Archive for May, 2009

Word of the Day- ManCode

Posted in People of Color, tv, word of the day with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

As I am in TV land, I have just now been taking in the wonderment that is The Bachelorette. Out of the 20 guys that are after her hand in marriage, and a million dollars or so, only one of them is not white. His name is Juan. He looks pretty similar to the white guys, tall, buff model/actor type, but beyond the crime of not being white, what’s even worse is that he is the sensitive type, a poet/artist/architect, who talks about his feelings and, apparently, “Does not respect man code.” David one of his competitors, dropped this line of brilliance, after saying that if he had met him outside of the show, he would have “Tied him to a tree and beat him up.”

Yes he really did say that.

So what is this ManCode? According to David, Juan broke it by not taking his shot with the boys at the bar, he dared to pour it out and then allegedly pretended to have drunk it. Ouch, pretty evil! But David says that “Juan was breaking man code left and right.” What else did he do? What is this elusive ManCode? If you know what else it entails please share. This could be the key to understanding, not only realityTV, racism, and violence, but perhaps the entire hetero-normative capitalist society…

R

Ella at Howard Zinn

Posted in Book, ella, People of Color, politics, queer, reading with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

I will just preface this by saying that as someone with a degree in History, yes not your typical socialite trade, nonetheless true…Howard Zinn is my idol. Take that American Idol, last week, while I was paying my dues in the country, Ella went to hear him speak along with a few other visionaries at the 92 street Y. Here’s her report back. R

Entering the 92nd Street Y last Wednesday, I may have been guilty of bringing more than a healthy dose of cynicism. Don’t get me wrong – I cried as much as the next liberal during Obama’s acceptance speech. But, well… I struggle with a lot of the liberal left’s self-righteousness and lack of self-criticism. Especially when confronted with it in its Park Slope post-hippie incarnation. And let’s be honest – if I struggle to stay polite to Park Slope liberals, Upper East Side liberals should entice me to set off fire alarms by smoking Marlboro Reds,  and to loudly proclaim my affection for clubbing baby seals.

Also, taking the subway from Crown Heights to 86th street is such a bizarre exercise in people watching.  Not a situation geared to inspiring faith in the existence of a post-racial America. Even in oh-so-liberal New York.

The high schoolers carrying AP-study guides and the people handing out fliers for every cause and demonstration under the sun did nothing to raise my spirits. I haven’t been grumpier since my mother forced me to take part in a Swedish outdoor Hannukah celebration.

Imagine my surprise when A Young People’s History of the United States
turned out to be the most inspiring and intellectually challenging event I’ve been to in a long time.

Howard Zinn, I shouldn’t have doubted you. Surprisingly tall and gangly, Zinn’s introduction to the evening showed not only that he’s still sharp and funny but also that he can command an audience without bogarting the stage. Despite the fact that the evening tied in with the publication of A Young People’s History of the United States, the self-evidently titled young reader’s version of Zinn’s non-fiction bestseller, it didn’t feel like an excuse to hawk books.

Instead, the evening introduced me to several historical speeches I’m going to have to revisit, and several performers I’m keen to check out again. Tim Robbins has been a long-term favorite of mine, but Avery Brooks is definitely someone I’d love to see act again. And I want to hear Shontina Vernon sing again and Staceyann Chin perform poetry.

For me, one of the very genuine effects of the evening was a return to the feeling that dissent and questioning of the ruling order can be intellectually satisfying. And that this doesn’t have to be done mockingly. The Martin Luther King Jr speech, Where Do We Go from Here?, performed by Brian Jones, was a picture of sincerity, while at the same time addressing the troubling link between race and class which was true in the 60s and has not yet been overcome.

Emphasizing the role of young people in shaping the world, Evann Orleck-Jetter, the twelve year old girl whose testimony helped sway the Vermont state legislature to allow equal marriage rights, read the piece she’d delivered early this year, as well as a document against child labor from 1913. I was worried for a while that this would be gimmicky and embarrassing. Instead, her calm performance was a restrained tear-jerker –- impressive in anyone and incredibly dignified for someone that young –- which highlighted Zinn’s argument that the study of history should inspire people to participate in the struggles of their own age.

The evening inspired me to email one of the poems performed to an old teacher of mine, from back when I was a super idealistic teenager. She wrote back, thanking me, saying she’d needed it that day. I guess the evening brought back those feelings of I matter-ness that otherwise tend to get trapped beneath my everyday life. Maybe, sometimes, the enthusiastic young person in me needs to be given space to push the post-ironic jaded city dweller aside.

By Ella Fitzsimmons

The Socialiting Continues- Ella at Sonar

Posted in art, ella with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 19, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Sonar Sound at the Baryshnikov Arts Center showed that I’ve probably been in New York too long, because Europeans are starting to look inherently cool to me. I grew up there. I should know better. But where once I’d accurately identify their appearance as nothing but a synthesis of washed-out black clothing from H&M, a lack of vitamins showing on sallow complexions, decades of smoking and greasy-ish hair, I now saw urban sophistication. I even caught myself thinking it was cool to hear people switching between French and Spanish as they waited for over-priced beer.

This is troubling. Some might even call it a disgrace. Obviously, I need to return to the semi-socialist old world soon, in order for me to regain proper disdain for other Euros.

That being said, Sonar was pretty… well…cool. The 16th edition of Barcelona’s International festival of advanced music (which kind of sounds like an exam, but isn’t) and multimedia art was in New York for the Catalan days. I’m usually predisposed to automatically mocking any art happening held in a gritty space (courtesy of a long running joke targeting the London art scene’s predilection for showing sub-standard up-and-coming work in a “charming little dumpster in Hoxton”), but the slightly post-industrial feel of the Baryshnikov Arts center served Sonar well.

(Though, as my friendly co-reviewer pointed out, “There were a lot of stairs”. While it made sense, sound isolation-wise, to separate the shows by a couple of floors, this clearly confused a lot of people, including me. When I envision suffering for art, I mean my art. Or at least watching someone super-creative self-destructing in artistically portrayed ways. Being sweaty and lost and running in stairwells…not convinced.)

The first floor of activities started out on a firm footing, with Spanish musicians Fibla and Arbol’s live, ambient electronica accompaniment of pleasantly weird Taiwanese film Goodbye Dragon Inn. With dialogue kept to a minimum, Goodbye Dragon Inn is a near ideal film to reset a soundtrack to – Fibla and Arbol’s accompaniment chimes well with the recurring motif of a limping office girl making her way around Taipei , adding a balletic dimension to the character’s disability and social isolation.

Unfortunately, the next show that was on in Theatre C, Balago, managed to undo some of my newfound respect for multimedia performances. Projecting a giant screen-saver-like image and playing new agey-whale birthing music – admittedly without the sound of actual birthing whales. Or of the rainforest at dawn. But it’s terrible when your subconscious is triggered to add these sounds and you’re not even being given a massage or some over-priced “healing.” – Does not qualify as art. Ever.

The second floor was dedicated to dancing. I wasn’t entirely convinced by Prefuse 73’s set – though I could have been unfairly biased against him by unfortunate displays of unrepentant hipsterness in the audience. I spotted some fool wearing a t-shirt saying, “I’d rather have one truth than 15 minutes of fame” and realizing that this was definitely a case of freedom of expression working against me, I had to leave before telling the little weasel how his cheaply tinkered together philosophical tenets pained me.

The top floor, showing two interactive installations, quickly became filled up. Luckily, we managed to check out Marcelli Antunez’s piece Metamembrana before the floor was closed. Clearly influenced by Guernica-era Picasso and Surrealism’s affection for combining unlikely images, Metamembrana was a fun piece, which benefited from the second run through, where the audience was coached by Antunez on how to make the screen respond. Antunez’s explanations of the background to the project were helpful in appreciating how the work was rooted in Catalan culture (citing folktales, local produce, fertility myths and history as inspiration. My co-reviewer and I looked at each other, shook our heads and said, “Nah, he just likes boobs and naked art students.” Fair play either way). Plus, his geeky enthusiasm for his gadgets was quite endearing, and did manage to get people involved in the installation. For me, though, the most successful interactive art pieces don’t require instruction – they work because something about them( be it use of material, choice of images, use of sound or smell) compel the audience to breach the boundaries of more traditional gallery spaces, where you participate in art work by looking, rather than touching.

We rounded off the evening with some comedy dancing to d.a.r.y.l’s set. While his use of punctuation might be self-conscious, his music was anything but – a really lively electronic set, incorporating a lot of funk and disco. My companion for the evening, who is unpleasantly tall and good-looking but who dances like Elaine in Seinfeld, wishes for it to be known that she got the party started with some of her signature moves. Good times.

Photo Post- Best of the Country

Posted in day off with tags , , , , , , on May 18, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Ok, so I was a bit freaked out in my last post, but now I’m really starting to enjoy the Simple Life. Here are some of my favorite experiences so far, in pictures…

My first creek trip

My first creek trip

the creek

the creek

The unattended apple store where they trust you to leave your money in a tin

The unattended apple store where they trust you to leave your money in a tin

My new Apples

My new Apples

The natural pool at the top of Katerskill Falls, had to take a dip in that one

The natural pool at the top of Katerskill Falls, had to take a dip in that one

The falls from below

The falls from below

The country can be pretty wicked, I must admit.

R

Country Living

Posted in day off with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Hunh, I just wrote this whole post and then when I published it it was blank. What’s up with that? WordPress gods swoop down into the country and save me. That’s a command. Not being heeded it seems.

Nevermind, I will just have to start over. My last post was about how strange it is to be in the country. It’s like the polar opposite of my actual everyday life. Rather than dance parties, there is a local brasserie with live harp music tonight. Instead of constant speed, chatter, noise, vibrancy, there is just silence, interrupted by the occasional lawnmower or bird song.

This location is bringing out the chef in me though, soon this is going to morph into a recipe blog, but not yet. I’m holding out, remembering the days of social activity and not letting that woman at the garage sale call me a mom, and get away with it. She really did, it must be the mini-van that I’m driving. Not mine of course, part of the house sitting bundle, I even feel weird using it though, it’s funny, I feel like Where would I go? and Isn’t it a waste of energy to drive? Definitely not a middle of American, surely guilty as charged, I’m a City Folk.

I tried buying baubles at a antique shop and watching hummingbirds and little caterpillars. Actually, these acts were all fun, but I had a visceral feeling of being out of place. Am I allowed to sit around and do nothing but enjoy being alive? That is so faux pas in NYC, let’s face it. Running around, being creative, or trying to make money, or be smart or whatever, that’s kinda the flow in the shitty isn’t it. It’s ok to say yes.

I say this not disparagingly. I miss the place like really a lot. Seriously though, I am even beginning to long for the invasions of space and the irritating little noises and disturbances. They come with vitality, expression — Life. I miss Brooklyn.

As Robyn Has Retired to the Coutryside +Binibon Review

Posted in ella with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

I’m Upstate, stay tuned for posts about the caterpillars and hummingbirds I’ve been meeting, in the meantime, here’s Ella!

As Robyn has callously abandoned her friends for a few weeks and retired to the countryside, Brooklyn Socialiting has been left to me for a bit. Braving the Hudson River, or rather, the evil machinations of the subway system, I left my lovely King’s county nest on Friday for an evening of Big City cultural activities. Not just hanging out in bars.

Admittedly, as I was early for the Bermuda art opening in China town, a little bit of Ella-in-Bar was necessary, so I sat myself down in Les Enfants Terrible. Lychee martini is the glass, Pink Martini playing on the stereo and meretricious French barmen multi-taskingly flirting with everyone around the bar. A good way to warm up for a friend’s art opening, which is generally not something that should be attended without some sort of support, alcoholic or otherwise.  Because there’s always that underlying terror that your friends are going to be profoundly untalented, and you still have to be nice BUT SPECIFIC about their creative output.

Having reached the age where a disturbing number of my friends are spawning, I’ve found that a parallel case exists with people’s babies. Otherwise funny and open-minded people have a complete sense of humor failure when it comes to their own children, which is why I have had to hold back about how many children I could name that look like Dick Cheney. Even though it’s intrinsically funny. Similarly, otherwise intelligent and interesting people often like and make bad art.

Luckily, this wasn’t the case with the Bermuda exhibit. Put together by students and fellows from the School of Visual Arts, the theme was secondary to showcasing works in progress. While a lot of the work was interesting, the looseness of the theme meant that the exhibition as a whole didn’t necessarily work, despite several really interesting pieces.

Running late, I had to jump into a cab to get to experimental art space, The Kitchen, for the eight o’clock showing of “Binibon”, a new piece of musical theater, based around the early 80’s stabbing  of aspiring actor and waiter Richard Adan by John Henry Adam,  a former convict whose writing talents had made him the toast of New York’s literati.  Back in the bull economy, cabs used to be a part of my daily life, pretty much always charged to my work account. No longer. I’m hoping that relative poverty and strife will successfully translate into me eventually writing something that’s not nauseatingly terrible, and it seems as if the team behind Binibon come at creativity from a similar angle.

At the same time, let’s face it – New York? Not what it used to be. I’ve heard people discuss the matter over organic, cruelty-free yuppie food: “Is New York’s current stability  and safety a fair trade for the loss of vibrancy?” Where once the city was genuinely throat cuttingly cutting edge, or was at least violent enough for the frenzy to rub off on the art scene, now it’s a place where people feel OK about raising their kids. Dear lord, even Madonna, a woman my MOTHER listens to, recently criticized the city for losing its edge.

After which, she moved back to raise her children.

Binibon, the experimental musical play put on at contemporary art centre The Kitchen in the west village is part of this debate.  Part of, but also symptomatic of. Because while the writer, Jack Womack, brings attention to the Disney-fication of the city that has taken place in the last few decades, the piece can’t escape the fact that it’s a play about a New York that mainly exists in the memories of the things were much realer in the past-brigade. Which brings questions about where the responsibility for the city’s loss of edge lies: I may be wrong, but it struck me as hard to believe that writers and musicians in the early eighties would have put together a piece about a murder in the mid-50s.

Elliott Sharp’s live music works most of the time (though there’s an unfortunate electric guitar solo which reminds me of a Dave Chapelle sketch where he wonders about white people’s love of the instrument), and gives an urgency to the storytelling which is occasionally lacking in the writing. One of the problems, for me, is that the role of several of New York’s literary heroes in the release of John Henry Adams from prison was touched on, but not really examined – despite the fact that their moral responsibility for the death of Adan is at the core of the play’s preoccupation with the city, creativity, authenticity and violence.

The Girlfriend Experience, Fixer, Print vs Blog

Posted in film, Food, Party, People of Color, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

It’s been another busy week friends. Since last I wrote I saw The Girlfriend Experience and  Fixer:The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi at the Tribeca Film Festival, went to a Print vs Blog talk at the Tribeca Y, had a poetry reading and danced the blues off at two Brooklyn house parties. Plus, I had another successful meal at Buttermilk Channel, this time brunch. Their biscuits are pretty good, but not as good as mine! I also had a chance to live it up a little bit on Saturday while actually reading peacefully in the sun in Choice Greene’s backyard patio. On the way there I passed an awesome kids clown show on Grand, in front of the Still Hip clothing store. Apparently they are having them every Saturday, if you love costumes and clowns, and environmentally themed, musical children’s performances as much as I do, then definitely check it out!

First a note about Brooklyn house parties and then onto my film reviews. Note: They rule! Ha, ha, no really they do. OMG Michelle played at the one on Friday night, which was at this house called Mansion (not to be confused with the snooty Manhattan club, Mansion.) DJ Designer Impostor played and on Sat, DJ Shomi Noise was awesome. Aside from being my friend, she is also a generally great DJ!

Ok film. So, the two films were extremely different than each other, the first Steven Soderberg’s new opus on high class prostitutes, who give their customers the illusion that they are somehow in a loving relationship with each other, was less than spectacular. Although the directer himself, with huge successes like Erin Brochevich, Sex Lies and Videotape, and Traffic under his belt, was wildly confident during the Q & A after, several elements of the film caused me to take pause.

He typecast, if you will, non-actors to play the roles of the prostitute and her personal trainer boyfriend. He didn’t give them a script and instead set them up with a situation and encouraged them to ad lib. Although this technique was quite successful in Ballast it fell very short in The Girlfriend Experience. Soderberg claimed, during his talk back, that if people didn’t know that was his method, we never would have noticed. I beg to differ.

The holes in the dialogue were obvious. The language was incidental and often seemed forced. Many of the relationships were unconvincing and the main character, played by porn actress, Sasha Grey, was stiff and boring to watch. If you made a film about me walking around NY having somewhat random conversations with strangers, I’m sure I would also be stiff and boring to watch. Why? Because I’m not an actor and films which follow non-actors are usually called documentaries. Why not just call the whole thing off, and make a documentary about a real prostitute who offers the girlfriend experience? Just asking.

Speaking of documentaries, let’s talk a bit about the really good film that I saw at Tribeca. But first, a note about opinions. Yes everyone has one, and some people start blogs and share them, people like me. But Tony Ortega, editor, and Michael Cohen,  publisher, of the Village Voice have a bit of a bone to pick with people like us. However, the founder of Gothamist and a writer from Mashable, who sat on a panel with them on Thursday, they kinda think us bloggers are great. If you’re interested in finding out more about this secret society who is bringing down the media oligarchy, come to the Brooklyn Blogfest on Thursday, that’s where most of our upcoming schemes for world domination will be hatched.

No, to be fair, Ortega claimed to support bloggers, to want to maintain the integrity of the Voice, and most shockingly, he insisted that the Voice is still making good money.  Strange, those claims seem to run counter to the Voice‘s recent massive layoffs and to their stubborn attempt to remain the source of NYC event advice. Unless they become a little more cutting edge with their suggestions, I don’t see people continuing to look to them to find out what’s happening.

But that’s just my opinion, and it’s here in my blog, not pretending to be impartial in some newspaper. Anyway enough angst right? Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi without necessarily seeking to do so, makes a very different and much more compelling argument in favor of the old media establishment. There is absolutely a place for researched, well-sourced journalism, especially in terms of foreign correspondence.

Fixer is a documentary that follows Christian Parenti, a Nation journalist, on a fact gathering trip through Afghanistan. As he travels around the country, meeting with Taliban leaders, villagers and any other potential sources of information, Ian Olds, the filmmaker is in the back seat of the car, a fly on the wall, observing Parenti’s transactions.  In order to navigate this active war zone, Parenti requires help from what is known in the journo trade as a fixer.

A fixer is a local person who makes contact with potential sources, estimates the level of risk in traveling to various areas and then facilitates the actual journey by driving the foreign journalist to the rendezvous points and serving as translator while there. More than a middle man, Parenti’s fixer, Ajmal Naqshbandi was a journalist in his own right and as portrayed in the film, was a very savvy and intelligent individual. He died not long after the journey that Parenti and Olds took with him.

On another fixer job, working for an Italian journalist, Naqshbandi and the Italian were both kidnapped by a notorious Taliban leader. This man is known to have kidnapped and brutally executed several people. We are told at the start of the film that Naqshbandi died in this cruel way, but that his Italian employer was released relatively unharmed. The rest of the film navigates how the fixer got to that point and questions why he was not saved.

I was glad to see that Fixer won best documentary at Tribeca. It is truly an interrogative film. It forces us to question A. what is really going on in Afghanistan, B. how much that self-government and democracy actually protects Afghan citizens and C. How we would  even begin to answer these questions without the field researched findings of foreign corespondents funded by media institutions.

1 point scored for blogs and 1 for old media. Looks like a tie Tony.