Sunday, October 28, 2007

Lesbigaytrs and Giblets

A couple nights ago, at the Nebraska Library Association conference, I attended a GLBT & Ally mixer, where I heard a couple of new terms for queerfolk. (Well, new to me, anyway.)

First, "Lesbigaytr." (Break it down: Les-Bi-Gay-Tr[ansgender].)

Behold the adorable, cuddly Lesbigaytr! Wai! Huggles!

The other term I heard was "giblets" (GBLTs). Bwa ha ha ha ha!

What all did we talk about at a GLBTA mixer? Mostly zombies. Why? I have no idea. It just happened. Oh, sure, we occasionally forayed into serious topics, like providing safe restroom access for transitioning individuals, and into fun topics, like favorite books and movies, but somehow, the conversation kept returning to zombies. So really, it was more of a GLBTZ mixer. But still, loads of fun.

Hope Blessing Ring

The weather is fabulous today, so I took a short walk around my neighborhood. On the sidewalk a few blocks away, I found what looked like a metal washer, except that the hole in the center had an X through it. I picked it up and turned it over, discovering that the X was the crossed part of a ribbon, molded from the same dull-gray pewter. It had been stepped on a few times, and the top of the ribbon's loop had been scraped along the sidewalk, making it rough and jagged, but also brilliantly shiny.

Around the washer were inscribed the words, "Hope Blessing Ring." Since the ribbon had no special color, it could be interpreted as an awareness ribbon for breast cancer, AIDS, or any other cause one wanted to align it with. Since it wasn't obviously intended for any single cause, I chose to interpret as an overall hope blessing for any and every aspect of life.

I resumed my walk, flipping the ring in the air and catching it as I tend to do with any little thing that happens to be in my hand. I fumbled a catch, though, and the ring bounced off my fingertips and into the grass of the unnamed park (really just a triangle of grass with a graffiti-covered park bench and a twisted, smashed tree bearing the wounds of many storms). I dug through the grass for a while, but never found the ring. So I guess I wasn't meant to have it.

I like to imagine that it will find its way to someone who needs a blessing of hope. And that could truly be anyone. In what time or place has there ever been a person who did not need hope?

Maybe a year from now some kid with a metal detector will find it. Maybe twenty years from now, a construction worker digging the area up to lay a foundation will spot it glinting in the dirt. Maybe a thousand years from now, it will come into the hands of an archaeologist excavating a landfill. Maybe it will never again be seen by human eyes, and the blessing was just for me, the person who dropped it on the sidewalk, and you few who read this blog. Who can know?


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Indian Cave State Park

I went to Indian Cave State Park with my mom and stepdad yesterday. What a wonderful, beautiful place. The weather was perfect, too. Overcast and cool. It got a lot colder as the day went on, but never unpleasantly so. A great day for being out and about.

There are a several excellent petroglyphs of animals like this. Unfortunately, there are many, many more modern-day names and initials carved into the rock. The present-day vandals are destroying the ancient art.

On the other hand, in a thousand years, maybe people visiting the site will consider the initials and names to be ancient art, as well.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Feral Martians of Venus

Last night at my friend's monthly movie, we saw a 1962 science fiction film from the Soviet Union. The title on the screen was in Russian, which I don't read, subtitled as Planet of Storms. The box had the title Planeta Burg. I don't know which one is a more accurate translation, but you've got to admit that Planet of Storms sounds a whole lot better than Planeta Burg.

I'll say right from the top . . . this was a bad movie. It was interesting from a cultural perspective. How often do Americans get the opportunity to see Communist era Russian flicks? As with the couple of Communist era Czech movies I've seen, the characters all have a sort of glum fatalism. As one of my friends said, "They're all emo!" Apparently, life under Communist rule just plain sucked, even if you were a cosmonaut.

Three ships, with three crew members apiece, went to Venus. Right at the beginning of the movie, an asteroid came from nowhere and destroyed one of the ships. In the aftermath of the disaster, the survivors were supposed to stay in orbit over Venus and wait for another ship to come from Earth, so they could do their mission with a full crew as planned.

Thing is, they got bored. So the five men took their crappy robot and headed down planetside, leaving the only female crew member alone in orbit, where she would struggle with space madness, which looked a whole lot like bipolar disorder.

The guys got separated. One group of three had a nifty hover car that looked right out of The Jetsons. They cruised around and had a grand old time while searching for their companions. They found a crude sculpture of a dragon, which proved the presence of intelligent life on Venus. They did not even consider the possibility that it may have evolved there. No, they came to the conclusion that Martians must have colonized Venus, and the reason the artwork was so primitive was that the civilization fell and the people reverted to savages. Yes, that's right, Venus is populated by feral Martians. Oh, and dinosaurs. Did I mention the dinosaurs? Yep. Venus, home to feral Martians and cheap rubber dinosaurs.

Keep in mind that they never explicitly stated that they had encountered Martians at any point in the history of space exploration, nor even that they had found any form of life whatsoever on Mars. It's just an unstated assumption that Mars was obviously the site of the first great civilization in the solar system. They even hinted at the idea that Earth was also a Martian colony. So we, too, are feral Martians.

Meanwhile, the other two guys, with their clunky, junky robot, had a big bag of suck. A carnivorous tentacle plant tried to eat them, they caught malaria, and then they got stranded in the middle of a surging river of lava. First of all . . . malaria? The guys started feeling a little sick, so they jumped to the conclusion that it's malaria?

As they lost consciousness, the robot made contact with the group in the hover car. The hover car group asked the robot where his masters were, and the robot spouted off that he had no masters; he was a free machine. Unimpressed, the guys told the robot to give medicine to the ill crew members. So the robot got the pills from the pack, spilled them all over the ground, rubbed them in the Venusian dirt, then with no small effort managed to pick one up with its clumsy, stumpy, poorly engineered club of a hand. Then the robot flipped open the guy's space helmet, dropped the pill in his mouth, and poured water all over his face, managing to splash some few drops in his mouth. I'm not sure if the robot was trying to kill him them or just incompetent, but the scene was unintentionally hilarious.

Presumably, the robot repeated this procedure with the other guy, although the audience was spared the spectacle. The amazing thing was, the guys actually recovered from their "malaria." Yes, a few healthy gasps of Venusian air and a pill covered in dirt and alien microbes was just what the doctor ordered.

So why did they put their helmets back on? Seriously? The credibility was ruined at this point.

And the robot . . . it just got worse and worse. With technology advanced enough to build a bipedal robot that would play music like a walking mp3 player and occasionally wax eloquent on philosophy, they couldn't even waterproof it? A little rain, and it had to run off and hide in a cave? Oh, but while a weak drizzle would destroy the robot, it was perfectly capable of strolling through knee-deep flowing lava.

What happened to the robot in the end? Did the cosmonauts meet any Venusians? Or did they get eaten by dinosaurs? Did the lonely woman in orbit die of boredom, or did she succumb to space madness and send her ship--the crew's only hope of returning to earth--careening down to the planet's surface? If you actually care enough to want the answers to these questions, you'll have to watch the movie for yourself. If you love B-movies, especially if you enjoy mocking them MST3K-style as you watch, put it on your must-see list.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

National Coming Out Day

Last night, I was writing a post about why I wasn't going to come out to anyone new for National Coming Out Day. I had lots of excuses: it seems pointless when I'm single, I've been date-free for so long that I'm really more asexual than lesbian, and, mostly, I'm afraid. Not afraid of physical harm or anything so dramatic, but afraid of rejection, of having someone I love telling me I wasn't welcome in their home, that they didn't want anything to do with me. As I wrote the paragraph saying that I was afraid to come out to anyone in my family besides the three who have known for years, I typed the following sentence:

I suppose I should have more faith in the people I love.

And I sat there and stared at that sentence for a long, long time and thought about it. Really thought about it.

Coming out isn't about stirring up trouble or making some kind of statement. It's about honesty. The point of National Coming Out Day, I think, is not about making more straight people realize there are gays in their lives. It's really for the gay people. It's about overcoming our fears and breaking holes in the often very thick, very high walls we've built around our hearts. It's about healing the wounds we've given ourselves.

So I decided that I would come out to one person. One member of my family who I love dearly and wish I could be closer to. I paced the floor and stared at the phone. I picked it up and put it down several times. I remember looking at the clock and thinking that if I procrastinated long enough, it would be bedtime and I'd be off the hook.

Finally, I managed to actually dial the number and call my stepsister. After some hemming and hawing and false starts, I told her I was gay. She was great. She said it didn't matter to her one way or the other, and I'd always be welcome with her.

I can not describe the relief I felt. The relief of knowing that no matter what, I am loved and welcome. The relief of learning that my fears were unfounded.

Pushing past my fear like that was emotionally exhausting. I'm not about to rush forward and come out to everyone else in my family right away. It may be another year, or two, or ten, before I can build the courage back up for the next one.

But for now, I have healed one wound in my heart, and I am a little more free.

Happy National Coming Out Day, everyone. May your lives be filled with love and your fears proven baseless.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dinosaurs Alive 3D

I took a half-day of vacation today, to escape the chemical fumes in my workplace. (They're applying some kind of top-coat to the floor in the basement, but the smell got pretty strong on every floor.) I went to the zoo for a walk. I wish I'd taken my camera, because there was a monkey in the sloth's tree, hanging upside down like a sloth. Also, they have new reedy sea dragons in the aquarium, and they're exquisitely beautiful. Plus the black-footed cat and Mai the three-legged tiger both have babies.

After my walk, I decided to see the Dinosaurs Alive 3D film at the zoo's IMAX theater. Alas, that turned out to be a big disappointment. The computer animated dinosaurs were rather disappointing. I've seen better animation in low-budget kids' movies. Plus they went to all the trouble of making it 3D, but they ruined any potential sense of realism that may have provided by skimping on the interaction between the dinosaurs and their environments. Dinosaurs would walk across desert sand and leave no footprints. The perfect wind-ripples upon the sand were completely undisturbed by the ferocious to-the-death battle happening upon them. Sometimes the animation overlaid on the filmed background was not lined up quite right, so the dinosaurs seemed to be sliding or drifting a little with each step. I'm not even sure they consistently remembered to have the dinosaurs actually cast shadows.

Then the 3D effects themselves were bad. This wasn't the old-style red lens/blue lens style of 3D, but you still needed glasses. The technology wasn't explained and I'm too lazy to look it up, but I assume it has to do with polarization of the light or something along those lines. Anyway, for objects in the middle depth, it worked fine. For distant things, there was no sense of depth at all. For close-up things, the effect broke down. Items had ghost images around them where the two components of the film didn't come back together. So the ghosty double-vision close-ups actually ended up giving me a headache. At times I ended up closing one eye so I could just watch it 2D.

Then the content of the film itself was somewhat lacking. It was only 45 minutes long, and I'd have to guess that the actual animated dinosaur sequences totaled somewhere in the 5-10 minute range, including the several repeated scenes. Most of it was spent on the paleontology grad students, and it came off as really, really staged. I'm sure all documentaries are staged to some degree, but this just seemed extra bad. It seems more like a poorly scripted paleontology recruitment film than anything.

Plus I don't trust their facts. Near the end, they said something to the effect of "only two percent" of all dinosaur species have been discovered. How do they know that? You can't give a percentage known for a predominantly unknown body of knowledge. There is no whole to calculate it against. Maybe we've only found one percent. Maybe we've actually found 20, 30, 50, or 90 percent. The thing is, it is impossible to know. It's one thing to say, "we think that we may have discovered as little as two percent of what's out there to be found," but quite another to assert as a fact, "we've only found two percent." The first is speculation. The second is a lie.

All in all, I'd say skip Dinosaurs Alive 3D. Not worth the time or money, or the headache.