Japan

Okay, I know this is a little late in coming, but yesterday (and, yes, I know it’d have been late-ish yesterday, too) I was fending off fucking idiotic April Fools Day nonsense. I seriously hate that holiday (if it can even really be called that). No joke; I hate it.

Anyway, the point of this post is to alert you to another way to help the people in Japan. I don’t have much to say about the disaster, except that it brought to mind all the Red Cross training I had in New York and the main two things I learned: (1) Never bring more victims to the affected area (ie: don’t be a hero), and (2) People panic much less often than you’d expect, especially if there’s a plan and they have hope. And sometimes, someone defies even the most hopeful expectations and becomes a total badass.

Anyway, without further ado, I give you:

Anime and Manga Bloggers for Japan
Supporting the Japanese people in a time of need.

“Valentine marriage”

In light of everything that’s been going on my life recently, I’ve been thinking long an hard about what I believe. I know many things I don’t believe in, but up to this point those things have been amorphous blobs on the horizon in my brain; I disagreed with something someone else said, but I never really thought about why in a way I could articulate to someone who disagreed with me. Most of my arguments with boyfriends, etc., in high school and college were primarily rhetorical and/or I just became “too emotional” to properly put into words what I was trying to say.

Now, this is something I can agree with, and it gives me hope for my (admittedly dim) outlook on the Church of Latter-Day Saints. The vlogger, melodramatization, (re)posted this short video (only two minutes, ten seconds) on St. Valentine’s Day this year (transcript below). In the section underneath, she wrote:

I put this video on MormonsforMarriage.com during the Prop 8 debate. At the time, speaking out via this video threatened my temple recommend and calling, and I chose to take it down to protect my standing in the church. I regret that decision and put it back up as a tribute to the legend of Valentine: http://www.dovesandserpents.org/wp/2011/02/first-comes-love-then-comes-marriage/

Transcript:

(A white woman with brown hair in her thirties* wearing beige clothing sits in a beige sofa chair in front of a white bookcase filled with books. She speaks directly to the camera:)

*Not sure of her age; “in her thirties” is really just a guess

My son, Wally, came home from nursery this Sunday with this picture. (She holds up a picture of four children inside a heart with a child’s scribbles on top.) Underneath the scribbles, you can see four children of different ethnicities holding hands in a heart, and at the top it says, “I will love others.” Wally learned an important lesson; he learned the second great commandment given to us by our Savior: to love others as we love ourselves.

Pictures like these are the reason that I go to church, the reason we wake up early on Sunday morning, and drag our children, and fight them through meetings. I want us to learn that we love others; not just those who don’t look like us, but those who don’t believe like us, either. Wouldn’t it be cool if in that picture there was a woman in a burqa, a Catholic priest, or even a man with a cigarette? “I will love others.”

So why is this church, who’s taught me so much about my Savior, asking its members for their time and their money and their votes [to] deny other people marriage? And why should I not follow them? This question has caused me a lot of time—a lot of reflection, and I had to figure out who I really am.

I’m Melanie Selco; I’m a wife; I’m a mom of five; I’m a loyal member of this church. But, I’m also a member of the community at large, and most importantly, I’m a disciple of Christ. And that last characteristic is what makes me obligated to follow my own conscience on this matter.

I still believe in these pictures that Wally drew, and in the primary lessons we teach in the simplest form. I know my church as good intentions in this legal debate; I know they’re trying to protect marriage. But I think my marriage can only be protected as much as the marriage that is least respected in our society right now, and that would be a gay marriage.

My church tells me there’s a slippery slope for allowing gay marriage rights, but they don’t talk about the slippery slope of not allowing it. What happens if we give our government the power to decide who can be married based on morality? Who’s to say they won’t come around in ten or twenty years and say that my marriage is immoral, that they don’t like the church that I belong to, or that they think I’ve over-populated the world, or whatever their reason?

I want to decide what a moral family looks like for me and try and live up to that. And I think that loving others is allowing them to do the same.

As if that wasn’t enough by itself to make me believe again that people are good, she later responded to a comment on her blog entry about it. The comment was:

PLJ
Posted February 15, 2011 at 9:55 AM

It’s a decent video and I support your freedom of expression. Too bad you can’t show the same amount of tolerance for polygamists as for just about every other lifestyle on the planet.

And she responded:

Mel
Posted February 15, 2011 at 1:48 PM

PLJ – I agree that polygamy is a difficult thing for people to show tolerance toward. You could substitute polygamous for gay in my video and I would stand behind it. Happy Valentine’s Day.

OMG I literally cried from happiness. My faith in humanity restored once again! Hallelujah.

On an airplane

A white woman, about 51 years old, was seated next to a black man on an airplane. Obviously disturbed by this, she called the air hostess.

“Madam, what is the matter?” the hostess asked.

“You obviously do not see it,” she responded. “You placed me next to a black man. I do not agree to sit next to someone from such a repugnant group. Give me an alternative seat.”

“Be calm please,” the hostess replied. “Almost all the places on this flight are taken. I will go to see if another place is available.”

The Hostess went away and then came back a few minutes later. “Mam, I spoke to the captain and he informed me that there is also no seat in the business class. All the same, we still have one place in the first class.”

Before the woman could say anything, the hostess continued, “It is not usual for our company to permit someone from the economy class to sit in the first class. However, given the circumstances, the captain feels that it would be scandalous to make someone sit next to someone so disgusting.”

The hostess turned to the black man and said “Therefore, Sir, if you would like to, please collect your hand luggage, a seat awaits you in first class.”

At that moment, the other passengers who were shocked by what they had just witnessed stood up and applauded.

I hope this is true.
via

Wet

So, I watch SVU semi-regularly. It’s my favorite of the Law & Order franchise and I try to keep up with it when I remember to. Obviously, I’m not terribly invested, but if given a choice between watching an episode of SVU I haven’t seen and doing something useful with my time when I don’t have other pressing commitments, you can guess which one I usually pick.

Anyway, in the most recent episode (season 12, episode 5, “Wet”), the primary suspect in a rape/murder case is a dorky-looking college professor who studies toxic mushrooms and has a vendetta against major corporations for trying to buy up public and private land for the water rights associated with it. He admits to the crime for the soapbox, upon which he can stand to proclaim the evils of corporations that try to take something free for general use (read: water), bottle it, and sell it to the public for a profit.

SVU is a fictional crime drama, but that college professor’s warning is true. There are companies in the world today that use water—water, of all things—to get one up on the little guy and make the rich feel more entitled than they already seem to. (Ever thought about designer water, for example?)

I gather that most of the Blog Action Day posts today about water are about having safe drinking water for all people, ie: 8 Facts You Didn’t Know About Water. But I want to mention something that’s rarely noted in “the fight for (clean) water” and that is: corporations buy land and bottle a resource—which should, for all intents and purposes, be free—and sell it back to us. Who wins when this happens?

Well, we have clean water this way, you say. Yes, I answer, but who fucked up Earth’s natural water purification systems so that we’d have to build plants to do it for ourselves, anyway?

It’s more convenient, you say. Oh, please; buy a bottle for yourself and fill it up at the tap.

I don’t have a tap, you say, I live in a country that really doesn’t have any clean water. Well, I answer, how is having companies buy up the land (water/springs/lakes) that you do have with the promise of cleaning it and then selling it back to you at a much higher rate going to help you in the long run?

I guess if you have no water, super expensive water is better than none—if you can afford it. (I wonder if “Wet” aired with Blog Action Day in mind, or if it was a serendipitous coincidence.)

See also the documentaries Flow, Blue Gold, and Tapped for more.

————
This post is part of Blog Action Day 2010: Water.

11 September 2001

I’ve actually written about 9/11 before, in brief and at length. I recalled last year what happened to me that day in 2001, when I admitted I felt less affected than many other people in the United States seem to have been. People say “Never forget” and I’m doing my part not to, even though I still think maybe we just… should forget… or move on, at least.

In writing this post, I was watching a video of the attacks (and yes, I watched all 26 minutes and 26 seconds of it) and wanted to make semi-tongue-in-cheek comments about the video quality, lack of a steady hand in filming, the sound(s) of the firetrucks and emergency vehicles, the huge fires and all that smoke, the dust clouds, and other less-than-sympathetic notes… but I kept checking myself because I know that the entirety of 9/11 is triggering for a lot of people. Not many people have fond memories of that day, to be sure. I have to remember that and be respectful.

From the director of Clear Blue Tuesday, Elizabeth Lucas (emphasis mine):

Everyone has a 9/11 story… It’s as if, with all our public mourning and warfare and political debate, we have yet to have a personal discussion about the impact on individuals of such a defining event. As a nation we chose our designated mourners, our culprits and our defenders and they have stolen away an event that belongs to all of us, no matter how close or far we were to the epicenter. Memories of what happened are indelibly etched in all our minds, but the aftereffect variations are as numerous as people. I’ve heard so many stories of life change… that tell of resilience, grief, community, guilt, anger, fear, love and determination. Some left New York and some decided to stay forever. More than a few people have told me their lives changed for the better since 9/11 by making them more aware, more grateful, more focused and more likely to jettison negative influences from their lives. 9/11 was a catalyst for personal change, both good and bad.

I lived in New York for two years and fell in love there, but I arrived years after September 11th had been branded into everyone’s minds and scarred the face of the city. I went there already knowing I would have to live with the baggage. I’d go back in a minute if I could. No matter what I do, I dread this time every year because I think about what happened all over again. I reassess my thoughts and always come up with the same conclusion: I am not as emotionally connected to the events of that Tuesday as I think I should be. Which is why I keep coming back, I think. To prove that I can sympathize, even when I really want to forget the whole thing ever happened.

My sister asked if I would be writing about the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque“. My answer is: No, I won’t be, except to say that the Quran-burning minister from Florida is a complete idiot and that books should be read, not burned. Here is my contribution to International Read a Book Day, a short excerpt from Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. (If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend the uncut version.)

I would like to attend the memorial service this morning in my town, but I’ll be working 8:15 to 2:45, so I’m going to try to go to the service at the Memorial Fountain in Sherman Oaks after I get off work. I say I wasn’t affected, and for all intents and purposes, I wasn’t. But I keep writing about it, and I keep thinking about it. Why did it happen? What does it mean? Why am I still thinking about it after all this time? Will I ever forget?

Memorial Day 2010

Right, so today’s the day we celebrate and honor our armed forces for doing what no one else is willing or able to do: defend the country. I’m generally a pacifist, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who put themselves in harm’s way on the order of someone who’s never actually been in combat. It’s not their fault that the war(s) we’re fighting isn’t (aren’t) just or right. They swore to go where they were called to go, and they have. Veterans and active military personnel alike deserve our respect. (As my aunt, who’s in the Navy, mentioned: supporting the troops does not mean necessarily supporting the war.)

It seems, however—and I’m guilty of this as much as the next person—that Memorial Day has become a day of parades and candy, hot dogs and burgers on the grill, pool parties and drinking, and fireworks when it really should be a day of mourning soldiers fallen in battle. To quote another website, “Memorial Day used to be a solemn day of mourning, a sacred day of remembrance to honor those who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. Businesses closed for the day. Towns held parades honoring the fallen, the parade routes often times ending at a local cemetery, where Memorial Day speeches were given and prayers offered up. People took the time that day to clean and decorate with flowers and flags the graves of those the [sic] fell in service to their country.”

LCHS Band marching in the Memorial Day Parade
La Canada High School Band in the La Canada Memorial Day Parade in a past year;
I didn’t get a picture from this year. (Click photo for larger.)

I went to a parade this morning with my brother in the city where my parents live, which is affluent and semi-secluded, at least for a suburb of Los Angeles. I grew up here, and I even marched in the annual parade when I was in high school as part of the band. There are very few people in this city who join the military because they have to. That is, most kids around here go to community college or (even more likely) a four-year college and/or chill out and live on their parents money. It’s got them this far, after all, why not help them out a little further? It’s not a city of people joining the military in order to escape a worse situation or climb the social ladder.

Anyway, the point of me saying all that is that we, as a community in this small city, have an aging set of veterans and very few “fallen heroes/angels/soldiers” (insert whatever positive sacrificial noun you want after “fallen”), even if you expand the definition to include police officers and firemen killed in the line of duty. I’m not saying I’m any better about honoring the dead than any of the rest of this city with its fireworks and “Miss La Canada Flintridge” and preschoolers walking in the parade with the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. (Seriously, there were like seven preschools represented in today’s parade.) Maybe we should think more seriously about what Memorial Day really represents?

What the hell. Pass me the ketchup and pickles.

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.