Thursday, February 23, 2012

At thirty pounds, kiss a random stranger.

I didn’t make too many New Year’s Resolutions this year. I typically don’t, but I did have a couple of vague ideas sort of floating around that I failed to turn into concrete goals. Things like; I want to write four novels this year, and I’d like to be able to do a handstand for a full minute and a muscle-up, complete FRAN AP… Last year I had a couple of soft, unsolidified goals like this that I actually managed to complete. I ran a 10K, I did NaNoWriMo, head-butted a Marine (alright, that wasn’t a goal, it was just fun).

Anyway, you might notice that some of the physical goals that I’ve set for myself are kind of hard on the shoulders. I managed to screw up my right shoulder pretty bad a few years ago, and ever since then I’ve had a hard time doing anything that requires full mobility in that shoulder. It took me a few years to figure out that when I force it to work, it feels better! Loads better than when I baby it. I’m sure there’s a spiritual lesson in there, but anyway, I can finally do un-scaled pull-up which is huge for me, and it’s an important step towards the muscle-up.

A good friend of mine made the goal to lose 30 pounds, and what’s awesome is that she’s actually well on her way and now we’re into February, so good for her! She came up with a somewhat unusual and adorable reward system. At five pounds she gets a manicure, at ten pounds she goes salsa dancing, at fifteen pounds she crashes a wedding, etc.

I thought about putting together something similar for my own goals, but then I realized I’m totally boring and the only rewards that would motive me would be really uninteresting things like ‘take a nap’ which I would probably do anyway.

Anyway, as it’s going to be March soon enough I just wanted to give a big “KEEP IT UP!” shout out to everyone who is awesome enough to make goals for themselves and then achieve them.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Bechdel Test

1. Are there at least two (named) women?

2. Do they talk to each other?

3. Do they talk about something besides men/a man?

I don’t buy into the simplistic idea that some hold about the Bechdel test; basically that any movie that doesn’t pass is evil misogyny incarnate. There are some great movies that massively fail the Bechdel test, movies that even manage to promote a positive, strong image for women. However, the Bechdel test is fun for me. My favorite new show failed this week (the most recent episode of Once Upon a Time) but it did so in such a way that it had me thinking about how fair the test is. Most of the dialogue was between one man and one woman (Regina/Mr. Gold, Emma/Mr. Gold, Rumpelstiltskin/Belle, over and over and over) there was a lot of Mr. Gold in this episode, which is great because I luurve him.

It very nearly fails the reverse as well. The men at the beginning are talking about war, though their attention shifts to Belle in the course of that scene. Mr. Gold and Mr. French are TECHNICALLY talking about business, though it kind of seems later like they were actually talking about Mr. French’s daughter in allegory.

I feel like there’s probably a good reason why people don’t apply the Bechdel test to novels. At first, I figured it was because they probably all pass most of the time. Television shows and films are more constricted by time. They need to get to the point of the plot (hopefully) which means that if the story doesn’t have anything to do with politics, the Higgs-Boson particle or Thai food, then the women probably aren’t going to discuss those things.

In a novel, however, a certain amount of character development has to happen and it’s kind of hard to develop female characters who don’t speak on a variety of subjects or clearly have other concerns in their life that aren’t related to men. It’s not realistic. Even the silliest girls I’ve ever met could talk about something besides men from time to time and managed to do so in a way that told me a lot about who they were. I’m thinking of one instance in particular when a boy-crazy friend of mine suddenly went into an impassioned rant about her love of music and aesthetically bizarre home d├ęcor.Suddenly, I felt I knew a lot more about her.

What DOES bother me is when we’ve got a story with a strong female lead, a compelling plot that doesn’t have anything to do with romance, and during the one sequence when our strong female lead is with another woman they either talk about men (usually in an objectifying way) or they discuss shallow topics that seem removed from the action at hand; ‘oh darling you look wonderful in that dress, who does your hair?’

It doesn’t ruin the movie for me or anything, it just makes me roll my eyes and wonder when our chick is going to continue kicking butt.

I went ahead and checked with all my post-mission novels—they all pass the Bechdel test, but I think I’ll have to say that Rosenrot technically fails the reverse. The male characters are rarely together, one of them can’t speak at all and the others usually don’t discuss anything but witches. The only instant that I could argue counts is when Myth and General are shouting at each other and Rosenrot overhears a couple of phrases. They aren’t talking about any women at all in that moment, but they’re barely communicating. It’s just a couple of heated phrases and then they notice that Rosenrot is there. I’m not sure I feel comfortable saying that counts. I’m pretty sure that Rosenrot fails the reverse Bechdel, but hey, I’m doing serious retooling right now and you never know what will change.

All this got me thinking and made me wonder if my life passes the Bechdel test… So, here are some other women who I spoke with this week and here’s what we talked about.

Lauren – biology, my car, her car, writing/casting a Labyrinth reboot, men. FAIL

Manda – work, a Mohawk hat I made. PASS

Kate – Her MTC class and this week’s episode of Once Upon a Time. FAIL

Jensen – a way cool painting I found, ordering cookies from BYU food to go, our plans to go to St. George this weekend. PASS

Joan – surgery, food, doctors/my grandfather. FAIL

Melinda – upcoming preparations for History class/work. PASS

Lenore – the nobility of serving others/cleaning as a way to grow spiritually, The Help, Teaching, my friend/boss, my dad, Jesus Christ. FAIL

Sarah – my grandmother, my uncle and my nephew. FAIL

Whitney – walking in on her male acquaintance as he was leaving the bath. FAIL

Brenna – the likelihood of designing a kid’s science fair experiment that would cause boogers to rain from the sky (it makes sense in context). PASS

Internet (who I feel is female) – I posted about the Bechdel test, and briefly mentioned several men, including that I love Mr. Gold, although I’d like to clarify that I meant it in a writerly ‘character-admiration’ way rather than a pervy fan-girl way. FAIL

Here’s the conclusion I have reached. If you are not a completely self-centered person and if you talk to somebody else, ANYBODY else long enough, you are going to eventually mention other people and unless you live in an alternative reality in which there are no Y chromosomes, some of those other people you talk about will be men.

I only had one conversation with a woman this week in which we discussed men or a man in a remotely romantic way and that was when Lauren and I were speculating about who to cast in our imaginary play-land Labyrinth reboot and even then I think my comments about a man in the entirely of this forty-five minute conversation were “Yeah, he’s hot. I really like his voice.”

The End.

But, the point of the Bechdel test isn’t to determine whether or not your female characters are preoccupied by men romantically, it’s supposed to be more about how much their lives appear to be oriented around men and their choices and actions. Do these women live their own lives and have other concerns besides the concerns of the male characters with whom they interact? Are we people or are we framework?

Maybe the topics of conversation that I follow with other females say more about me and these other women then they do about society and feminism. In fact, I’m sure they do since my life isn’t a form of media being added to the pop culture slurry. Thank heavens.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Let’s pretend like I’m dating these guys…

I scribbled this down a few months ago, before some of these men dropped out. Then I totally forgot about it. Then I found it again.

Ron Paul

All my friends are like 'You two would be SO great together!'

Guys. Seriously. It's not going to happen.

Rick Perry

CRAP! I forgot to call… geez… it’s not that I don’t like him. I’d honestly like to get to know him better, but I just can’t REMEMBER him!

Herman Cain

What? Who told you that? No, we never even went out.

Rick Santorum

I just have this funny feeling that he’s going to start being mean to me as soon as I make any kind of commitment.

Newt Gingrich

He’s mean to me NOW!

Jon Huntsman

My mom warned me about guys like him.

Mitt Romney

He’s so dreamy, but does he even like me? I just can’t get a read on him.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Space Opera!

I love a good Space Opera. I even occasionally love a bad Space Opera.

Let’s discuss the difference between Space Opera and Science Fiction, shall we?

Really, as far as I can tell Space Opera is more about the drama, the romance, the fat lady singing, it’s big, loud, adventurous and kind of gaudy. It’s also the most popular brand of SciFi. Star Trek, Star Wars, Dr. Who all arguably (because you can always find someone who will argue with you) Space Operas.

Hard Science Fiction, in contrast, tends to let the world building and the actual Science aspects dominate the storyline more so than the characters, at times. The harder the Science in Science Fiction the smarter you are, am I right?

And that can be fun. I toyed with the idea of writing a short story in the style of truly rock-hard Science Fiction, so hard that it could be called Science Fact except that the characters would be made up. Here’s the plot: a group of college students go in search of evidence of extraterrestrial visitation to earth. They use the latest equipment and are well versed in the most widely accepted theories and experimentations of their day with regards to several different branches of science. After several slow weeks they find absolutely nothing but aren’t too terribly disappointed because they’re reasonable people and weren’t really expecting anything more.

Anyway, I started to work on a Space Opera two weeks ago and it’s coming along. I specifically started this story with the thought in mind that I’d fill it to the brim with the kind of marshmallow fluffy goodness of Applied Phlebotinum, Space is an Ocean, Rubber Forehead Aliens. Yum. That’s good Space Opera.

So why, two weeks later, am I reading up about quantum physics, the Higgs Boson Particle, the Valkyrie Project and physical regeneration in undersea life? Why am I now attempting to fuel my Applied Phlebotinum with some actual science... theory.

Wait. If it's theory that means it's still technically fake, right? So it's like... fiction.

I so don't get scientists.

Really though, this is going to be way down on the soft end of the scale, because I still think that’s more fun and also because I’m not smart enough, nor do I have the required patience to write hard science fiction right now. This stuff is really interesting though. I may have to take up a little scary, intimidating sciencey bedtime reading for a while.

Here. Have an excerpt.

We use the Waveships to close the fifteen mile distance between the temple and the shallow water where the Xenophone ship rests. The ship is larger than the temple, made of a strange grey alloy that is scorched and scared. Their ship is damaged, but it appears that relatively little occurred during the crash-land itself. The pilot must have managed to bring the ship to a slower speed before it collided with the surface.

Why would the Wheel allow Xenophones to come here? It is against our laws. It is blaspheme against all that we believe. Freyyo is in the ship with me. I sense more hate, fear and confusion.

Overdramatic is the word that comes to my mind, with effort I shield that word from my companions on the Waveship. It is true that the Wheel has also expressed a desire for us to stay isolated, peaceful and harmonious on our own Ragtnoy, but it is other philosophers who have taken this to mean that contact with Xenophones is always inherently evil. As I’ve understood the voice of the Wheel, I’ve come to believe that our isolation has more to do with our deficiencies than those of the other species in the ether outside.

From a distance I can’t make out the features of these Xenophones. They pour out of the ship, splashing into the water. A strange, sick noise rises above the waves as we approach. For a few seconds I merely cringe at the wailing, like the wind in a nasty storm, but high pitched and eradicate, then I realize that it’s the creatures.

Verbal language. Yuon reaches that conclusion first, sharing it with the rest of us with a hint of fascination. Do they speak telepathically, at all, or are their minds silent?

We’ll find out.

My ears hate this sound they make, but as we approach it isn’t the words they’re calling out that crash into my head so painfully, as it is their thoughts and more shockingly, the emotions and images that are burned into their quiet minds.

He’s dead. He’s dead.

Where are they? Will they follow?

The blood is spilling into the water.

I can barely breathe. It hurts, my child is gasping for air.

I see people, torn, screaming, braking, broken. Their blood is a brighter red than ours. It coats everything in their thoughts, mingling with foreign flesh and darker bloods. I feel ill, and wish that I could shield Eme from all this. I shouldn’t have come. I should have thought of my unborn baby. I can’t stay here. “Take me back!” my voice startles me, because I’ve spoken verbally, for the first time in months. The others are shocked. They look at me like I’ve just struck someone. Take me back, I can’t let Eme stay here.

Even as I speak, the voice of the Wheel calms me and negates my protest. Stay. It’s almost like a real word, not just a desire. The Wheel has never spoken so firmly to me before.

I want to stay. Eme protests, I feel his fear, but his awe at the Xenophones is more powerful.

I’m about to tell the others that I’ll stay, when I realize that there’s no point. They’re not turning back. Everyone is engrossed in the storm of Xenophone thoughts.

They’ve just been through a terrible battle with strange creatures that frighten them.

The Xenophones themselves, are frightening to me. Shortly before we are close enough that I can behold them with my own eyes, I see them in their thoughts. They’re skin is more fragile than ours, in warm shades ranging from a pale cream to a rich black. They have curtains of strange, thin follicles that grow continually from their head, in various shades and textures. Their entire bodies seem to have at least a thin layer of this covering, though it offers little protection. Though their skin is more easily pierced than ours, they are much stronger and perhaps a little larger in general. Their muscular form is built to work hard, to hunt, to run fast. Their skeletal structure seems much the same as ours, though their bones are denser, capable of taking more abuse than ours. Their eyes are sinister. Their eyelids rest farther down over their eyeball which is rimmed with white. These narrow eyes are similar to ours in that they have irises of various shades, but the colored portion of the eyeball is strangely small, circling only around their pupils. Their eyes frighten me, until I see through the thoughts in their mind that in spite of how different their eyes look, they see the same way mine do. They have no tentacles, they can swim, but water is far from their natural environment. They can’t survive underwater for more than a few minutes. They are having trouble breathing now.

The last thing I notice gives me a chill. Their teeth. They’re teeth are slightly longer and sharper than ours. These are not the teeth of an herbivore. These Xenophones who’ve found themselves choking on the surface of my home-world, are predators.

Their confusion is overwhelmed by fear as they see us approach.

Startled, I see that one female is wading through the water to meet us. She is small and slight compared to the others. I can sense that she is very afraid, but more than anything she is determined to help her own womb worm, recently birthed. Very recently. I can feel that the mother is still aching, and still weighed down by her exhausted frame.

The small creature wrapped tightly in her arms whines. The young female mother is waist-deep in the water, throwing her hand into the air towards us. Her thoughts are rampant, and express the ego-centric ideas of someone who must not know that we can hear into her mind.

Please. Please let them be kind to us.

Our ship slows and I lean far over the edge to get my first look at this creature. She shivers and sputters out bits of water. Her face is twisted with pain, though I can see that all her emotion and hope is wrapped around the squirming womb worm like a blanket of thoughts. The curtain of thin follicles around her head has forms into thick, wet chunks of black. Those dangerous teeth chatter between verbal words that I can’t understand. Communication through the mind is so much more efficient. I can pull the ideas behind the words from her mind.

She wants us to help her baby.

We shall help the Xenophones. I speak this idea clearly into her mind, trying to give with it, the most tender representation of my concern for her child.

The female’s shock shows on her face physically, as much as it screams through her mind. She’s stunned, regarding me with wonder.

What species is this?

She makes more verbal noises with her mouth, but in her mind I pluck the right word from the jumble; human.

There is a question in her thoughts as well. I answer it as my fellow priestesses begin to fall from the side of the ship into the water, ready to help the Xenophones. The humans. We are roshmi. I am Ipo, a Rosh Priestess. This is the planet Ragtnoy, where dwells the Wheel of Light.