Archive for February, 2009

Moody from Drinking?-Rant

Posted in day off with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Hey Guys,

I’ve missed you, its time for an irreverent ranting session, hold on to your hats. After recently beginning a residency as a Blog editor in training at an institution of repute, which will remain nameless,  I have to admit that my head is sorta spinning. It’s not only that, my personal life, which will also remain a somewhat secret is also spinning a bit as well. What was constant and weekly has now become irregular, while what was freelance has become institutionalized. While I remain cryptic, I have to reflect on some of the comments that were hurled at me last night in a series of conversations with drunk friends. Note to all: Avoid being sober, while surrounded by drunk friends, especially if you’re given to fits of introspection at such times.

In fact, I’ve noticed this to be something of a problem more than once lately. As if I’ve been unwittingly placed inside a scene in the B film What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas, even though 1. I have never seen this film actually and 2. My Brooklyn life is not aesthetically similar to Vegas in any way…ok, but the point is, that ( and I hope this is ranty enough for you!) I keep finding myself, who has the alcohol tolerance of an old sailor, in bars and cabs at parties etc with friends, lovers, strangers who are in a significantly altered state, while I’m straight sober- almost-but not sober enough to know when to not engage- this is the tragic flaw. So, I find myself taking these people seriously, when it  would probably be best to expect less. But, if I can’t have genuine interactions with people while drinking then why drink at all?

This perhaps is a watershed moment.

Wow, I feel a detox coming on. So to calm my raging moods, feelings of disappointment, excitement etc, this time I will drink an orange juice or something, cause clearly the booze are not working.

Matha Stewart-Living

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Martha Stewart has an amazing ability to ignore any question that she doesn’t want to answer. She is a walking talking-point, anecdote heavy, she will spin almost any question into either a product plug or a self-aggrandizing comment. I can’t really hate on her for doing this though, after all she is a brand. Here is a summary of my favorite Live-Martha Stewart-Living quotes from last night at the 92 Street Y:

When asked what her approach to time-management is, the guru of healthy living said,
“I get up really early and I go to bed really late. Sleep is just not that important to me. It’s not that important, it’s secondary for me, no it’s tertiary.”

When asked if she is tough to work for,

“I have people who have worked for me in my home for 25 years. I have cats who have worked for me for 17 years. That is a job you know, they do work. My dogs have there own blog now, did you know that?”

When asked to respond to comments made about her on Gawker,

“Oh Gawker, do you know how many page views they get? Only about 20, 000 page views a day!” To the interviewer she said, “Only people like you read Gawker. Do you do that on company time? I don’t read Gawker, it’s a waste of my time.”

About TV news,

“I prefer to read newspapers, TV news needs to get better, I get bored when I watch it.”

About the value of being a locavore, she referred to Lamb from New Zealand as, “Soaked in oil,” agreeing with her vegetarian daughter that it is better to buy local.

Concerning  how he market will be a few months from now, she said something to the effect of,  ‘If things turn out the way we think they will, there will be a lot of money to be made.’

After jail, and the plummeting value of stock in her company, she remains optimistic. The more inspiring gems of wisdom that she shared with us were her conviction to reform the prison system, details about the Martha Stewart Living center that she funded/founded in Mount Sinai Hospital  and one final tidbit: not only will Martha, “sweep the floor if there is no one else there to do it,” but she also has a habit of  stopping of at 86th and 3rd for her treat of coconut milk and a hot dog. If you see her there, say hi.

L’isola Disabitata: A Night at the Opera-Ray Wofsy

Posted in opera, People of Color with tags , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

This article was written by the wonderful Ray Wofsy

2/18/09- Joseph Haydn’s L’isola disabitata (Desert Island) opens with two sisters, Costanza and Silvia, marooned on a deserted island.  They immediately draw you into their  isolated existence with their gorgeous voices, dramatic lyrics, and the accompaniment of the orchestra.  From the way that they describe their hatred of men, the audience knows it is only a matter of time before men will arrive on their island paradise/prison…

This Gotham Chamber Opera
collaboration with Mark Morris broke my operatic expectations in more ways than one.  I had come expecting a traditional tale of love, heartbreak, and reconciliation, but found that this piece pushed those boundaries in exciting ways.  As with all art, the audience can take from it whatever they want, and I’m sure that people left with a wide range of interpretations.  Some might have departed thinking that this was a beautiful story of love, others that it was two-dimensional and cliché , but I left thinking that it showed the beauty of love, while simultaneously poking fun at romance.  Comic moments punctuated the tragic and romantic scenes, keeping the audience laughing and seeming to point to the following notion: love is true, but it is also funny and perhaps formulaic.  I was impressed that this opera was so arresting, but at the same time did not seem to take itself too seriously.

There were other surprises in the production.  Considering Mark Morris’s fame and success as a choreographer (he formed the Mark Morris Dance Group in 1980, has worked extensively in opera and ballet and won many awards), there was not a lot of dance in this piece.  The singers did use their movements to create drama and beauty within the sparse set, but the focus seemed to be much more on their lyrics and facial expressions than on their body language.  A more positive surprise was that two of the four actors cast in this 1779 traditional Italian opera were African American.  Admittedly, I have not been to the opera since I was seven years old and living in Boston, but this was a refreshing change from the all-white casts I have seen in my limited operatic experiences.  I was also pleased that the Italian lyrics were translated and projected in English above the stage.  This helped me follow what was happening but was also easily ignored when I wanted to just be absorbed in the drama unfolding on the stage.

In the end, I can think of no way I would have rather spent a cold, rainy February night than at L’isola disabitata.  This piece’s exploration of love, friendship, heartbreak, and different ways of viewing the world continues to be inspiring and thought provoking more than two hundred years after it was written.  Was the island a paradise?  A prison?  Was love the savior?  The comic relief?   The singers, artists, orchestra, and directors deserve credit for making this play so striking.  I only hope that I, like this play, can continue to laugh through the seriousness of life and love.

STF-William Greaves Tribute

Posted in film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

If you don’t already know who William Greaves is, here is the background, plagiarized from myself via Flavorpill:

“Tonight, Thom Power’s weekly documentary series, Stranger than Fiction, pays tribute to the “Dean of Black Documentary,” William Greaves. Famous for producing the PBS series Black Journal and for his feature film, Ali the Prize Fighter, Greaves has consistently expanded the perimeters of African-American filmmaking. Longtime Spike Lee editor Sam Pollard joins a panel with Eyes on the Prize director Orlando Bagwell and Elvis Mitchel, co-creator of The Black List to discuss Greaves’ contributions. This night of tribute is presented in collaboration with the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.”

Now for a round up of the evening:

Let me start in the middle, or er um, the end. When the screenings finished and the panel was winding down, Thom introduced William Greaves, who had all the while been sitting quietly in the back of the cinema. Greaves said, “Thank you all for coming, I had no idea there were so many people interested in and still following my work.” He also said that he is and has always been concerned about the state of our country.

This concern is evident in his work. We had the privilege of watching black and white clips from his early films, including Emergency Ward from 1959, Still a Brother and The First International Festival of African Arts. The Dean of Black cinema has definitely covered many subjects of great social importance.  In these early films alone,  he tackles mis-treatment of the ill, the mentality of the Black middle class, police brutality and a history of the arts, which focuses on African, and African American roots.

Next, Thom screened a segment from Ali the fighter, in which Muhammad Ali gears up for a fight with Joe Fraser. Ali comments that people have never seen anything like him before, He is a witty, fast-talking, fighter. He also notes that people hate him because he’s black, because of his religion and for the fact that he avoided the draft.

The clip, which I would say sparked the most curiosity from the audience was a scene from Symbiopschotaxiplasm: Take One. According to a comment made by one of Greaves collaborators, which appears in the film itself, ” The film has no determinable plot whatsoever.” This may sound like a bad thing but the little slice of it that I saw looked brilliant. He collaborated with Steve Buscemi on part 2 1/2, who was also in the audience tonight.

The panel of Black male filmmakers, editors, and producers was extremely appreciative of Greaves, as they showered their thanks on him for the role he played in mentoring  and inspiring them. I exchanged a friendly nod with Buscemi (in my mind a terrific actor) in the hallway and a brief hello with Sam Pollard (ditto on editor)  and the women from Full Frame, who traveled to New York to be at this special tribute. Another great night at Stranger than Fiction.

August Osage County

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on February 17, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

I finally saw August Osage County and I have to say it was pretty damn brilliant. It makes my dysfunctional family look OK after all. Grandma’s a pill-popping drug addict, mom and dad are getting divorced, but pretending to be still happily coupled, and mom’s 2 sisters are perfectly wacky. One is married to a sleazy republican type who’s trying to sleep with mom and dad’s 14 year old daughter. The other is sleeping with her cousin, or wait is he her brother?

All the madness takes place around a well-lit and seamlessly designed 3-story house set. The drama begins when grandpa goes off missing and soon turns up drowned in his favorite fishing lake. Suicide? A very Desperate call for help?  Whatever it is this event gets the whole family up in arms, including an excessively grand, great-aunt,  her son(the one who’s sleeping with his cousin) and her obese, still very warm and reasonable husband. Oh, and they also have a Native American housekeeper. who peaceably witnesses it all.

I won’t spoil the ending but suffice it to say, the drama is convincing and the tenuous lines between self-determination and family responsibility are clearly illuminated. Plus a lot of (fake?) whiskey is consumed on stage!

Now playing on Broadway.

Culture Clash: Our City Dreams, Beirut, the Third Mind

Posted in art, film, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

I have been overwhelmingly silent lately on the blog front. It’s not that I haven’t been going out, I have. It is just that I have been overwhelmed by stimuli, potential topics, definite un-topics and when I’ve tried to sit down and review I found that the reasons were wrong.

So how about a fresh start in this fresh weather. Digest style: I want to give some shout outs to the culture I’ve been sampling lately.  I saw a great film, truly beautiful, at the Film Forum, called Our City Dreams. It tracks 5 female artists, through a year or so in their lives , recording each artists relationship with the city. The director, Chiara Clemente, profiles Kiki Smith, Swoon, Ghada Amer, Nancy Spero and Marina Abramovic. A jazz soundtrack supports the film and the cinematography is infectious, it reminded me of super 8, rainy, home video.  Although each artist is in a different stage of their life and career, all seem to be at a stage where they are receiving lots of props.  Swoon goes from street art to a show at Deitch to having work at MOMA, while Marina Abramovic has a major retrospective at the Guggenheim. Ghada Amer is probably the most interesting character to watch. As she hand stitches and weaves large canvases, she tells us that she was very depressed before she became an artist. It saved her life. Kiki Smith, the daughter of a successful artist also recalls that she started to work only in her late 20s after her father died. She couldn’t take herself seriously as an artist until then. Abramovic  details her fascinating performance art-making practices. They involve starvation, cold and self-injury.

A few days after the film,  I found myself at the Guggenheim myself for the opening of The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia. Go see it and tell me what you think! I am not so sure myself. I enjoyed seeing an annotated manuscript page from The Waste Land and some of Ginsberg’s old photos, not to mention a few beautiful Asia inspired paintings by American Artists. My friend however, thought that discussion around cultural appropriation was dangerously absent from the exhibition.

Well, speaking of un-apologetic cultural appropriation, it’s on to Beirut. I have to say that the concert at BAM on Friday night was not only beautiful, but it was also lovely, harmonic, poetic, inspiring. If I could have removed most of the shouting hipster audience from the scene it would have been even better, but hey the band themselves are hipster-esqe so not all Williamsburg-dwellers are bad. The crew of young guys, headed by a 22 year old Angel in plaid, are a band that sounds consistently like gypsy music to me, yet def. delves into brit-pop, french chanteuse  and Indigenous sounds that span multiple continents. I’m not a hater, and I won’t bag them for sounding like pretty Americans, who’ve spent some time camping in Bulgaria.  I love their music and have to take the culture clashing for what it is.

-Robyn. Brooklyn Socialite in residence again.

Serbis review-Slate Honey

Posted in film, Mr Slate Honey, People of Color, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Review by the venerable Slate Honey

Brillante Mendoza takes a porno theater ironically named the Family in the Filipino city of Angeles as the bleak setting for a drama about family dysfunction and sexual dystopia in his film “Serbis.” The Pinedas have a pile of problems to deal with: Mama (grandmother Pineda) has taken her husband to court for abandoning the Pinedas for a new wife and family, a boy taken in by the Pinedas has impregnated his distraught girlfriend, the theatre is physically falling apart and no longer is making a good living, the father is generally despondent and useless, another boy taken in by the family to work as the projectionist is adolescent bait for the mom, and a teenage sister (the first to appear in the film, naked and flirting with her own image in a mirror) seems a nuisance to her mother just for being around.

The frenetic camera work and terribly recorded, barely audible soundtrack are major distractions from the overload of dramatic set-ups in this gritty film. Following the characters who run around frantically from fairly mundane situation to situation, the camera movement often feels nauseating and the suspenseful pace feels forced. Add to that cuts that seem to linger without good reason and a hodgepodge structure. The film’s possible saving grace lies in the performances which are rendered with seriousness and the believability of the dreary setting. The choice of using the truly dilapidated porno theatre offers the possibility of interesting socio-cultural commentary.

Unfortunately, “Serbis” does not take the bait in my opinion, instead relying on thickly-lain shock value, forced suspense and aesthetic realism to carry the film. After the film abruptly ended with a post-production trick (the film disintegrates on screen as if burning before our eyes), I was left with huge questions about Mendoza’s intentions an skepticism about his strong messages about sexuality, queerness and dysfunction.

Mendoza juxtaposes and relates the Pineda family and the queer theatre attendees in different webs of desire. Grandmother Mama and her daughter play-flirt with regulars to keep them coming back. The teenage daughter happily trails a sex worker on the grand staircase, learning hip-swinging moves and ultimately getting slapped on the face by her mother for it. The projectionist unemotionally accepts blowjobs from a sex worker. Mendoza makes a collage of the characters sidling queers and sex workers (the supposed degenerates of society) with the family members seemingly trapped in their poverty and unhappiness. The intimacy between these parallel worlds and the intermingling of the worlds becomes a place of tension.

I wonder what Mendoza’s intentions are in his portrait of the queers, queens and trannies of the Phillipines. Who are they beyond symbolism for hetero dysfunction? Sexuality and queer expression is distinctly different in many parts of Southeast Asia where the transgender sex worker community is in some ways more visible (though undoubtedly equally as oppressed and unsupported in society as in the West). To portray this community, to follow the girls (and also the queens) in their comfort zone, demands, in my opinion, a complex rendering of characters. “Serbis” is so focused on the hetero family losing its mind and means in this broken down theatre, it only offers glimpses of a free-spirited world of queers who come to the theatre to hang out and make their own living. Part of me wonders if I am too skeptical and if Mendoza intends a portrait of hetero dysfunction so caught up in itself and resigned to a dark fate that it dismisses and loses sight of the light-heartedness and contentment of the queer world around it.

The last scene of the film gave me reason to land on a more skeptical view. In it, a boy and a john sit on the verandah of the Family theatre chatting. Suddenly, a hole appears at the center of the image and the film burns and melts away as the soundtrack becomes warped. Mendoza’s last trick seems to imply that queerness is the root of the Pinedas’ sinful disintegration. “Serbis” is playing at the Angelika until February 12th.