Archive for January, 2009

Salmon Rushdie,Irshad Manji, Morality

Posted in People of Color, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite


At the 92 St Y, on Sunday night, I heard Irshad Manji, aka “Osama bin Laden’s worst nightmare”, interview Salmon Rushdie, aka Padma Lakshmi’s womanizing ex-husband, aaka one of the greatest living writers. The subject of their chat was Moral Courage. In fact, it was the first conversation in a series started by Manji, which aims to tackle the subject of ethical fortitude from several different angles. Manji, a reformist Muslim, questioned Rushdie, an Indian born devout Atheist, about the effects of the Fatwa, which Ayatollah Khomeini passed against him after the publication of his book, The Satanic Verses.

At the time of the book’s release, Islamic fundamentalists took offense at his descriptions of the prophet Mohamed, and the circumstances of his life. The fatwa called for the death of Rushdie, and when it was issued there were serious attempts to assassinate him, initiated by the government of Iran. As a result of this it was dangerous for Rushdie to travel to the Middle East, imposing a form of exile upon the man, although he was already living in the west. The attacks and threats even spilled over into England and were also used to intimidate his publisher and other colleagues. Rushdie was educated in India, then England and has since lived in Pakistan and here in the United States

A lot of my friends don’t like the man. Rushdie although well-versed in upper-class charm, has often been called sexist and elitist for good reason. However, like that old Woody Allen, it’s too hard to hate him, no matter how much I try. He is a great writer. His brilliant way with words is matched by his lucid mind. It is a rare gift to possess the ability to craft such unique characters and give them appropriate language styles, distinguishing one from the next so effectively that the reader can really get lost in the dreamscape of the novel, without remembering to be cynical. Agreeing to judge the artist, above the man (no matter how much he reminds me of Bridshead Revisited), let us move on to what the Muslim-Canadian-Feminist-Lesbian said to the Indian/British/American- Sexist-Atheist-Booker Prize winning Writer…

Although you could sense a note of resistance between the two, there also seemed to be a significant amount of respect flowing both ways. They both oppose censorship and bemoaned the way that our society has slinked into an Orwellian dystopia. They spoke against the type of moral relativism and political-correctness, which dissuades people from speaking out against things like honor killings, stonings and female genital mutilation. Rushdie said that in the past 20 years people have become more afraid to speak out about things. However, he also called our contemporary culture, “a culture of offense.” He claimed that because of the explosion of identity politics, people now define themselves by what they’re angry about. “Who are you if you’re not pissed off by anything?” Rushdie said.

He seems to want it both ways, and maybe we all do. One should be able to shout at someone else for offending their cultural, religious or gender identity, expecting a degree of “tolerance” or political-correctness. Yet, people should not just accept and respect each other, because their practices fit under the veil of some sort of culture. Now this is tricky terrain. I think the main point is that we can disagree, and even vocalize this, but the danger comes when we back our views with violence, whichever side we’re on. But again, the danger, If the US violently intervenes, for instance, when the Taliban oppress and kill women, this is an example of not tolerating or succumbing to moral relativism. When they attack us as infidels, is it the same example reversed? It is as though they are saying, we are Right, so we can use might, they are wrong, and so they can’t. Maintaining a sense of moral superiority is nice, but somehow not an effective argument against others who believe they are also superior. For all his pretty words, I’m curious as to how Rushdie would respond to this, and for all of her moral courage, how would Manji? I welcome their responses.

Fader/One Step Beyond Party-SM

Posted in Music, Party with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

By Shannon Mustipher

I like to get out every now and again to shake it and to pretend that I am still one of the ‘cool kids’.  The winter chill has been putting a serious cramp on my dance moves  however, as I have sadly been out only a handful of times since the holidays. I didn’t have to think too hard when I got an invite from DJ Bianca to hear her spin at  Fader’s Museum of  Natural History, One Step Beyond party. I decided that I HAD to be there! The fact that the venue was uptown, far away from my downtown haunts of choice didn’t dissuade me.  In fact, I was curious to see who else would show up to the event.

I was not disappointed:  there were yuppies, upper west siders in loubotins and designer garb, a smattering of arty hipsters in tight jeans and funky eyewear, a fierce – looking group of  lesbians, and adorably spindly gay boys who made sure to look cute, while busting out hot moves.  While the bulk of the crowd was very down to earth and non-pretentious, there was enough fabulousity to keep things interesting, without being obnoxious.   It wasn’t too crowded ( maybe the weather was a factor ?) There were just enough people to make it feel full and happening without inducing claustrophobia, a common hazard in Manahattan party spaces.    The Museum’s planets exhibition was an excellent setting for the event, lending the proceedings an aura of futuristic, space age coolness.  As I’d hoped, Bianca’s set was a nice mix of electronica, hip hop and danceable indie rock; there was a little something for everyone.  She did a good job of transitioning from one phase of her set to the next, giving party goers ample space to switch gears between dancing, people watching, and drink grabbing .  Bianca was followed by Todd Sweeney, who benefited from a loose and warmed up crowd, which broke out into pockets of wild and energetic dancing not long after he took to the tables.

One Step Beyond is a fun place to go with 10 of your closest friends.  The venue and the music offer something of interest for everyone, and plenty of room for you and your gang to set up camp in your own private corner of the cosmos and party like you’re the only ones in a  tricked out space age fantasy of your own making.  One Step Beyond will no doubt become a regular stop on many a party – goer’s circuit.

Las Vidas Possibles- Review by Slate

Posted in film, Mr Slate Honey with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

By Slate Honey

Las Vidas Posibles (Possible Lives) is a beautiful, slow-moving film by Argentian director Sandra Gugliotta.  It follows Carla in her journey of loss and denial, as she searches for her disappeared husband, Luciano, in the breathtaking and desolate landscapes of Patagonia.  The morning after his birthday party, Luciano takes off from their apartment quietly and with an air of regret.  Carla wakes up suddenly just as the door of the elevator slams shut, shocked by an intuitive sense of knowing something is wrong.  Days pass and Carla becomes increasingly frantic over Luciano’s absence and her unanswered calls to his cell phone.  She decides to take matters into her own hands after being met with skepticism from the police about beginning a search for him.  Carla drives to the south where Luciano regularly travels for work as a geologist.  In a sleepy coastal town, Carla discovers a man named Luis who bears an eerie resemblance to Luciano.  Carla begins to follow Luis, slowly seducing him under false pretenses just as other evidence emerges about the truth of Luciano’s disappearance.

Director Sandra Gugliotta leaves all matters of interpretation in the viewers’ hands.  Things are unspoken, mood is everywhere thick in the film and and we have only the characters’ emotive expressions to piece together this mystery.  Perhaps Luciano has long lived a double life, sometimes as Carla’s husband in Buenos Aires and sometimes as Luis, husband to another woman in Patagonia.  Perhaps Luciano suffered some accident and lost his mind and memory, becoming Luis and forgetting Carla and his former life.  Perhaps the strange resemblance between the men is merely a coincidence that is convenient to Carla’s holding onto a delusion that will save her from facing Luciano’s death.  Whatever the interpretation, Las Vidas Posibles centers on the experience of loss, the silences and heart aches of disconnected intimacy, and those who wander through their own lives, quietly dreaming of other possibilities.

The extremely subtle messages of Gugliotta’s beautiful and mysterious film take a while to sink in.  Gugliotta favors complex emotional realities and psychological subjectivity to clear conclusions.  Las Vidas Posibles closes with an understated full circle.  At the beginning of the film, we see a man (Luis/Luciano) sanding the side of a large boat in the early morning fog.  He sits down for a moment bearing a look of deep sorrow, his eyes moist with tears.  We do not know this man, or the possibilities of what may be hurting him.  At the end of the film, we see the man again, raising the sail of his boat and drifting off to sea, pensive and stoic.  Even now, we still cannot clearly locate what inner turmoil burdens this man.  Gugliotta leaves us with an emotional question that is more important than possible answers:  Where is it that we go when we leave others in our silence?

Las Vidas Posibles is playing at the MoMA as part of Global Lens 2009 until January 30.

Inauguration 2009-Andrea Chalupa

Posted in People of Color, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

I want to extend a warm Brooklyn Socialite welcome to the illustrious Andrea Chalupa.

Letter to Myself, 2004- by Andrea Chalupa

My first job out of college was community organizer. Now that’s a hot term. Back then, for me, in the 2004 presidential election it was a duty. For my country, for the world. Every morning I was getting up to keep George W. Bush from getting re-elected. If he won another term, he would be getting away with it–away with starting the wars, putting our country into some dark shell of its former self. Paul Krugman’s right, we cannot ignore the crimes of the Bush administration even if crisis forces us to move forward.

I fought for my country in 2004. I didn’t fight for it like my former college roommate is fighting now in Iraq, but I lived and breathed something I believed was a matter of life and death. Bush smelled of Armageddon since the first election. We couldn’t give him a second term. Ironically, before graduating college and joining the 2004 campaign, I read a book that nearly shocked me out of my young idealism. It’s called Addicted to War, a comic book about the U.S. military industrial complex and its widespread impact and control on the world. This book is devastating, each footnoted fact lifts back the veil of ignorant bliss. Reading it made me realize that Bush can’t be defeated. I even called my dad in a near panic. He did his best Yogi Berra speech, using one of his favorite sayings: have the courage of your convictions. So I went heart first into the 2004 election.

The campaign was amazing. The long, long hours. Being in at 7am, staying sometimes until 1am, later. Working closely and intensely with dynamic, hilarious people, doing the craziest things like office dodgeball, because there’s no loonier high than lack of sleep. The drinking, the sex, the Melrose Place gossip, the alliances and betrayals. I can’t tell you how strange a site it was to see young people in their pajamas on a Sunday going to brunch, leading normal lives, when I had already been turbo-productive since 8am. You learn to make five minutes go a long way working on a campaign. Every vote counts so you spend your time trying to reach the most people possible. I feel bad for the men and women who lost or nearly lost their boyfriends and girlfriends to campaigns. Working on one is a special experience, the stuff of novels. The only time I woke up with a hangover was the day after the election–Bush had won. Never been so hungover.

I wouldn’t say I lost my ideals after that, I just needed to do something other than think about governance. I had been working in politics since I was sixteen. Okay, I felt dead inside. I chose the private sector route, over a job on Capital Hill or at a non-profit. I didn’t hitch my star to that name that was being buzzed about even back then, Barack Obama. I thought: Bush won again, it’s obviously meant to be. The apathy set in. There’s this condition called learned helplessness where the sufferer feels resistance is futile. Why vote? That’s what I heard so many times while campaigning. Why vote, when corporations, the C.I.A., Dick Cheney decides elections for us? Why vote? I was struggling to shove my idealism down the throats of apathetic voters. Incensed by their cynicism, their laziness, I soon became one after we lost. I suffered learned helplessness along with the rest of the country.

And then came Barack Obama. I admit I didn’t fall in love right away, it took me until the general election to dive into that kool-aid and get it. I guess I was annoyed at the wave of support he got because he was some rock star, a Messiah, when that shouldn’t matter. John Kerry should have gotten the same amount of support in 2004 because of what was at stake if Bush got four more years, and he did, all because John Kerry couldn’t give a speech that wasn’t the color of oatmeal or make a decision without a focus group. I resented the Obamamaniacs for not being there sooner, for needing a rock star before they got that active, that instrumental. I sat this election out, knowing full well what I was missing, and I was jealous that the fight was so much more electrifying this time around because of the leader. Though I am thrilled Obama has turned so many people on to public service–he isn’t the only one we need right now.

Today I go to Washington to experience the inauguration, to be with my fellow Americans. And today I write a letter to my former self, the one who lost a four-year relationship working long hours on that campaign, who felt so sure of victory on that campaign, who learned to stop worrying and love John Kerry, on that campaign. I write that letter to you because since then, the impossible has happened. And it’s going to have to keep on happening to turn this world around. What I’m saying is, don’t go in fear, don’t go in isolation, open your heart to the impossible.

Kate Winslet-1-Slate Honey

Posted in film, Mr Slate Honey with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

By Mr Slate Honey

I’ve been squandering money on watching big budget films recently. My stint of Hollywood-mania included going to the movies five nights in a row over the holidays. Last night, I capped the marathon off with a last, belated stint and went to see REVOLUTIONARY ROAD—the last flick on my Holiday list.

I went to the early bird evening show with a pack of Kleenex, hoping for a dose of dysfunction that would provide catharsis. I didn’t have too many expectations but having seen THE READER (also starring Kate Winslet and which I will get to in my Part 2), I was ready for some more blonde-haired drama.

REVOLUTIONARY ROAD should be re-titled YOUR HUSBAND IS A JERK BUT YOU CAN’T DIVORCE HIM. The film is a montage of cliché scenarios that take a pre-womyn’s lib setting—the suburbs outside New York in the 1950s—as fodder for a formulaic tragic-comedy. The film begins by intercutting flashbacks of April and Frank falling in love at a party and flashes forward to a roadside fight between the now married couple after April’s embarrassing performance in a small-town play. Hence, our first piece of bait in this 2nd wave feminism feature-length promo: April gave up her acting career to be a housewife to a man with a mindless office job. So the drama unravels— unfotumately not providing catharsis so much as earaches. There is a lot of yelling in this film, Leo and Kate often bearing their teeth and getting red in the face, but it’s not always clear whether it’s worth the exhaustion.

Like a TV drama, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD relies too much on an assumption that the audience is going to be automatically sympathetic to this couple. As a result, the film does not offer enough “getting to know you” time with Frank and April. We know things were different before, (supposedly happier, exciting) but we don’t know the details. We are told that this couple was “different”—a word that gets used a lot in the film to set the duo apart from less attractive looking neighbor couples—but the film left me wondering, how different could they have been? After a slight glimmer of hope, a possible relocation of the distressed family to Europe, we watch April and Frank break down again and further unravel. Frank is a philanderer, pushy and too talkative… and pro-life. April looks gorgeous without lipstick and alternates between nervous breakdown and well-composed housewife before her tragic end.

Sam Mendes’ direction is very palpable, maybe too much so, in REVOLUTIONARY ROAD. To create the 1950s “appearance is everything” vibe, Mendes directs everyone to be so stiff the actors seem as starched as their impeccably perfect costumes. The expected musical score cues make everything too obvious and dialogue is cookie-cutter, delivered with perfectly polite intonation. Winslet and DiCaprio carry too much of the perfect language skills into the breakdown scenes, taking away some potential for real-like dysfunction. With a too literal (and frankly weak) script, Mendes’ retro-AMERICAN BEAUTY prologue ends up feeling all around empty. It lacks irony and subtlety. At least in AMERICAN BEAUTY, we had a quirky aesthetic rife in the portrait of a modern day nuclear family gone dysfunctional. There was humour (ah, Kevin Spacey and your monotone delivery) and some heavy quiet moments for seriousness.

Unfortunately, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD draws too ambiguous a line between the characters’ social posturing and their real selves. There is a bit of humour in a minor character, a man fresh out of the looney bin, who becomes a regular dinner guest. He vocalizes inner dialogue at proper sit-down dinners, sparking tense scenes with provocations intended to catch fire. His provocations are funny to watch but he is too obvious a device. His presence seems surreal, and for this film that stays well within block-buster formulas, he is out of place. Well, needless to say, I walked out of the theatre disappointed. (And $12.50 short!) I didn’t even get to use my Kleenex because frankly, I couldn’t connect to this particular sob story.

Expressions Dance-Reality TV-by Natascia Boeri

Posted in politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Expressions Dance Company at Brooklyn Center- review by Natascia Boeri

I am proud to welcome Natascia one of our lovely new writers!

“Don’t take this personally but you were very corny,” was a comment to one of the dancers during the Q&A following the performance from a red-haired lady. The dancer didn’t seem offended and in fact agreed with her. Other adjectives that the company might have enjoyed hearing as well could have been superficial, loud, slutty, and so on, but that is to be expected when you choreograph a dance with a reality TV show as its backdrop.

Expressions Dance Company arrived from Australia, fresh and un-rested, due to libation consumption the night before, as I later found out – yet you would have never guessed from the energy the dancers kept throughout the show. And in case you started to tire of seeing sweaty, lean bodies intertwining themselves gracefully through different poses, there were photos, films, and words projected on the set pieces, accompanying the dancer’s story.

For this piece, Maggi Sietsma, the artistic director and choreographer, drew inspiration from the Russian ballet Petrushka, where a puppet-master craftily manipulates his three puppets through the stages of a tragic love triangle. This plot transforms easily into a reality TV show where contestants, despite being real people like you and me, are controlled in order to attain the highest ratings. It was this and actual reality TV shows that Ms. Sietsma wanted to confront in her production, having already tackled climate change in her previous piece,”On Thin Ice”. Turns out that they have their own version of “American Idol” in Australia – “Australian Idol.” Having strong, often-negative feelings surrounding the culture of reality TV, (maybe in part because I find it just so darn hard not to get snared into the shows when they’re on!) I was interested in seeing what issues would be brought up.

As expected, the superficiality, power, dishonesty, and sexism of today’s programs were performed and criticized during the show, with the chance to participate in a dialogue of these matters when the company sat down with the audience members afterwards. I especially enjoyed Ms. Sietsma comment that she wanted to illustrate how today’s media (she actually said “producers” but I’m taking the liberty to expand the guilt further) are manipulating puppeteers not only of the contestants but of the viewers as well. As the contest – and dance – progresses, the viewer sees the ugly truth of reality TV. Most of us are probably aware that these shows are just cheap imitations of life in the name of entertainment. However, the real problem here is how reality TV, with all its glaring sexism and ruthless stereotyping, is not only a replication of our society but also a tool of manipulation for that society – which is especially startling when one considers the young age of some of the viewers.

Other than leaving the theater with a grim outlook on our present and possible future society, I was glad to have trudged out to Brooklyn College on a cold, snowy night to experience a dance show on the reality of reality TV.

Bad Habits-Christy C. Road

Posted in Book, People of Color, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Wow, my staycation is almost over, can you believe it? I have been so busy, listening to the sounds of dogs playing with their toys and icicles slowly dripping, hell I’ve even been reading and catching up on Bad Reality TV. Expect posts to come depicting the utter cuteness of dog gloves and the trashy hellishness of The Real Housewives of (insert geographical location, Atlanta, Orange County, NYC). This is post-post feminism.

Speaking of post-feminism, I will now launch into my review of Cristy C. Road’s Bad Habits. But first, I must establish my own lack of total impartiality. 1. I have a few casual friends, who are friends with her, this certainly doesn’t make her my friend by any stretch of the Will Smith/Kevin Beacon association laws. Nevertheless, I still feel some kind of allegiance for any friend of my friends. Except for the unfortunate situation of number 2. We once met on a couch, waiting for a reading to begin at Bluestockings. I had arrived early to read and she had as well, perhaps because she was on the bill that night. I didn’t recognize her in any way (this was over a year ago, pre-mutual friends), I had just arrived back into the city and was in the Friendly Zone, so as I recall, I tried to strike up a conversation, she gave me a pretty horrified look and proceeded to ignore me.  Do I have visible lice? Or was she on an especially bad trip that day? Who knows. So the point of this very long disclaimer is, I have one reason to look kindly upon her and one to look unkindly, so let’s just say they balance each other out and I am hereby rendered impartial again!

Whew, that’s a weight off my shoulders, on to the book. Bad Habits: A Love Story is very post-post indeed. Should we be proud of  the Cristy-resembling-let’s-assume-it-is-her protagonist for being drug crazed and on a manic search for love?  Should we apply a modicum of shame?  Or should we just look-on refusing to judge her in any way whatsoever? I’m not so sure.

The book is undeniably readable, contagious, absorbing, but is it a diary, or literature? When did books stop needing to have a point or to bestow a significant degree of wisdom? Cristy’s “I” character is sex positive, great, bi-sexual, awesome really and truly, and a person of color, who likes punk music and isn’t some trite stereotype, fabulous. Still I feel like I’m peeking at her through some window of outsider vs insider fascination. Is it enough to just be a voyeur after the cool kid at school/ uncool kid at school who decided to grow up and be an asshole to everybody as a means of healing?

Road is a great illustrator and every page that  interrupts the text with image really helps to move the story along. I like reading about this particular slice of life in New York, that wades between the queer/punk/and drug scenes, especially since much of it is based in Brooklyn. As a diary it’s juicy and at times piercingly lost, in a way that many people are and can relate to. However, I wish that it would offer some insights, on her quest for love, forgetting and self-absorbed self-annihilation, does she find anything? Should we follow her, or run in the opposite direction. Perhaps the thing to do is walk by and pretend not to see her.

I love that one constant throughout the book’s journey is Christy’s love for her friends and connection to her familial/cultural roots. The narrative is lacking in direction and there are few moments of deeper truth, but in today’s trash consumption culture, where exuding a generalized sense of disconnection and apathy is the ultimate cool, Bad Habits will allow you to join in by vicariously snorting coke through your nose ring.