Archive for the queer Category

Laurie Anderson, PIFF-Blessed/Chosen-Grateful

Posted in film, Music, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2010 by thebrooklynsocialite

In Joan Rivers new documentary, despite the over-arching theme of her heroic battle to maintain eroding celebrity, she talks a lot about being chosen. Yes, this works in contrast with the theme, because although as audience members we are asked to feel sorry for her because she is  aging, and has been  somewhat cast aside, the images that we are shown are of her affluence, her heightened privilege. She especially kills her bid for sympathy  when she on several occasions, publicly declares that she is “so chosen.” I think this is a reference to the Jewish concept of being the chosen ones, a concept that does not evade supremacist ideology and one of which, I am not a fan.

I had trouble with this  sentiment and i did not feel sorry for Joan, still I found her to be funny in an off way and I enjoyed the film. It was one of the few that I caught this year at the Provincetown International Film Festival. Kevin Smith was being honored as Director on the edge, so he was in attendance along with Tilda Swinton and the directing team behind the Celluloid Closet and several other queer history greats including Word is Out.

It was fun hearing Smith talk as I have long been a fan of his New Jersey cult classics. He produced a film, that also screened at the festival called Bear Nation. A film about the bear community among Gay men.  A great topic, but the film, however, was not a cinematic masterpiece.

Anyway, the thing which brought me to remember Joan Rivers comments on being chosen, were my thoughts at the beginning of this post and at the end of these two weeks about being blessed. Blesssed I’m afraid is as problematic a word as chosen in this context. I feel lucky at this moment, I’d say I feel blessed but that takes on a very similar religious tone to chosen and I’d rather leave all of that out of this.

What I mean to say is, I feel honored to have sat crouched down on the floor in the penthouse balcony of a very tall hotel next to Lou Reed and AM Holmes, Anthony (from he and the Johnsons) and  the esteemed photographer who took the below picture, at the foot of Laurie Anderson while she played us a song off her new album Homeland. Using her voice disguiser, she performed in the character of her drag alter ego. The whole scene was brilliant and I just sat there, in awed silence, not quite sure if i belonged. Belong or not, I was invited in.

Rather than walking out feeling chosen or blessed, I felt grateful and went home to Brooklyn.

Portrait (c) Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Afropunk-Halloween-D’est, Freedom Train

Posted in art, film, People of Color, queer, reading with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Ok, I have been looking for inspiration all week and I must say that I intensely just found it. Right here at home, thanks to the New York Public Library and James Spooner, who have collaboratively brought the film Afropunk into my life. I didn’t realize during all those hours spent moshing in friends basements back in junior high that I was part of a sub-culture. Oh, but I was, I was Afropunk and proud, and now I know it. That’s why I gripped my punk mixtapes, smuggled out of Brooklyn through summer camp channels into my sweaty suburban palms. It explains my yellow sweater and my later interest in Saul Williams. I thought I was alternative or grunge, in fact I was part of an isolated sub-culture of people who didnt then know each other, but who now, I hope, do, thanks in large part to this film, BAM’s Afropunk festival (which I have attended as a unitiated), a cool website and I imagine a lot more.

Did you know that Bad Brains were rastas and members of the Dead Kennedys and Suicidal Tendencies are black? Where have I been? Anyway the point is, I love this film and I can relate to so much of what the interview subjects are talking about, and those punk squatter kids with their black and white patches, who I used to encounter in the east village should take a page out of this film is all I’m saying.

Which brings me to Halloween. Lost in a sea of decision, to dress up or not to dress up, to go out or avoid the madness, a moment of inspiration I found during an audience participation workshop moment at Freedom Train (the black queer theatre that I much love) last week…I was to write around memory, family, ritual – and I came to the ritual of dressing up for Halloween, which for me was a ritual, because I only ever wanted to be one thing. A punk rocker. From the age of about 2-12 this was my stock costume. It involved 80s leg warmers, purple hair, I dressed up as what I was, in fact, without knowing it yet. This year on cabbage night, the inspiration has returned to me, minding my business, watching library dvds, what should I discover-but myself! So this year, tomorrow, I will dress up as the most proud version of my alien finds voice culture. Bring it on. And if you see me, say hi.

Also deserving of a mention in this week’s culture quest in review are Rachael Rakes’ new travelling doc series, Docktruck’s screening of Chantal Akerman’s D’est. Oh, we love Chantal. The film was what you could call silent, or you could call it: in Russian without subtitles + diegetic music, I say potato, you say patato anyway, it was long, in duration, shots on various public and private scenes throughout the eastern bloc shortly after the fall. Read about it in Art Forum and tell them I want to write for them and buy me a zine at Printed Matter and show me your Halloween costume, or maybe you could just see me at Unnameable books, where I also was earlier this week to take in the also much loved by me reading series, Uncalled for Readings, organized by the awesome Ari and friends. I especially enjoyed the second poet, Donna Masini. I purchased her book so more to come on that. A big book review post is one its way, cause as usual I am multi-tasking when it comes to books.

In closing, on the book vein, here is a quote from Eileen Myles’ Not Me:

“The Best Revolutionaries

like to give up

on hot nights in fall.”

Afropunks don’t though.

Toronto International Film Festival, Blackout Film Fest +

Posted in art, film, queer, reading with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Thom and Raphaela of Stranger than Fiction wonderfulness were kind enough to welcome me to their fair city last weekend with a curated selection of documentary films. They put me on a roster of purely political, thought-provoking, grade-A cinema. This was the line up: How To Fold An American Flag, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and The Pentagon Papers, (which was really a great film), Collapse (For all you Peak Oil Cassandras and simple living adherents),  Soderberg’s latest starring Matt Damon, The Informant, Colony (about the beekeeping industry), Cleanfix (about Mormons who edit the “obscenities” out of already released Hollywood Films and The Topp Twins (some soulful dyke yodellers out of New Zealand that have been creating AbFab rivaling entertainment, activism and song for over 20 years.

As you can see that is a lot of film to talk about, and by the time I had greyhounded it back to Brooklyn on Monday morning I was pretty much talked out. But not, I admit socialited out. I spent a few days hanging out with a good mate who was in town form Oz and somewhere along the line I managed to check out Fashion Week. The Isaac Mizrahi show was amazing. I know, loving high fashion may seem dorky to some, but the truth is that I do. The looks were pretty page boy meets Victorian lace meets hot. We’re talking rain, steps, quite the affair. Don’t ask me how I got in, apparently the phrase “Brooklyn Socialite” gets you through the door.

I also got to check out the Kandinsky exhibition at the Guggenheim. Ahh, brilliant, colorful Kandinsky, no one can do it better. I have a soft spot for that old Russian, one of his prints used to hang on my simple blue childhood wall. That was the day after an Australian imported exhibition by Papunya Tula artists that I had the chance to see at NYU’s gallery on Washington Sq East.

This artful week was topped off with another reading by Eileen Myles, this time at my friend Ari’s reading series and with Joan Larkin. It was quite the perfect late summer night, under fairy lights. Surrounded by silence and an audience filled with poets, these authors shared their inspiring craft yet again.

Finally on Saturday, I hit the Blackout Film Festival, this event inspired festival centered around the theme, The Great Depression 2009. It was a collection of short film about job loss, wall street pillow fights, love affairs with piggie banks and an interesting new website called ODD JOB Nation. Check it out for fun webisodes and an actual job board, maybe you can join me in the pursuit of Odd Jobs, at last!

And here is the Topp Twins trailer:

MIA and Eileen Myles Reading @ Bluestockings

Posted in art, Book, queer, reading with tags , , , , , , on August 27, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

As you may have noticed I have been missing in action over the summer. It started out with Swine Flu, alright alright, it was bronchitis, but whatever. The point is that illness gave way to quietude and multiple trips to the beach, park and ice cream store and now I’m back ready to make comments again! And, what makes this return to the old arrangement even better is that from now on I will expand upon the grime behind the glitter, that’s right it’s time you all know what keeps the Brooklyn Socialite in business, yes the nitty gritty, jobs of all variety that I have to do to get by.

I’m working on a novel, and being a writer is never easy, in fact artistry of all kinds requires a very steel-faced resolve.  And, for me specifically this creative venture is paired with my desire to be about town, drinking in culture and then offering my 2 cents on just about everything.

In other words, if I was more computer-savvy, I would change the small print under the BROOKLYN SOCIALITE line from the green text that you can’t currently read without squinting, to the following words:

I DO ODD JOBS

I’m kind of proud of it, I mostly like it this way, but that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t prefer to have health insurance when swine flu comes knocking on my door, or the luxury to ever stay in a hotel on vacation (it hasn’t happened yet… I love couchsurfing but there is a time and a place girl.) or you know take a date out to dinner (yes, I would do that if I could.)

So prepare to get a fine selection of ODD JOB posts, peppered in with your Brooklyn Socialite posts, cause we are now going to be real with each other. So continue to bring on the invitations to events, but if you should offer me an odd job, I will most likely not catch pride and take offense.

The truth is that in the dark hours of making this all work I have been known to dogsit, housesit, bake brownies and sell them at parties, assist artists, write grants, write articles, sew bridesmaids dresses from scratch, move boxes, organize offices, care for children, be an extra in art films, be a back up dancer/art in the Whitney Biennial, do research, paint bathrooms, install light fixtures, operate a mail order business, be a remote administrator, fashion blog…yes you can only imagine the odd jobs I do and have done.

Whew! Well now a quick word about Eileen Myles reading last night at Bluestockings, appropriate that this should be my welcome back Brooklyn Socialite post because I was reading her book Chelsea Girls during my bout with Cancer, ok Bronchitis, the point is it was bad and I was bed-ridden.

Any way… these are my notes from last night.

Someone asks for a spare tampon over the loudspeaker and we know this has to be bluestockings. Where else does that sweetly feral brand of feminism rule. The ladies mull around meeting each other, finding their spots on blue plastic chairs and the literary boys pepper the crowd as Myles herself sits in the back row watching it all unfold.

The room is about 95 degrees and packed even in standing room when Myles takes the stage. She is reading from her new book The Importance of Being Iceland, which is a compilation of mainly previously published works. The first piece she reads is one I have already read, which originally appeared in the anthology Live Through This. It’s about flossing and how it’s a metaphor for the self-harming that comes with youth eventually being replaced by self-care. Funny and charming, although subtly so.  The thing I notice most during this piece is her accent, so older Boston. It is so much like the voices you can hear in old films, which I so rarely hear in real life these days. It’s strong and distinct.

She,  then also refers to this growing homogeneity of language in reference to Iceland, sagas and the way that T.V. deafens regional accents. The next piece is about a $25 therapist who she, or the “Eileen Character” as she refers to the protagonists of her fiction (not memoir), saw for a few years during her thirties. This was the 80s, she qualifies, and one day the guy suggested to her that it may be that she is a man, in other words transgendered. Somehow the story renders this a breakthrough, yet not a definite commitment to identity, something just to consider.

The last piece seems to be much more strictly non-fiction, a travel essay, on Iceland. Having spent some time one August hitchhiking around Iceland, I have a pretty loving connection to the place and was listening along from this angle. The essay was academic and experiential, and it seemed to be less rigid, in terms of point of view than some of her other work.

Alright, that’s it for now. Stay tuned for more thoughts and rants.

Robyn

Whatever Works-Northside-PIFF

Posted in day off, film, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 18, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Since last we spoke, I spent a busy few days in Brooklyn, taking in the Northside festival in Williamsburg and Greenpoint (saw a fun band called The Dodos, which confirmed that I am not too old to be pushed around by crowds of hipsters) , spent time with my friends (going to rainy Brooklyn Pride) and feeling guilty that I had no time left to make it to The Brooklyn International Film Festival. Ahhh, my alma-mater suffers, but to make up for it I have traveled all the way to the lost (and found) beautiful end of the known (gay) world. That’s right, Provincetown. The pilgrims landed here, the artists came and planted flags, soon those flags turned rainbow colored and now I’m here for a film festival.

The Provincetown International Film Festival opened last night with Woody Allen’s new film Whatever Works. It was typical Allen with a lot of wildly unrealistic Oedipal scenarios. The basic premise is attractive yes, but why must it always be couched in the notion that anyone, let alone a young, beautiful, perfect-bodied, long haired woman would want to sleep with Woody Allen or one of his stand ins,  in this case Larry David.

Allen is very funny, David is funny, Seinfeld his award-winning show was hysterical, but all three rest upon some very misogynistic assumptions, which in my experience just aren’t true. Usually when the young girl goes for the old guy, he is modelesque not a limping hostile geriatric. Whatever Hugh Heifner would  have us believe this is not a sane norm.

Okay, if you have not seen the film and would prefer not to read the Sony Pictures Synopsis I’ll tell you what happens: Larry David is an unhappy old guy, he has a hot rich wife, teaches string theory and considers himself to be a genius, but he doesn’t appreciate any of it and tries to commit suicide. He fails even at this, and then one day meets a runaway played by Evan Rachel Wood, who begs him to let her stay in his apt and eventually develops a huge crush on him.  She is a southern beauty pageant princess and is ignorant in many ways.  Wood and David serve as an odd couple until both of her parents in turn journey to NYC and try to get her to return to the south. Instead of her leaving they both stay and go through significant transformations.

Polyamory plays a role, along with the concept of New York as re-education camp and the lesson that David’s monologues issue directly to the audience is Whatever Works. This means, maybe your perfect sophisticated wife and great job wont make you happy, maybe a simpleton who worships you will, and maybe not. In his final speech David’s character, Boris Yellnikoff, says basically ‘If your not hurting anyone else do whatever makes you happy, take whatever bit of love you can find in this world.’

Hmmm, almost convincing, except when that translates to sleeping with minors and people who are, I don’t know, your adoptive children.

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

Some Southerners are Awesome- my Top 5 Meets

Posted in film, Guide to What's Good, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 6, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Woah guys, let’s not take me too literally, I actually had a great time in the South and met a lot of really cool people. These are my top 5 in order of most to least Southern.

1.Laura Edwards, the founder of Lillian’s List and her partner Elaine Andrews. They are both from NC and were super hospitable, they invited me to sit at there presenters table while I was nervously reliving a cafeteria scene in some 90s coming of age film. They called over to me, ” There’s a free seat here!” Finally, I was the popular kid.

Ok, beyond my tendency to see life as theater, what is so awesome about these ladies is 1. Their personalities and 2. What they do. Lillian’s list, inspired by Emily’s list was founded in 1998 with the mission of getting Democratic pro-Choice women elected to the North Carolina legislature. So far they have succeeded at getting 18 such women elected.

2. One of these NC legislators, Laura’s sister, is number 2 on my list. Pricey Harrison of the NC House of Representatives, told me about the excessively offensive emails she gets from people. Apparently some idiots out there in Internet land think that it’s acceptable to issue death threats against those who support gay and women’s rights, food safety and the environment. Well I say keep up the good work Pricey, and those lurkers out there reading this, please speak up to support her work!

3. Alright, confession: the remaining 3 people on my list are not actually from the South, but I did meet them there, so it counts. Number 3 is slightly further South, in my old school digs, yes that’s right, New Jersey. Hailing from Jersey City, Justin Strawhand came to Full Frame to promote his film War Against the Weak. I haven’t seen it yet, so I won’t say much, but I can report that I had a very engaging conversation with him about the film’s topic: Eugenics. What I learned is that the US had a active program up until World War II, the legacy of which remains with us today in the form of the SAT’s, people who experience forced sterilizations, and in several other surprising manifestations. More to come on this subject.

4. The next person on the list is from Manhattan, but I’m still counting that as South of Brooklyn. Cameron Yates  writes for Indiewire and is working on a new documentary called The Canal Street Madam, watch the trailer here. It is about a New Orleans madam, who ran a brothel with her mother as bookkeeper, and her daughter as one of the call girls. He was given the Garret Scott Award by Full Frame, in honor of a young documentary filmmaker who died a few years ago. The grant helps, emerging filmmakers, who are in the process of making their first feature film, to gain fiscal support and mentorship. This year the award was co-presented by our friend Thom Powers from Stranger than Fiction.

5. Number 5, who does a poor job of being from the South (unless you count South Brooklyn) is Rachael Rakes, from the Feminist Press. She is the former partner of Garrett Scott and also a co-presenter of that award, and she told me that she is actively seeking trans writers and transrights advocates for publication in the Feminist press. This def. gets her on the awesome south list, not to even mention the fact that she is also a writer at Brooklyn Based and has starting a doc film series in Brooklyn at the Bell House! What what, is all I can say.

Did you meet someone interesting this week? Who?! Comment comment, wherever you are.

Girls Like Us-STF-Examined Life-Twitter-Zoe Leonard

Posted in art, film, People of Color, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 5, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

The pace of my life is accelerating all too quickly and its hard for me to keep up with myself, aghhh, that sentence doesn’t make sense, edit, delete comma, insert quote marks, no parenthesis stop, no, just talk! So yes, rather than get the editor’s blues I’m going to speak freely, in an at times sloppy state of mild dishevelment. Let’s go:

So I was in the sauna at the gym on Sunday when I overheard some girls talking about kicking winter’s ass, and facing the last snow storm and just hitting march right out of the ballpark, whoa! I was inspired, I realized I must apply this go-get-em attitude to all things in life. I’ll let you know how that goes, so far not perfectly.

Next topic: Today I joined Twitter and people are starting to follow me, you can too, my user name is BSrobyn. That stands for Brooklyn Socialite Robyn, not that card game Robyn, or ok, out with it, Bull Shit Robyn. Def. not that.

Topic 3: Girls Like Us. This is a great film from the late 90’s that I saw at Stranger than Fiction last night. Oh, how I love STF, I finally found a club that would have me as its member (this is a Marx Brothers reference, if you don’t get it, you can’t join the club!). The documentary made by a lovely lady couple, tracks 4 teenagers from the time they are 13-14 until they are 17-18. The girls, who all live in South Philly, speak candidly about sex, childbirth, their relationships with their family and friends and their goals in life. This film won Sundance back in the day and it’s easy to understand why. Like Trouble the Water it sort of magically captures those tragedies and joys of life, which are often rendered mundane, as people avert their eyes to experiences of “othered” social groups.  The 4 girls, 2 white, 1 black and one South Asian all seemed to struggle to define themselves independently of their relationships with men. While, their parents and guardians strove to keep them on a track towards college and career. 3 of the women, now pushing 30, joined us at the IFC center after for a Q & A. They all seem to have turned out quite well and consider their experience being in the film to have been enriching and not exploitative.

On the way out of the theatre I saw Astra Taylor the director of Examined Life, which is an excellent film that I saw last week in preview. I feel somewhat ill-equipped to review it properly as I missed the first 20 minutes, but I will just say that Cornel West, who was one of the philosophers that Taylor interviewed, was completely amazing. He spoke fully and freely about every subject from Jazz to Nihilism. See it now at the IFC center! West and Taylor will be there in person for a Q&A after tomorrow’s show.

Finally, Zoe Leonard. I somehow faced the dreaded subway for a really long haul as I hot tailed it up to 155th to check out Zoe Leonard’s show at the Hispanic Society. Yesterday I met a cartographer. Cartographer, if you’re reading this, hello. I met a cartographer and I saw this collection of old maps, which Leonard curated at the Dia at the Hispanic Society. There is something Mystical about maps, quietly stunning, reminds me of The Phantom Tollbooth, which by the way is one of my favorite books (if you have read this and love it, you can be in the club). Leonard also had an exhibition of her photographs, which captured the East Village as it was changing, through the mapping of storefronts and charting of the journey that the products in those stores might take on as they enter a third world market. Reverse globalization, recycling consumerism. Interesting ideas. Yesterday I met a cartographer. The filmmaker Gregg Bordowitz spoke about Leonard’s exhibition on Saturday, his films sound like something that I would be fascinated by, but I haven’t seen them yet, so hold on. Hold on.

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.

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.

Slate greets us from Canada

Posted in Mr Slate Honey, Party, People of Color, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

By Mr Slate Honey:

Brooklyn, I miss you.  I have spent the past ten days making the rounds in Canada’s cultural capitols, Toronto and Montréal.  Oversleeping, eating meals I could never afford and immersing myself in familial catch-up and madness have been my main activities of late.  What work!  Inevitably with any short-term stay outside New York, after more than a week, I start to feel homesick for city chaos and the comforts of my wide bed.  But before quitting this country, I decided to go on a little adventure downtown.  It turned out to be more like a voyeuristic mini-voyage.  After a decadent New Year’s Eve meal of steak and lobster paired with three too many Whiskey sours, I put on my best tie and shiny new jeans and headed out to size up Toronto’s queer scene.  A friend’s recommendation led me to Cherry Bomb’s New Year’s Eve bash at the Raq, billiards hall turned lounge, on Queen Street West.
Let’s begin with a mention of the free public transport in Toronto from midnight to 4 am.  Ah, the well-organized pro-public culture here is always worth a little sigh of envy.  The 501 street car took me down Queen to my destination, a rather big club that had a sign on the door that read in big letters: This is a Gay event! Gay-friendly folks are welcome.  Inside, the dance-floor was crowded and some games were going on a couple of the dozen pool tables.  On a wide screen above the dance floor, projections of lesbian black and white porn from the 1950s intermingled with experimental video montages of Mariah dancing on a pole and Beyoncé biting down on a cigar in a three-piece suit.  The party was a good mix of folks in terms of ages, genders and ethnicities.  In general, I’ve noticed a lot of mixed-race families in Toronto and it’s little surprise since the city is ranked by the UNDP as one of the world’s most multicultural cities and annually becomes home to half of all immigrants coming to Canada.  I always get a little soft-hearted every time I spot Hapa kids and their parents—fueled by my cheeseball Hapa pride—and Toronto’s p.o.c. population being 70% Asian, there are a lot of mixed race Asian families around.
Anyway, back to the queers.  I bought a drink and headed to the DJ area to check out Torontonian cruising.  There were plenty of cuties but I felt a little pang of disappointment about peoples’ game.  I should admit that I am for the most part a shy dork save for some golden moments of flirtation with strangers.  Maybe I got my hopes up too high expecting to stumble into a super-friendly Eden of flirty queers (which my aunt and mom later insisted I would definitely have found if I had went out in Montréal).  I felt like the cruising was a little too lukewarm for my taste and the music a little too 90s club beat for my dancing feet.  So as not to be too visible a voyeur, I found a comfy spot and watched the dancing.  At one point, I could not take my eyes off a gorgeously tall, leggy person in a glittering mini-dress working it out proper with each of her dance partners.  It made me want to devote an essay to the skills of high-femme glamour.
Honestly, it was just a nice relief to be in a queer space crowded with folks grinding, friends being silly and lovers magnetically glued to one another.  As the club emptied out a little, I got up for a little booty-shaking before heading home.  Reality hit me a little too hard in the face on the free tram back to my aunt’s.  I squeezed into a car and got wedged between some obnoxious, loud, righteous drunk white boys and put a sour face on for the ride.  Well you can’t have it all, I suppose.
So, I think come summertime, I am going to have to do another round here and better scope out the Toronto gay life.  Maybe I’ll do a city-comparison and see if my aunt and mom are indeed correct about the abundant fruit in Montréal.  Until then, it’s back to Brooklyn.  I am so ready for it.
Happy New Year!

“Family” Planning- Irene Tung on Queer life in China

Posted in People of Color, politics, queer with tags , , , , , , on December 26, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

This Article was written by Irene about her very interesting recent trip to China.

Dou Dou and Feng, a Chinese lesbian couple from the city of Shenyang in Northeast China, plan to have a baby together.  However, they have no intention of ever coming out to their parents.

I met them this October at a lesbian, bi and trans organizing training in Anshan in the Liaoning province of China where I was helping to conduct workshops on global LGBT history and organizational development.  Feng and Dou Dou (pronounced DOUGH-dough), both 23, created and maintain a popular web-based bulletin board that provides information and on-line counseling to Chinese lesbians. They were among activists from throughout Northeast China who attended the training.

Over breakfast one day, I asked Dou Dou and Feng, who requested to be identified only by their nicknames, about their plans for the future. They have been together for several years and have decided not to come out to their families. Instead, Feng plans to arrange a fake marriage with a gay male friend.  They will hold an elaborate wedding with friends and extended family, buy property together and live together. Dou Dou will stay “single”.  Feng and her gay friend will stay in their queer relationships, but maintain the facade of a heterosexual married lifestyle to their families. Dou Dou and Feng are both only children, as per China’s one child policy. They are part of a generation of children, born after the policy was enacted in 1979, who are facing severe pressure from their families to marry as they enter their mid-to-late twenties. Many are considering fake marriages, a practice which has created tremendous controversy in the Chinese queer community. Some see it as selling out, while others counter that the pressure from their family is too strong for them to bear.

When I asked Feng and Dou Dou about having children, they said that they definitely plan to have a child within the fake marriage arrangement.  The child would bear the gay man’s surname. It would call Feng, “mom”, the gay friend, “dad”, and Dou Dou, “godmother”.  But Dou Dou says she would still consider it her child. They say they wouldn’t tell the child the truth about the fake marriage until he or she becomes a teenager. Both of them see it as the only viable way for them to raise a child together.

One evening during dinner with other conference participants, someone asked if my partner and I plan to have kids.  I had traveled to China with my partner, who is Irish-Italian from South Jersey.  We answered that we were unsure, but that it was a possibility.  At that point, the three young gay men at the table literally jumped out of their chairs in their enthusiasm to volunteer themselves as sperm donors. We were a little taken aback, not quite sure what to make of it. It became clear very quickly however that they were only interested in providing sperm to inseminate my white partner, and not me. In response to their offers, we poured another round of drinks and told them we would think about it.

It turns out that Chinese people are obsessed with biracial, hapa babies. I spoke with several people in China who believe that hapa children are not only more beautiful, but also more intelligent. In Beijing, I met one couple that is actively seeking a white sperm donor.

Some lesbian couples in China who–unlike Feng and Dou Dou–are out to their families, hope to raise children together as openly queer parents.  Couples seeking to do so face significant legal and cultural obstacles. The Chinese government has actively opposed LGBT couples raising children. In 2006, it banned adoption of Chinese children by foreign gay couples, citing a stipulation that adoptive couples must be “healthy”. Also, unmarried women are not officially allowed to buy sperm from authorized sperm banks in China.

While the act of homosexuality is decriminalized in China, activists have recently reported an increase in surveillance, raids and arrests of people involved in queer organizing activities, especially in the period leading up to the Olympic Games this past summer.  Despite these challenges, the movement is growing in strength.  This November, following the training in Anshan and similar events in other cities, the first national alliance of lesbian, bi and trans organizations, representing thousands of members, was formalized in Shanghai. (Support their efforts!)

An amazing break dancing performance by two teenage trans boys at the closing ceremony of the conference in Anshan.

An amazing break dancing performance by two teenage trans boys at the closing ceremony of the conference in Anshan.

photo from one of the panel discussions. The banner reads, “2008 Lesbian Camp, Lesbian Networking, Anshan”

photo from one of the panel discussions. The banner reads, “2008 Lesbian Camp, Lesbian Networking, Anshan”

Ming Ming, from Beijing, wearing a t-shirt that says, “We demand to watch homosexual movies.”  The t-shirts were created as part of an anti-censorship campaign to respond to the Chinese government’s ban of all films that refer to LGBT themes.

Ming Ming, from Beijing, wearing a t-shirt that says, “We demand to watch homosexual movies.” The t-shirts were created as part of an anti-censorship campaign to respond to the Chinese government’s ban of all films that refer to LGBT themes.

Slate Honey, Novice Theorey

Posted in Mr Slate Honey, Music, People of Color, queer with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

By Slate Honey

My favorite musical experiences are ones that feel like lucid dreaming.  The one-person band Novice Theory has quickly found a choice spot on my list of vision-inspiring.  I sink into self-reflective hallucinations somewhere in the curves of songwriter Geo’s grandiose melodic piano-playing, pulled deeper in by his heartbreakingly sharp, lyrical narratives.  I saw Novice Theory live for the first time at Joe’s Pub last night.

This morning, I woke up to flashes of dreams still fresh on my mind.  In one, I braided my miraculously-grown long curls.  In another, my mother and I had a love-affair breakdown in a restaurant in Chinatown.  Lying in bed, two lines from a Kate Bush cover performed the night before looped in my head.  I hummed it over and over again on my walk to work.  I couldn’t kick the tune all day… but I didn’t really want to.

I often lose touch with my own tenderness in dealing with complicated questions of identity.  It’s easier for me to turn to political and overly-intellectual language to make sense of the daily experiences of gender-queer and racially-othered bodies in this wide world.  Novice Theory takes on these questions on an emotionally bare level.  Sometimes pounding and other times caressing the keys of a grand piano, Geo works out so much in his music.  He labors through intensity and honesty with a crafted precision.  Novice Theory mixes together classical and folk tones, a tender darkness, cutting humor and an entrancing theatrical sound.  Experiences most difficult to process somehow become easy to listen to in the candid and lavish storytelling–or maybe just graspable, simply distilled to rich and vivid imagery.

The Weekend in Pictures

Posted in Party, People of Color, queer, reading with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 9, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

There have been several things that I wanted to post about but didn’t immediately find time for…so here they are in photographs. Match the  numbered  blurry iPhone pictures with the following letters: A- IL Passatore, an authentic Greenpoint Italian restaurant, which some claim is among the best in the city. They have prominent exit signs, excellent lasagna and a few other decent pasta options. B- The Beatrice Inn, Bjork is rumored to do coke here, looks shabby from the outside but the muffled bouncers will practically frisk you, before they decide you are “Someone” and casually let you in. C-The Belcourt, LES brunch spot, pretty disappointing other than the fancy decor. The food is mediocre at best and they are adamantly against substitutions. D- Roebling Tea Room- good drink options, chill staff, filling- comfort food style menu. E- Misnomer Dance Company opening at the Joyce.  This is Chris Elam’s company, he choreographed Bjork’s (speaking of) last video,” Wanderlust.” Queen of Dance Critics Gia Kourlas sat in front of me wearing an imposing fur hat, and scribbling enthusiastically in her notebook. The dancers told me afterwards that they nearly tripped over themselves in fear. The photo is of a particularly friendly yet camera-shy stylist, who’s self tailored coat won the recessionista award of the day. F- Tongues of Fire reading at Common Grounds. Excellent community event, good poets, bad run-ins with exes(!) And now for the pictures!

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I guess the answers are kind of obvious, but thank you for playing. x

L-Word’s Daniela Sea- Interview, Sanctuary

Posted in queer, tv with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

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This  is a picture of the back of Daniela Sea‘s head and of Jenifer Coolidge, trying to reel in a crowd of thirsty vegans at the Farm Sanctuary benefit. I know, it’s not a great photo, but Iphone pictures are generally quite lame. I’ll get press photos on Monday, but couldn’t wait to get this up. Sea was pretty calm and friendly in person, but somehow more guarded than I’d expected her to be. I don’t know why I expected otherwise, but when I first went up and said hi to her she was nice, pretty open seeming, then when I said I wanted to interview her, her energy seemed to immediately narrow. I guess that people kind of fear or disdain the press and our potentially distorted ways. So in an extra effort to stick to the facts, I will proceed.

First an exterior description: She was shorter in person, maybe about my height, but had the same transfixing fiery green/blue eyes. As I previously expressed, I got a little distracted there, with the eyes etc. She was kinda flopping around the room, talking to people, carrying a Tupperware container, and wearing gypsy style tuxedo pants and a simple men’s stripy button down shirt, over a wife beater. She was with a friend, who also seemed really nice. When we found our time to talk, off in a quiet corner, sitting on top of a counter of sorts, she explained to me that she needed to pack food, because she was catching a taxi-to a flight-to a train- to the North of England, in the next 20 minutes. I realized, I’d better talk fast.

TheBrooklynSocialite: When did you get involved with the Farm Sanctuary?

[Farm Sanctuary for those who don’t know, is a farm animal rescue organization. They have 2 farms, one outside of NYC and the other near LA. Their mission is: “To work to end cruelty to farm animals and promote compassionate living through rescue, education and advocacy. “]

Daniela Sea: I  got involved about a year ago. My dad and his boyfriend connected me, they said there were some people there that I should really meet. I’ve always had an interest in compassionate activism, so it was great to get involved and now I have some really good friends there.

TBS: Have you always been connected to animal rights?

DS: Yeah, I’m Vegan, I was just brought up that way, to care about animals and think about the food we eat.I have a lot of friends who aren’t vegan or vegetarian, but I’ve always found some really good connections  among people who are.

TBS[ I couldn’t contain my interest in her involvement in the L-Word for much longer, so I proceed to ask her about the show…]

DS: We just finished shooting the final season, and it was really great to be involved with it and be up there working on it. Now that it’s over I have more time to spend on my other projects. I’m working on a screenplay about the relationship between a father and a daughter, which is semi-autobiographical, and I play in 2 bands. I’m going to be going on tour with one of them, Thorns of Life , after i get back from visiting my brother in the North of England.

TBS: What’s he doing up there?

DS: He’s a cobbler, he chips away at stones, shaping them to fit into crevices that need to be restored in ancient cathedrals.

It sounded so romantic, and I half wished that I was going to take a flight that night. I wanted to tell her about my travels and how important I think it is that she portrayed one of the first semi-positive depictions of a trans-person on television. But, the chat got kind of cut short by a person with a camera, and a couple of transmen who are running for office in NYC. That seemed like a pretty great, and important conversation, so I willingly forfeited the floor,  and continued to try not to stare at her as I walked away.

Somehow it was easier to talk to Coolidge and Ally Sheedy, they both expressed their commitment to and support of the work that Farm Sanctuary does. Sheedy a long time vegan, and Coolidge a devoted animal lover, both seemed super-intelligent and quite warm. Visit the Sanctuary, hang out with their down to earth staff, many of whom I met that night, and of course chill with the animals!

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This committed lady, bought that painting in the auction to benefit Farm S.