Thursday, September 16, 2010

If asked earlier this summer, the Steiny Road Poet would have said political operas are not her kind of torch—that she would rather ignite something more exotic. However, by accident or intervention from the universe, she got involved with the Dana Beyer campaign that would have put the first transgendered woman into a United States political office. The Poet was told that if the candidate got 5,000 votes, she would win. Dana Beyer made her goal but the three incumbents got more votes and kept their seats.

What did the Poet learn?

1.    Hard work and integrity are not enough to win. Does this sound like the business of getting an opera on stage? While Ms. Beyer visited 10,0000 doors in her district and people whom the Steiny Road Poet met after the fact were impressed by the candidate’s sincerity, intelligence, and record of achievement, it did not enable the candidate to push past the weakest incumbent although it was respectably close. Apparently a teacher’s union push made the difference in getting a significant people out of their apathy to go down to the polls to vote.
2.    Ordinary people, including the Poet, do not like being interrupted by phone calls about who to vote for. They especially hate robo calls. Never mind that you haven’t read the literature or websites on the candidates, who wants a computer generated call to tell you what to do? Do the Millennials have this right about  not communicating by direct phone calls? Text them or grab them by the sleeve or there is no exchange. More people told the Poet that coming to their doors to talk about Dana Beyer was the preferred communication. And OMG, the deluge of paper sent to each household! An entire forest went under in just the Maryland primary election alone.
3.    With some voters, there is no winning ever. A handful of people said, “I am not a Democrat” despite being carried on the Democratic register. “It’s too much trouble to change parties,” one bubby told me while asking me why I thought the Democrats were not responsible for our government’s huge debt. When the Poet pointed out (much against the instruction of her campaign manager’s advice to never argue with the voter) that Bill Clinton left office with U.S. finances in the black and George W. Bush left the American people in a deep red hole, the old woman looked at the Poet blankly. Then the Poet realized the woman had been brainwashed by someone close to her and so she backed away quietly. Also there were people who complained bitterly about how many times campaigners came to their doors and this was their reason not to vote for a sufficiently qualified candidate.
4.    Privacy? Unless you have zero contact with the world, people with Palm Pilots know where you live, how old you are, and how you voted in the last election.
5.    This was not entirely a thankless job. In this market, there were people with advanced degrees walking door to door in 90-degree heat to carry the message of candidates like Dana Beyer. They weren’t volunteers either and they got less pay in their pocket after taxes than minimum wage. However there were some people who understood how hard the job is and they thanked the Poet for doing this work.
6.    Some people in one of the wealthiest counties in America do not keep up their property. Just stepping onto their porches was dangerous.

Did the Poet run into people she knew on the campaign trail? Yes, other poets, composers, a government official she worked with long ago and she also campaigned on a street where she once lived with her parents and siblings.

Does the Poet have any ideas for an opera? Yes, she thinks she could write a 10-minute opera about the incredible people who came to the door to talk to her. People like the friendly bubby who was making stuffed cabbages, the deaf woman she signed with based on having learned how to say more with her finger tips, the woman who arrived home on her bicycle and insisted the Poet sit down with her on the front porch to talk about the candidate’s politics, the rabid Republican spouse of a registered Democrat who wasn’t home, just to picture a few.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Three Gun Shots: A Blood Simple Case

If someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I am Li Changdi, I might answer like Louis Jourdan (he was in the 1958 film Gigi) did once in Positano (the Steiny Road Poet was at a table near where he was sitting on that dazzling piazza by the water) -- "I used to be Li Changdi." Now Li Changdi is a little gun shy -- don't point at her and ask her to speak to you in Chinese. She can still say Ni hao (hello) but she's getting nervous about the bloody lot of words she is supposed to have mastered.

The Steiny Road Poet fell off the learning-to-speak-and-write-Chinese wagon back in March after she completed her classroom project which had her represent herself as a Chinese broadcast film critic. This is where this post starts as the reviews are beginning to appear for Zhang Yimou's remake of the first Coen Brothers' film Blood Simple.

In Chinese, Zhang's film is called San Qiang Pai An Jing Qi (translated as The Stunning Case of Three Gunshots). Changdi would tell you that san is the word for three. The American title is A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop.

What was really hard in the classroom film report project was finding out how to say Blood Simple and the Coen brothers in Chinese. Her laoshi (teacher) said find out by yourself. So she called up a neighbor who is from Beijing and got the words: Xue Mi Gong bei Ke en Xiong Di. Changdi guesses that xue means avenge but she has no leads on mi gongXiong Di translates as brothers, so the rest of the phrase is by (bei) the Coen (Ke en) brothers.

Does she want to see Zhang Yimou's film? Yes, because out of all that struggle to say a few simple things in that Chinese film critic report like, "Xiang xiao le ma?" (Do you want to laugh?), she still harbors the idea of learning more Chinese.