Archive for the queer Category

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