Meeting your match—Online?

Online Dating isn’t for everyone, but it sure has upsides compared to traditional forms of dating. And by “traditional” I mean basically one of two ways to meet people: at the bar or in the pew. Seeing as I’m not really a bar-going or pew-sitting type of gal, online dating is a godsend when it comes to meeting others of like mind. Recently, I mentioned my friend who’s getting married in May to a young man she met through the church—and more power to her. But honestly, I don’t think that’s for me.

When I was living in New York, I dated a guy I met online for a while. We had a lot of fun; neither of us were much into drinking and he was much to much of a philosopher for church (or, in his case, synagogue), but we really connected in a lot of ways. We were able to skip over a lot of awkwardness that comes with getting to know someone because we’d had so much time to talk and get to know each other online before we ever met the first time. (Don’t get me wrong: there was still awkwardness, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been and it didn’t last as long as some awkward moments I’ve had with other people.)

It didn’t work out, ultimately, but we’re still friends and he’s got a great lady now (who he also met online!).

L.A. Times Festival of Books

On Sunday, I attended an afternoon of the L.A. Times Festival of Books with my mother. We listened to two poets read their work on the Poetry Stage near the inverted fountain on UCLA‘s South Campus and then had a look around at the many booths.

The Poetry Stage was the smallest of the many reading stages at the Festival, but it was just as well because it made for a more intimate atmosphere. The stage itself was set up on the grass to one side of the walkway. It was simple enough: a podium and microphone. Behind the poet was a banner that read “POETRY STAGE”—as if we couldn’t figure that out for ourselves. The audience was seated in plastic folding chairs with a few umbrellas around to shade against the sun. Behind the audience was a small table with information about poetry, including free bookmarks and copies of Poetry Flash. (I picked up a copy on my way to visit other parts of the Festival after I’d heard two poets read.) Across the walkway was the Small World Books booth, which was selling the readers’ works, as well as other books like The History of White People and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Cathy ColmanThe first poet (that I heard) was Cathy Colman (click photo at right for larger). She read a total of eleven poems during her half hour time slot and briefly prefaced most of her poems with some background information about the poem’s subject or form. Her first piece was an acrostic poem called “Acrostic at Dinner”. It was helpful to me that she explained what acrostic meant (“a poem in which the first letter of each line in the text spells out a word or a message”) because I’d have been lost if she hadn’t. Her second piece was an instructional poem called “How To”, which I really liked, about how to write a poem. She said she wrote it for her students who seemed to be perpetually afraid of the blank page. Her seventh poem, titled “Night Swim, 1974”, was based on a party she went to as a young student. Also in attendance at the party were many famous poets, who she mentioned in the poem, though she didn’t name any names, and I’m not familiar enough with many poets to figure out who she was talking about. I wrote down this line: “…his throat pulsing like mud does during rain…” because it included some interesting imagery which I haven’t seen elsewhere. Another poem, “Duplicate Letter” had a preface (correct word?) from Rilke. Colman tended to use a lot of allusion and alliteration in her work, something I mentioned numerous times in my notes. My favorite poem of hers was “Jacobson’s Organ: A Memo”, which was written from the point of view of a snake. (In snakes, the Jacobson’s organ is an olfactory sense in their tongues which helps them smell despite not having noses.) Cathy Colman’s most recent collection is Beauty’s Tattoo, published in late 2009 by Tebot Bach Publications.

Margaret Emery reading for Annie FinchThe second poet of the afternoon, Annie Finch, had actually missed her flight to Los Angeles and was unable to read. Instead, an actress named Margaret Emery read some of Annie Finch’s poems in her place from two of her books, Eve (forthcoming in June) and Calendars. It was unfortunate that Finch didn’t get to read her own work, but Emery did a decent job in her place (click photo for larger), especially since it seemed like she’d been called in on short notice. Emery read a total of sixteen poems of varying lengths during the allotted half hour. The first poem, “Running in Church” (dedicated “for Marie”), had a lot of internal and end rhyme. The fourth, “Walk With Me”, had a lot of repetition, which had a soothing quality. I was expecting the repetition to be irritating, but it actually helped me get into the flow of the poem better. Another poem, “Letter to Emily Dickinson”, was a good example of apostrophe and included a line which I wrote down: “I take from you as you take me apart”. Finch’s poems had beach or sea imagery (“The Woman on the Beach”) and images of motherhood/childhood (“Being a Constellation”)—and some had both (“The Last Mermother”). “Two Bodies” included the beautiful line: “…they reach through the ceilings of the night…”; the speaker in “Blue Willow” stated, “It’s morning; day rises above me…”

Overall, I would have liked to have the poems in front of me while they were being read aloud so that I could follow along and notice the line breaks and other notations that don’t translate well into speech. My mother, sitting next to me the entire time, would periodically lean over and say either “I got that one” or “I didn’t understand that; could you explain it?” I don’t have a good enough short-term memory to be able to reproduce and explain something so recently introduced (it’s why I write things down in the first place), so I’d have to say, “Maybe we should buy the book” instead of actually being helpful. I like listening to poets read their own work (they know the work best, after all), but it helps to have read the poems for myself ahead of time.

Thanks to my mother for the photos.

The Past Week via Twitter: 2010-04-25

The Bechdel Test

The Bechdel Test, used when watching movies, is simple. It names the following three criteria:

(1) it has to have at least two women in it
(2) who talk to each other
(3) about something besides a man.

I just learned of the test recently, even though it’s been around for a while, and have asked my screenwriter friends from Wilkes to give me their thoughts on it. In the meantime, though, one writer talks about why film schools teach screenwriters not to pass the Bechdel Test. There’s even an entire blog that reviews movies (and TV and books) based solely on the test.

Of the nine movies I’ve reviewed in the past year, only three passed the Bechdel Test. Working backwards: I found that…

FAIL The Time Machine passed the first part of the test (it has two women in it—the housekeeper and Weena), but failed the other two (the two women never even meet, much less speak to each other).

FAIL How to Train Your Dragon has two women in it (Astrid and Ruffnut), but—as far as I can recall—they never speak to each other. They share screen time, though, which could mean something. (I know I’m reaching here, but I really wanted this movie to pass!)

PASS Alice in Wonderland, thank heavens, has more than two women in it (Alice, The White Queen, and the Red Queen/Queen of Hearts, among others). Alice and the White Queen do talk (passing the second part of the test), and they mostly talk about whether or not Alice is going to be the White Queen’s champion or not (third part: passed!).

FAIL Forbidden Planet fails all three parts of the test. There’s only one woman in the entire movie (Alta), so there’s no possible way to pass the second and third parts of the test.

FAIL Peter Pan passes the first part of the test pretty easily (Wendy, Tinkerbell, and Tiger Lily are all featured, as well as Mrs. Darling and Wendy’s prudish aunt). As far as I can remember, Tinkerbell and Tiger Lily have no significant speaking lines, and Tinkerbell doesn’t like Wendy in the first place; the only thing they have in common is Peter, anyway. Wendy and her aunt do talk to each other, however, which passes the second part of the test, but it’s about Wendy almost being old enough to be betrothed/married, which counts as talking about a man in my book. So, ultimately, Peter Pan fails the test on the third try.

PASS New Moon [gag] passes the first part of the test with Bella, the main character, as woman #1 and other minor female characters (Rosalie, Alice, Esme, Jessica, Jane, Emily, and even Victoria) all clocking in with woman #2 potential. So, we have a lot of options here, but do any of these women talk to any of these other women on screen? Well, we barely see Victoria in the movie at all, much less hear her speak, so she’s out. However, Emily, Rosalie, Alice, Esme, Jessica, and Jane all interact with Bella, so that passes the second part of the test.

Emily and Bella talk about the Quileute wolfpack (“Do they always eat like this?” “*laugh*”), who are (mostly) men, so that conversation is out. Jessica’s and Jane’s “conversations” with Bella are pretty one-sided (they do all the talking while Bella stands there, basically mute), so I can’t count either of them. It gets iffy with Rosalie, Alice, and Esme. These three mostly interact with Bella during Bella’s ill-fated 18th birthday party, and I don’t remember exactly what they say to each other, but it’s quite possible that one of their interactions with Bella (or each other) passes the third part of the Bechdel Test. (Argh… that really frustrates me because, like Twilight, New Moon is hardly feminist-friendly, so I kinda wanted this movie to fail the test, not pass it.)

FAIL Watchmen has at least two women characters (most notably the two Silk Spectres, Sally and her mother), and they do talk to each other, but they only ever talk about the Comedian, so this movie fails the third part of the test. (No big loss, really, because the movie wasn’t that good.)

FAIL Jarhead outright fails all three parts of the test: there’s only one woman in the movie (the main character’s girlfriend who dumps him), so the movie automatically fails the second and third parts of the test.

PASS The Legend of Chun-Li, amazingly, passes all three parts of the Bechdel Test. First, it has multiple women in it (Chun-Li, Cantana, and Maya). Maya mostly interacts with Nash, but Cantana and Chun-Li literally duke it out in an early fight scene/conversation. In the bathroom of a dance club, they talk/fight about “The White Rose” (which, we later discover, is actually another woman).

I’d be interested to watch more movies with this test in mind. It seems like a decent litmus for Movies I’d Like to Watch, but it’d be nice if the main site had a more comprehensive list of movies so that I could tell if a movie passes before actually going to see it for myself.

I’ve been thinking about it and talking it over with my parents (good sounding boards, they are!), and I think the main reason the Bechdel Test is important is to get people thinking and talking about movies critically instead of just sitting back and soaking in what’s put in front of them. There are quite a few movies that fail the Bechdel Test that are good for other reasons (The Dark Knight is an example of this), and even some otherwise feminist-friendly movies fail, for whatever reason. Also, there are some horrible, terrible movies that pass the test *cough-Twilight-cough* when they’ve done nothing but set women’s rights back 20 years or more (or, would’ve set our rights back that far if they’d had their way).

The Bechdel Test is a litmus of the lowest common denominator; the bar is set so pathetically low that it’s painful to see good movies fail (and bad movies pass). Maybe if we think more critically about what is being presented to us, we’ll have a better shot at changing Hollywood for the better.

Black Dating

Honestly, I’ve never dated a black person. I’m not opposed to it, but I’ve almost never been in a situation with a person of color that presented itself as “I like you; you like me; maybe we can work something out” in regards to dating. I don’t know if that’s because I’ve never looked for that kind of situation or I just misread the signals or what, but I’ve never dated a black person.

Some part of me thinks it’s a culture thing, but I’ve never really sat down to think about what “black culture” is, either. Or what my culture is in comparison to other cultures, for that matter. If black dating is anything like the world of “white dating” (if there is such a thing), I know it’s gotta be tough… Because any kind of dating is tough. It’s like you’re interviewing for a job but worse because, if you’re rejected, it’s not just your resume that’s being rejected—it really is you.

I started thinking about it seriously, though, and I started to wonder: why is it “black dating” and not just “dating”? I think it’s because the default (at least in the U.S.) is white (cisgendered heterosexual male), so anything that’s not white has to be defined to make it clear. Interesting. Food for thought, I guess.