Friday, August 19, 2011

Cricket Love

So I was listening to npr (big shock there) the other day and I got stuck--you know, stuck in the car because you don't want to stop listening to what's playing.

Marlene Zuk (caption later added)
It was with Marlene Zuk, a professor of biology from UC Riverside.  She's just come out with a new fanch-schmancy book (hence the npr interview) and it's called Sex On Six Legs.

I can't help it.  My nerdy little brain just went POP when I heard that there was a book out there talking specifically about the kinky activities of insects.  It combines two things I am naturally fascinated by:  weird ass natural science and sex.  What more could I want?  That meeting I was going to could wait another few minutes, right?  Who needs to talk about the future of my company's finances when there is a discussion going on about cricket sex?  Not I, said the fly.*  Wait, did I tell you I'm one of nine people who founded a theatre company?  I didn't?  Next blog post.

It's My Party And I'll Write About Insect Sex If I Want To

Anyway, fun fact about Marlene Zuk that I just learned:  she got her Ph.D the year I was born.  Another fun fact:  my birthday is next Friday (if you don't buy me a present then I will make this blog invisible to you).  I was planning on just taking the week off from the blog this time around since my scheduled Tuesday posts have been thrown out of wack now.  But, I figured.  Hey.  If  it's my birthday week then this means I get to write about crickets having sex.  Because that's what I do with my free time.  Don't judge.

So here's the story.  Field Crickets in Hawaii were introduced back in 1877.   From what I've learned, whenever I see the words "introduced" alongside a year in the 1800s it usually means White People Ships Crawling With Invasive Species scraping up onto the other beaches of the world.

For example...
A Dramatic Representation of the arrival of Invasive Diseases to The Bahamas
But, however it happened, these Austrailian field crickets (aka Teleogryllus oceanicus because that's easier to say) are now living and chirping away on Kauai island.  These are the bug(ger)s that Dr. Zuk was talking up to Dave Davies.
If you didn't already know, that chirping you hear on those classic summer nights are male crickets singing their hearts out (or wings, depending on how you look at it) to attract lady crickets.  Lady crickets are all about them nice vibrations (hey hey) and will go after the one with the best audio display. Same old story, those who breed get to pass on genes and those who don't get to become queer bloggers who work in theatre.  I mean, what?

Anyway, life would be fab as a male cricket, singing your love songs to your ladies on Kuai.  Except for the fact that there's just one hitch.
Someone else is listening.

No Really, This Is Creepy.

You know the classic story of a stalker-fan of someone's music gets too close and pulls a Mercy on you? Well, it turns out Mr. Singing Field Cricket has got one fan he doesn't want.  They're called the Ormia ochracea.  It's a parasitic fly (don't you get a little inner cringe every time you read "parasitic" in a sentence?).   According to Dr. Zuk, the female flucan "hear the song as well or better than a female cricket," and will land on the cricket, laying her eggs on and around the body of the guy.  The larvae then burrow and live off of the cricket's tissue for a week or so and then...

"They burst out like the movie Alien."

You know, Dr. Zuk.  I like it when the movie Alien is not reinforced as a reality in the natural world.  

Learning Dating Techniques From Crickets

The best part about this story is that around 2003 something changed.  A mutation occured in the male cricket population:  some male crickets are not able to sing.  They just... are tone deaf (re: don't rub their wings).  But, of course, if they don't sing how do they get to pass on their genes?  And if they don't pass on their genes, then how has this mutation continued to grow?

Turns out, insects are more shrewd than I am.  These silent males literally hang out around the dude who's singing, waiting for the females to literally mistake them for him.  It's like sitting around at a campfire, while Grace Slick is singing folk songs, meanwhile you're Yoko Ono off to the side listening and some hot-hottie comes up to you and is like "Hey.  I love your voice.  C'mon.  Let's get out of here."

And what are you going to do to right this moral wrong?  Nothing.  Nothing at all.  Because you're a cricket.  And you just want to live long enough to have sex and not get eaten by a parasitic fly out to plant her babies in your body.

I think we can all learn from the Silent Field Cricket.  I am now going to try and hang around Adele's next concert off to the side and whenever some cute-cutie walks by I'll be like "That's me singing" and all will be solved.  Right?


*But, unfortunately Me, said the B.  Don't worry, theatre kids.  I went to the meeting and was on time.  But oh you BETCHA I listened to the feed on the npr website later on that evening.  Now you can listen too.

EDITED TO ADD:  Just FYI, I actually like Yoko Ono.  She's badass and has put up with a lot of crap over the years.  I just prefer Grace Slick when it comes to vocal power.   

Friday, August 12, 2011

Blow Me

A couple nights ago I had the fortune of seeing my good friend, Jen, before she jets off to Grad School For The Science in some state that's towards Canada and not near the Pacific Ocean.  Just FYI, I have a bit of an odd understanding of American geography.

This is about how far I get before Google-mapping:

We were talking and the subject came up on what I could write about this week on the blog.  Jen reads this thing just like you and as a weird, kind-of-egotistical-parting-gift, I decided she had fair game to decide what could be discussed this week.  Because everything in life is relatable to this blog.  Hence the title.

Group Blog Brainstorm 

We actually were having a hard time choosing one subject ironically.  It was a group of us, Jen, Maggie, Danielle and Mike, Jen's boyfriend--all huddled around a cozy (re: barely lit) table in our local favorite pub, the Hobnob.  Some things you should know about this gaggle of people:  all the women in the group have known each other since when we were at least 15 years old.  I've known Danielle longer since we used to play youth soccer together, so there's a good decade or so of history and awkward teenage moments to go around the table whenever we get together.  For example, these are also the group of friends that I first came out to, but that's another story for later when I have nothing else to write about.

The conversation was all over the place, as it rightfully should be; it ranged from awkward social moments in our day to day life (apparently, straight women could be sexist towards other straight women in the workforce), to the London Riotsthe story about the couple that foreclosed on Bank of America, the porn industry's distribution of mock-blockbuster movies, how the economy probably just destroyed anyone who is about to turn 65's retirement into a pile of poo over two days, and then came the candle moment.

The Candle Moment

Towards the end of the evening, conversation had been dwindling down.  You can always tell when dinner conversation is dying off:  the people around the table start noticing the objects on the table, as if for the first time.  Not to say that this is a bad thing--actually, I like this part of any dinner I've been out on.  The feeling of having accomplished something together, albeit eating and talking, is fulfilling and rest/bed is once again earned for the night.

Anyway, Maggie had noticed the candle in front of her, which she readily blew out.  She then noticed the candle in between Mike and I, two seats down.  It unanimously became clear to us all:  Maggie had to blow out this candle from across two tables.  And we could not leave until Maggie had blown out the candle.

Blow Me

It was a far reach, but it seemed like the perfect "finisher" of the night for Maggie to knock this sucker out--an achievable goal we could all vicariously enjoy, and thus fulfill our night's end further.

We braced ourselves.

How quickly the mighty hath fallen.

You know those evil weeble-wobble toys?  Maggie had just met her match (ha) with an evil-weeble-wobble candle.

But that didn't mean she stopped.

Oh no.

You get Maggie onto something She Finishes That Something.

I think we all kind of felt bad.

Maggie had practically made herself faint for the "group" effort.

But, you know humans:  once they are convinced a certain task must be completed for happiness, they will actually encourage pain/or lack of oxygen to achieve that goal.

Kind of like heading off to Grad School for a Ph.D, right Jen?  And oh, if I haven't already officially said it yet, GOOD LUCK!  I'm sure you'll do amazing.

In fact, I have faith you will kick The Science's ass.

But, just know it's ok if you sometimes feel overwhelmed or like you can't get through it.

Because life is filled with bitchy candles.

But we're here, ready to lend a helping hand (or at least, Danielle was).

So you can blow that sucker out.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My First Heartbreak

Photography (edited) by hamkahatta
My favorite play growing up as a kid was Twelfth Night or What You Will, by William Shakespeare.  It wasn't because it had the prettiest love poetry lines, it wasn't because it was a comedy, it certainly wasn't because the main character was female--no, no.  It was because somewhere in that tangled web of prose-gone-wilde, there was a real love story, albeit fraught with homophobia, between two women.

For me, at age 11 this was a HUGE deal.

In fact, anything at age 11 was a HUGE deal, but we don't need to go into that.  Point is, I am still totally a sucker for that play.  It also goes to show that this is why it's important for gay culture/education to be accessible to kids because not everyone is going to go pick up Shakespeare and find an escape route through 400 year old prose.  Only weirdos and drama students do that.


My Twelfth Nights

Don't know the play?  It's your classic love-triangle-gone-awry-because-you-look-just-like-your-twin-brother-and-think-it's-a-good-idea-to-dress-up-like-him-and-convince-everyone-you're-a-man...kind of story.  Ok fine, I'll make the easy reference:  At the end of Shakespeare In Love, the Queen asks Will Shakespeare to write something for the holidays season ("Something for Twelfth Night") coming up--a comedy preferred since he just destroyed his audience emotionally with his emo production of Romeo & Juliet.

This screen shot at the end of the film might help jog your memory:

Scene from Shakespeare In Love.  Captions later added.
So according to modern fantasy, Joseph Fiennes/William Shakespeare goes on to write one of the most talked about plays in history because he can't get it on with Gwenneth Paltrow/Lady Viola because Colin Firth/Lame-O Rich Dude complained to the Queen, i.e., Judi Dench.

Side note:  Why does Judi Dench always play the Queen?  And why is she not REALLY the Queen?

Just curious.

So Back To What I Was Talking About Before I Got Sidetracked By Judi Dench

I couldn't get enough of the film version of Twelfth Night (click here to watch the trailer).  I watched it with my family the first night we cracked open the VHS, and then got up at around 6am the next day just to watch it again. (I didn't want my family to know I was watching it again because something told me my new-found obsession was linked to something more than just your average admiration for iambic pentameter.)

After a while I started to memorize it--not just the lines of my favorite character (they're all my favorite characters) no, no.  The entire play.  I have the play memorized.  I'm not joking.  Think I'm joking?

"If music be the food of love, play on, give me excess of it, that surfeiting the appetite may sicken and so die blah blah blah I'm a self-absorbed Duke who can't take a hint and is a little bit emo."

What?  I'm not going to type out the entire play but those are the first lines of it and it's Duke Orsino who says it and don't test me.  I know this play.

First Heartbreak = Feeling Invisible Even While Watching A Play About A Cross-Dressing Woman By A Bisexual Playwright

Being introduced to this play was the beginning of the end of my closet-days and I didn't even realize it.  What I did realize was that every version of this play I've seen--and trust me, I've seen it a lot--always seems to focus on the subplot of the pompus man servant, Malvolio, who makes a fool out of himself about three-quarters through the play.  He, like so many people, was led to believe he was going to have a chance with the Duchess, Olivia, and is smartly turned down for it--he even gets sent to prison for it.

(Olivia, you  may or may not know, is the gal who *also* mistakenly falls in love with Viola and in turn, gets rejected by her.  Bear with me.  It's a complicated plot.  If you need help, just watch the trailer for She's The Man. You'll be right up to speed.)

And yet, even as a hormone-driven, sexuality-just-kicked-into-overdrive 11 year old, I knew something was up.  What was with the love triangle between the guy and the two women?  Why was it so awkwardly handled that a woman was technically attracted to another woman?  Why has every production I've seen involved some surreal "Oh, nevermind!  Didn't realize you were who I couldn't be attracted to!" dios-et-machina moment?

In the final moments of the play, when all hidden identities and love affairs are revealed, it is the love that Olivia grows over the course of the play for Viola that is usually tossed aside the quickest and most cruelly.  I know Viola is not into Olivia at all.  I know the script doesn't have much to go on--there are like two lines between Olivia being like "WTF?" to "A sister, you are she!" and wanting to have a platonic sister-in-law sleepover.  But seriously, in any sense of realistic romance, a good writer/director/actor knows that a person can't be attracted to another person by accident, nor can we flip that switch right back off again as if it wasn't there in the first place.

Attraction is attraction.  You either have it or you don't.  And far be it from me to hope that hey, Olivia might have been digging Viola's hotness being all smart with the words and the cute face with the wooing in the first place--not the fact that Viola was secretly hiding a fantastic package.

I hate to admit it, but Twelfth Night's hetero-normative-affirming ending always kills me a little bit, particularly if it's played so flippantly as I've seen it done time and time again.  

Like Patience On A Monument, Smiling At Bieb

If you know Twelfth Night that title was super funny.  If you don't, it's still funny because it has the word "bieb" in it.

All I'm saying is 11,000,000 Bieber fans prove Olivia is not alone.  Men who are feminine-ish are hot and women who are masculine-ish are hot.  To some, at least (not to me, but to those of you who DO find us attractive bless you to bits because I don't know what I'd do without you).

All I'm saying is, it's about time I saw a production that admitted that chemistry Olivia feels for Viola--that at least allowed the possibility for Olivia to recognize something within herself beyond just basic lust.  I've seen so many productions where Olivia gets wittled down to this selfish bimbo who is just as superficial as Duke Orsino.  In that sense, they'd make a wonderful couple.  But, that's not the plot Shakespeare had in mind.  Shakespeare had confusion, gender-bending and general frivolity in love in mind.  At least, that's what I interpret his/their intentions to be.

I get the feeling this is not something a lot people really argue about when it comes to this play.  I get the feeling I will have to just be patient for a different interpretation to come out.


p.s.  Goddamit I'm going to have to make my own, aren't I?  Goddamit.  Fine.  I'll produce my own version of Twelfth Night.  And I'll direct it.  And I'll make it a one-woman show so I don't have to broker contracts.  And I'll even be my own audience--wait.  Goddamit.

p.p.s. For those of you who thought I was going to talk about my real first heartbreak, I apologize.  No blog post could ever sum up what that experience is like for anyone.  Besides, isn't talking about sexy Shakespeare plays more fun?