how Fraggle Rock was meant to inspire world peace.

“Jim always said that Kermit was the character he felt closest to,” says Falk. “Kermit was very much the center of things – the way Jim was – but not necessarily in control of all these people. Jim was an amazing gatherer of talent and he recognized talent in people and brought them into the fold and let them do their own thing—and Kermit of course does that very much in The Muppet Show.”

I’m honored to be profiled in this month’s “Perspectives: Newsletter of the UW College of Arts & Sciences” – Go Huskies! Yay for CHID Alums! Local famous!

Photo Courtesy of The One True b!X

My first national byline, circa 1994. (St. Clement’s and Hall Middle School newspapers had been local of course.) While my relatively novice, if precocious, contribution to the piece was heavily edited by my co-author, Stuller Sr., it was an important lesson from Master Po to his Grasshopper that all writers must compromise if they want a byline that comes with a paycheck.

Plus, how awesome was my hair?

This is the most phenomenal review of my book yet. It’s an honor and a compliment from someone I’ve only recently *met* online, but someone that I deeply respect.

And, wow, she completely groked my intent. Thank you, Tricia.

‎”The message of the book comes through loud and clear: This is where we were, this is where we are, and here’s my knowledge-base and the brain-trust of a lot of other smart, strong women – now go use it to make things better for all of us. . . .[T]hroughout the course of the book she doesn’t judge women for their tastes or their preferences, or insist that anyone agree with her point by point. Stuller simply lays out her own experiences as a geek girl, ambassador, and historian, then has the bravery to let the reader decide things for herself.”

And it’s accompanied by a thoughtful companion post.

“What Ink-Stained Amazons provides is deep knowledge about past portrayals of women, effective (and not-so-effective) characterization, and the ruts that storytellers get stuck in.

Self-awareness grows as you read the book. Jennifer is very effective at demonstrating the ways that we truly do write what we know in terms of tropes, relationships with our family, and our own internal biases from a lifetime of experience. Once a writer recognizes his or her own bias – yet another form of rut that can trap our storytelling – that is the path to breaking new ground, making the stories better.

Finally, Jennifer’s book reminds everyone that writers must have empathy, for their characters and for their audience. This book should be a must-read for any writer working in genre storytelling. As a resource for women in fantasy and science fiction who are still searching for that sense of who they are, this book will be a big help as well.”

As always – Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology is available at Amazon, or your local independent book seller.

We were absolutely thrilled that Jo Jo Stiletto Events brought Whedonesque Burlesque to our inaugural year of GeekGirlCon, and I was personally delighted to be asked to contribute some personal thoughts on Joss Whedon and what the Whedonverse means to me to the program. (Click image to embiggen.)