Wow, so its 2:30 am and I’m exhausetd again. I’ll tell you why exactly this is, tomorrow. For now all I can note quikly is that I spent the better half of the day organizing my bookcase. This was a truly healing expierience and I recommend it highly. There is something quasi-spiritual about communing with books. I’m thinking of starting a lending library, so holler if your looking for something to read. Goodnight and speak soon!
Archive for November, 2008
Last night I had dinner at Black Iris on Dekalb in Ft Greene. It´s this very reasonably priced Middle eastern place, byo. The food was really simple and standard, nice lamb pizzas and the waiters are super friendly and cool. Nice on a wintry day-comfort food. Afterwards, I finally managed to check out That´s My Jam. TMJ is a queer party in Clinton Hill, it claims to be in Bed Stuy, but those of us who actually live in bedstuy know better. It was mega packed and I ran into everyone and his brother. The music started out kinda amateurish, but picked up in speed and efficiency around 2 as DJ Tikka commandeered the tables and the crowd started to thin out. At 3, I wondered what I was still doing there and braved the windy walk home(to the real bed stuy). This morning I woke up on a Latte mission and had to accept cappuccino because the people at Kellogs diner have never heard of Lattes. Really. I know it sounds strange, but they are only familiar with certain functionalities when it comes to espresso machines. The food at Kellogs was not much worth a mention, but it’s a really chill unassuming spot to spend Sunday morning dishing with friends.
The word of the day is Mixphobic: A fear experienced by DJ’s who do not know how to mix. Bartenders, who do not know how to mix have also been known to experience this anxious condition. Wallflowers in Brooklyn may also sometimes experience said phobia.
Faitful to her book club duties, Agent Angie provides astute observations on Brideshead Revisited.
The relationship in Brideshead Revisited, between the narrator Charles Ryder and the Flyte family is of interest to me. I’m about halfway through, and after reading how the Flytes romance Ryder and take him in, before setting out to use him for their own selfish purposes, I find myself disturbed by the level of dysfunction that exists, and greatly respect Evelyn Waugh for his talent at portraying the destruction of codependancy on relationships.
Lady Marchmain’s destructive, Catholic guilt tripping has a profound effect on the text. She holds Charles responsible for her son Sebastian’s well-being. At first Charles submits to the weight the Flytes place on his shoulders, allowing himself to be pulled in two directions by Lady Marchmain’s pressure to keep Sebastian out of trouble and Sebastion’s fear of begin eclipsed by his family. It would be impossible for Charles to fulfill both roles of informant to Lady Marchmain and true friend to Sebastian. After Sebastian begs for Charles’s money for liquor, and Lady Marchmain’s discovery of Charles’s betrayal, she says:
I don’t understand it. [...] I simply don’t understand how anyone could be so callously wicked [...]. I’m not going to reproach you. [...] God knows it’s not for me to reproach anyone. Any failure in my children is my failure. But [...] I don’t understand how you can have been so nice in so many ways, and then do something so wantonly cruel.
I doubt I need to pick apart the method to Lady Marchmain’s guilt-ridden madness and her efforts to exercise them upon Charles for you all. What is interesting to me is the moment in which Charles’s response to her shifts from compliance to rebellion and complete lack of concern. Charles can only participate in this emotional abuse for so long before he attempts to extricate himself from the relationship:
I was unmoved; there was no part of me remotely touched by her distress. [...] But as I drove away and turned back in the car to take what promised to be my last view of the house, I felt that I was leaving part of myself behind, [...] ‘I shall never go back,’ I said to myself.
Charles’s knowledge that he’s left some part of himself behind is a foreshadowing of the corruption of his concern for others. The impossible position that Lady Marchmain forces him into motivates him to turn aside the part of him that cared about Sebastian and the rest of the Flyte family. In order to survive the guilt that was being put on his shoulders he had to care more for himself and stop caring for them.
A few pages on is Charles’s dinner with Rex Mottram in Paris, which validates the perception of foreshadowing. Charles feels so inconvenienced and frustrated at the prospect of dinner with Rex and the inevitable conversation about the Flytes, that he proceeds to use Rex for his money, thus making the situation more palatable to himself:
If I had to spend an evening with [Rex], it should, at any rate, be in my own way. I remember the dinner well–soup of oseille, a sole quite simply cooked in a white wine sauce, a caneton a la presse, a lemon souffle. At the last minute, fearing that the whole things was too simple for Rex, I added caviare aux blinis. And for wine I let him give me a bottle of 1906 Montrachet, then at its prime, and, with the duck, a Clos de Bere of 1904.
Charles’s description of the extravagant meal, purchased on Rex’s pocketbook, and his sense of entitlement to the meal, is indicative of his retreat to the self with less concern for the Flytes. Throughout the conversation between Rex and Charles, Waugh interrupts dialogue with Charles’s further descriptions of the meal and his and Rex’s appreciation of it. This narrative technique cements Charles’s new-found selfishness and propensity to use others.
Waugh’s explication of this type of relationship elevates Brideshead Revisited to a novel not merely of manners and post-WWI British society and snobbery, but to a psychological one; embroiled in thoughtful and constructive studies of non-familial relationships that, I imagine, most can relate to. The novel inspires me to be more aware of not expecting too much of others, and not allowing others to expect unfair things of me. As Waugh points out, these kinds of expectations ruin relationships.
Yesterday evening I attended a lecture that Susan Stryker gave at the the CUNY Grad center. It was a nice moment for different cool folks in the trans and queer community to gather, talk back and primarily to listen. I really respect the history gathering, voice planting work that Stryker does, she is a leading force in the movement for trans civil rights. This was evidenced during the introductions she received from Paisley Currah and Joanne Meyerowitz, two other academics who work in the field of trans studies. In terms of the lecture itself, I have to say she lost me at times. The part about Foucault and Hobbes, a lot of theoretical words that can’t yet be found in the dictionary, and several ‘this is not cultural appropriation’ disclaimers had me at the point of putting my pen down. The trouble was I really came to the lecture prepared to learn and left feeling befuddled and not quite there yet. The parts which I did find to be insightful, centered around the concept of a trans person sensing a need to transform outside appearance in order to fully realize an inner potential. I could really relate to this concept, even when applied to writing. When I am unable or unwilling to create something that really resonates for me, I walk around feeling un-realized, incomplete. This is a very spiritual concept, the idea of reaching self-realization. Thus the larger premise of the lecture, which was something like, “Ghost Dance: transperson as spiritual leader” sort of followed along the same avenue, implying that the trans person, innately experiencing transformation towards self-realization, is naturally qualified to be a spiritual leader. Interesting. Have I got it all wrong? Or was that the argument? Afterwards I spoke with Stryker, her partner, and a lot of other good folks about the beauty of dialogue, so comment away!
Just a quick note on La Zarza … This loungue space underneath a sort of swanky Nouvau Italian place, is a sweet spot, when the Grey-Goose promotions are flooding and you are somehow on the doorlist. It is still free if you get there early, but otherwise $100 bills may get thrown around. Last night there was a good pop-hip-hop dj and lots of guys in suits and girls in drag. No wait, that wasn’t drag, straight girls really dress like that!
After I saw the recent Arthur Russell film by Tom Wolff, I resolved to give the new album a listen. It is made up of all sorts of tunes that lived alongside of him in the mix tapes that lined his apartment, and ultimately survived him. His partner, aided by Phillip Glass, eventually archived the tapes and the remastered versions appear on the recently released Love is Overtaking Me. My favorite song on the album would have to be “Nobody Wants a Lonely Heart.” Its refrain is “Don’t expect nothing, ’cause nobody wants a lonely heart.” Similarly clever and dire songs include the hysterical “What it’s like.” The song is about a married man, who tells his wife that he’s,” been touched by the lord.” and can’t be with her anymore. Then she responds that she only was with him oringinaly to, “see what is was like.” A mutual breakup, the best kind. The album is a progression from slow, guitar-based, folksy songs to more pop-infused disco beats. The two songs I mentioned are my favorite folk selections, while on the dico spectrum “the letter” is nicely suggestive and the title track, “Love is Overtaking Me” is pretty great as well.
In the lead up to Trans Rememberance Day, whether intentionally or coincidentally there are several trans stories in NYC events this week. As your faithful socialite, I dragged myself uptown to see Be Like Others at Lincoln Center. Eshagian, the Iranian-American filmmaker returns to her home country and films a group of Transwomen who are pre and post sex change operation. Most of the footage is shot in the clinic where there operations take place, with extensive focus put on the doctor who performs the procedure. He is part of a group of men in the government of The Islamic Republic of Iran who have either decided, agreed with or implemented the concept, put in place by Ayatollah Khomieni (the father of the Iranian Islamic Revolution), that sex-changes are permissible under Islam. Khomeini passed a Fatwa to this effect, officially declaring them legal. In a country where homosexuality is highly illegal and punishable by a stoning death penalty, it is surprising that being transsexual is so legal that people are given a new legal name and passport post-op. Take a look at the trailer, only available on her website and a brief interview with her below.
Much of what’s contained in this interview was seconded by the vibe I got off her last night. She didn’t really seem to want to take sides, so to speak. I wasn’t sure if this was just another case of the gay disclaimer, or if she was really a distant outsider, looking in at this story from the perspective of novelty. The film sheds light on an interesting subject that not many people know about. In that sense its investigative journalism, but in terms of its humanity at moments I wondered if Eshagian herself was transphobic, or if she was just somehow hiding behind a lens of impartiality. Questions for the interview, I guess. If you read this, talk back! Maybe she will be at transhistorian, Susan Styker’s lecture at the CUNY Grad center tonight at 6:30? See you there.
I give you Mr Honey… This is not me, Robyn, I am not a gender-queer Junkie-Ha ha, that’s my most earnest sarcastic disclaimer…now for slate:
A response to gay disclaimers:
I should make a disclaimer myself. I’m a gender-queer junkie. All things related to the gender-queer and trans community immediately grab my ears and eyes. It’s a rainy Thursday, I am grant-writing for my current film project (a film about Transy House—a house that’s been home to a self-made gender-queer family and has been open to homeless trans women for fifteen years). All of a sudden, I hear an ad for the Leonard Lopate show on WYNC, something akin to “One thing you may not know about celebrity chef Jaime Oliver… he likes transvestites.” The web page relating to the Leonard Lopate show has some questions asked of Oliver, the last of which is:
WNYC:What’s one thing you’re a fan of that people might not expect?
J.O.:I love art and graffiti, jazz music, and transvestites.
So, I go to the on-demand podcast to listen. Disappointing! The interview itself is twenty minutes of Lopate and Oliver discussing meats, vegetables and home gardening. Among the chatter about poisonous rhubarb and raising chickens, there is no sign that anyone is about to talk about anything transgender. So, why use as the draw in (on the radio ad and on the webpage) this question that was not asked in the radio interview? Is anyone going to explain what exactly that means, to be a fan of transvestites?If I were Leonard Lopate interviewing myself, Slate Honey, it would go like this:
L.L.: What’s more difficult to grapple? Hetero disclaimers that precede pro-gay rights advocacy, or using a random line about transvestites (that’s left totally unexplained) as a way to draw a listener in to an interview about poultry?
S.H.: Well, Leonard, I don’t believe it’s a contest. What isn’t problematic on the queer and trans civil rights frontier? These both reinforce an already solid conclusion I have: We better self-represent and stick up for ourselves in this world!
On that note, November 20th is Trans Remembrance Day. Something to keep in mind and heart and maybe to counter some tokenizing advertising.
And now for an extra note from me-Robyn- Gawker and The View also seem unable to stay away from this subject. Without giving too much credence to the finger pointing dehumanizing antics implicated here: A link
Sadness and Whiskey are a bad combination, I apologize for not posting yesterday. It won’t happen again. Throw a Charlie Kaufman film and lunch at Conde Nast in and there you have a recipe for a very strange day. It was a good day though, except for the portion of it I spent at Wholefoods using their non-existent wireless and chomping on stale over-priced food. The harrowed whole halls just didn’t compare with the Conde cafeteria, designed by Frank Gehry. Let’s talk about Kaufman though and his star Philip Seymour Hoffman. Here’s the trailer.
The writer behind Being John Malkovich, Adaption and Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind has offered up another intense psychological study. Kaufman creates a magical realist landscape dictated by the fading mind of an aging playwright. It is peopled by an over-published, wizard-like shrink, a no longer committed artist wife, and a 4 year old, daughter who eventually morphs into a thirty something German body artist. Other characters which represent unrequited love and familial loyalty weave in and out of the storyline. Essentially the film is about a lifetime performance, literally a play that is being rehearsed for 25 years, inside a bio-dome style NYC warehouse. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that it is bleak and peaceful.
Post Synecdoche, and my whole foods stint. I hit up Heathers and that champion of dive bars, Nowhere bar. It was chill and gross. If you don’t lean against the walls you just might have fun there!
I went to the Literary Death Match at Housing works this evening, and I’m pleased to report that all of the readers were quite good. The event was bizarrely being televised and it ended with some money throwing shenanigans, but apart from that it was fun. I was feeling alarmingly anti-social ( I know, quite taboo, coming from the Brooklyn Socialite, but cold weather is a strong and scary force), so I don’t think I spoke to anyone, except for a quick exchange with Ben Greenman on my way to the door. I was hungry, and eating pretzels ( my hungry food) wasn’t quite cutting it. They did manage to tide me over long enough to observe the following: the first round was a stand off between Tao Lin and Alex Rose. Alex was unremarkable, but Tao on the other hand was hysterical and shy, which I always find to be a great combination. He was sarcastic and dead pan and read a poem from the perspective of a salmon killing, yet lovable bear. The second round was for the ladies, Amy Sohn went up against Mishna Wolff. Mishna read pre-teen diary excerpts about a longstanding Jim Morrison obsession, while Amy created this sappy chick-flick character who gives a guy a blow job and then gets not so subtly dissed. They were both funny, and engaging, but please tell me why women have to sexually or psychologically demean themselves in public, in order to be approved of by the boys club of Literati. I’m noticing a trend that sexualized-self mocking in women, makes others feel comfortable somehow. It makes me uncomfortable, but I’m just going to respond to that with my own poem!
I have resuscitated my old literary blog, so read the rest of this piece there!
for tall poppies
Christmas with your family
Or a twisted
with my family
served by proximity
When I find my shoes and reacquaint myself with outdoor clothing, I will head over to Housing Works for the next installment of The Literary Death match. I’ll report back later. For now let’s talk about Gay disclaimers. In the wake of proposition 8, it seems that everyone feels the need to make one. Woopi said, “I’m not Gay, but I still believe that gay people deserve rights.” I love the rest of what she said, but why the disclaimer? Last night over dinner at Epistrophy (sweet little Sicilian spot with very reasonable prices for Soho), the two women sitting next to us (both married to men) were talking animatedly about Lesbians On The Prowl. This myth is almost as messed up, and similarly formed as the “I’m not Gay” disclaimer. It goes something like “Gay people are fine, as long as they don’t try anything with me.” They were talking about some friend of a friend who, (so they believe) was coming on to both of them, because obviously Queer people are predators. Predators that go after married straight people. Smart. Thus the need to justify impartiality and decency with the “I’m not gay, but…” speech. As much as this usually sucks, I have to share an otherwise amazing “Special Comment” by MSNBC’s Keith Olberman. Despite the disclaimer (which he extends all the way out to include his entire extended family) his outrage is kinda awesome.
he even invoked Impermanence!
I just finished reading Michele Tea’s Valencia, this is the second book that I’ve read by her, not including Baby Remember My Name an anthology that she edited. The first was Rent Girl, which I found to be really interesting and would require a whole other post to discuss properly. About Valencia, what I can say is this: Tea is something of a hero in the world of lesbian lit, one of the more successful writers in this heavily marginalized genre. Like watering a dry garden, her words effectively begin to fill the void of queer stories. It is good to hear something relatable, depictions of characters that I can recognize and landscapes that I have at least partially inhabited. However, it all feels like one long spit session, perhaps thus originated the tittle of her Sister Spit literary tour. The chapters all inhabit one novel/memoir/autobiography, but they don’t seem to flow together and it feels like she hasn’t completed any of her stories. It reminds me of commentary, would make for excellent blog posts, but I don’t think it functions as well as a consecutive, ideally complete book. Tea talks a lot about drinking, smoking, drugs and sex, a little bit about prostitution and love and self-loathing, but a sense of emptiness is transferred more than anything else. It’s strange to talk about love, yet express vacancy more than depth. I did enjoy it though, it had that addictive quality and really made me consider moving to San Franscisco. In a way I like Tea’s voice, but kept wishing she might write slower and consider craft over expressive explosion. But what do I know? I ‘m not the Queen of queer lit, not yet anyway! I know crossing Michelle Tea could be like crossing Oprah, but the Brooklyn Socialite is nothing if not honest.
A quick mention goes out to Cafe Lafayette. If your in Ft Greene, check out the amazing Lafayette burger, French bistro style, chill with the Mexican waiter, drink Corona’s after closing, or come on the weekend for yum crepes and good coffee. I love this place (G L)
Here is the full text of the article I wrote about Ballast, it includes quotes from the interview that I did with director Lance Hammer.
After 10 years of research, Lance Hammer shot a film in the Mississippi Delta, starring local African American non-actors. “Ballast is not so much about race, but about universal human suffering,” said Hammer. He encouraged the participants to use their own distinct vernacular and rather than hand them a script, he provided situations and encouraged them to improvise dialogue. This method has yielded a steely, classical, cinematic gem. Ballast is a starkly tragic play of emotions, which seems to take place in real time.
Few recent films have portrayed African American protagonists with as much complexity and integrity as Hammer’s first feature, Ballast. Set against the backdrop of the Delta’s desolate beauty, it tells the story of Marlee, a single mother, who struggles to support her 12 year old son James. He is lost in the chasm between childish devotion to his mother and manhood expressed through experimentation with crack, guns, and older boys. “Left to his own devices, there is a lot of pressure on James to grow up really quickly, and to have emotional maturity,” Hammer said. “It isn’t actually fair to expect this from a kid. James makes some innocent choices, a few of them turn out to be bad ones, but he’s just trying to make his way in this world.”
James’ already delicate balance is derailed by the suicide of his estranged father. He begins to know his dad posthumously through association with Lawrence, his father’s twin brother. The complications of inheritance catapult James, Marlee and Lawrence into a shared working and living situation. Forced intimacy requires the threesome to either mutually rebuild their fragmented lives or further destroy each other. Individually, they also continue to grapple with private sensations of loss and depression. “I chose extreme tragedy as the one window into the human experience that I would explore in this film,” Hammer said. “I wasn’t trying to imply that the Delta is a depressed place. On the contrary, the full chromatic spectrum exists in that region. There is so much joy there. You can think of it like the seasons, in the summer it is verdant and full of life, in the winter it is the opposite.”
Hammer decided to focus his lens on tragedy as a means of working through the depression that he was personally experiencing at the time. This process helped him to heal he said, “I will always make work that deals with mortality. That looming specter of death is very important to me, because only with an intimate understanding of mortality and suffering can we truly appreciate what joy is.” He continued, “I identify very strongly with Marlee. We share that rage and frustration at being powerless, as well as the persistence and strength of character to simply refuse to give up.”
The decision to build his tragic window around the narrative structure of a twin’s suicide was also a very personal one for Hammer. “Because my mother is an identical twin,” he said, “I understand that the kind of grief that one would feel over the death of their sibling is intense. My girlfriend told me a true story about an identical twin, who came home and discovered that his brother had committed suicide, without any prior indication of a desire to leave the world. That story really shook me.”
This scene is expressed in the film when Lawrence, distraught upon discovering his dead twin, shoots himself, leaving a blood stain on the wall. He does not die, and weeks pass before he can bring himself to remove the stain. The repetitive image of Lawrence’s bloodstained wall is characteristic of Ballast’s haunting, visceral cinematography. Another poignant scene depicts James overhearing a conversation about himself. The people speaking appear blurred in the background, while the focus is on James, half-listening. “This scene is a good example of my artistic vision,” Hammer said. “James is the subject of that conversation, and the fact that he is tuning it out is significant. I think it was Goddard who expressed that it is best to put the camera on the listener when you really want to show what’s happening in a scene.”
Ballast has been honored by multiple film festivals and Hammer is still surprised and delighted to have received such support for his ‘Delta project.’ “I haven’t gotten over the fact that Sundance even took it into their festival,” he said. “We are all very fortunate. The cast poured their emotional souls into this and it worked. Their commitment has earned them much deserved recognition, a kind of wealth that fills the void left by the very small financial reward that independent films like ours can provide.” Despite the lack of profit, Hammer has succeeded in distributing this gentle humanistic composition. Ballast typifies avant-garde cinema; it is daring and full of integrity.
by Robyn Hillman-Harrigan Brooklyn Socialite (!)
As promised I have held true to my mission to offer multi-voiced meditations on this fabulous city from Brooklyn Socialites. It’s about time we got more variant translations up in here, so with that, I give you: Mr. Slate Honey…
Mr Honey will blow up your spot, so don’t get too comfortable!
Trans Entities: The Nasty Love between Papi and Wil + A Review
Way back in September, Robyn and I went to a Queer Black Cinema screening of Trans Entities at the LGBT Center in Manhattan. A small audience sipped wine in a room dotted with red candles as QBC hosts talked about their safe sex and HIV/STI prevention campaign. Two fiery erotic spoken word performances paired with an association game among audience members initiated by the enthusiastic MC to set the mood. Finally, the lights were turned down and the room quieted as Trans Entities began.
Trans Entities is a daring “docu-porn” that does not hold back. Its two main characters, Papi and Wil, are poly-partners open to exploring everything and anything they desire… and can handle. For the two, opening their bedroom door also means talking frankly about all aspects of their relationship. Between fast-cut scenes of Papi, Wil and their third partner fucking, slapping, punching and teasing one another, documentary footage shows snippets of their daily lives and interviews where they discuss gender-identity, queerness, homophobia, desire and love. In one scene, the three discuss the experiences of one hearing-impaired partner and open up powerful dialogue on body politics. Lifting the expected barrier between porn characters’ on-screen lives and their personal lives, Trans Entities gets truly intimate in a fresh way.
In a Q&A after the screening, the film’s two main stars compared Trans Entities to previous porn films they had acted in. Diverging from a staged porn production, transgender director Morty Diamond filmed the actors in their own home and used a documentary approach to capture a true-to-life portrait of the couple’s sexual relationship. The actors also discussed negotiated BDSM, revealing that some of the most hardcore play caught on film was a new experience for them.
Trans Entities is a unique video that balances provocative play with refreshingly thought-provoking conversation. And in Trans Entities, real conversation does not take the fun out of sex. Instead, Papi and Wil take role-playing, hard-core love and erotica to the ultimate level of pleasure and comfort. Check out http://mortydiamond.com to find out more about Trans Entities.
-by Mr Slate Honey
I saw Dr Atomic at the Metropolitan Opera this afternoon. The Opera was written in 2005 about Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the scientist who invented the Atomic Bomb. He is painted as a modern day Faust. A heroic villain, distinctly human, but made mad by the zealousness of discovery and dominance. Oppenheimer is pictured referring to the bomb, pre-test, as a great “luminescence.” He focuses on its momentary beauty, not the destruction that it will yield, or the fact that as the Germans have already surrendered, its use is no longer necessary or potentially justifiable. Serving as a valuable history lesson, Dr Atomic informs the audience of the semi-mutiny at Los Alamos. Apparently many of the other scientists on Oppenheimer’s team did not want to use the weapon against Japan, without warning, at such a late stage of the war. Additionally, we learn that paradoxically, Oppenheimer, warmonger that he was, was also a highly literate lover of the arts. He spoke several languages, adored poetry, often read the Bhagavad Gita in Sanskrit and Baudelaire in French. He composed sonnets in his spare time! The poems that he so loved are incorporated into the opera. Ultimately he is faulted for masterminding such immense destruction, but there are a few too many warm and fuzzys given to the father of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Opera is really fun, for those who haven’t given it a go, I recommend trying. The met has a lot of discount options, like student rush, standing room and HD projections at movie theaters.
The word of the day is Getoutofmyfacebook: A new web 2.0 application currently being developed by haters.