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.

Dear Fucked in Park Slope

Posted in day off, Food on October 23, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Dear Fucked in Park Slope,

It’s as bad as you said. No, it’s worse. When you spoke of the Food Coop and Tea Lounge, I commiserated and hated in solidarity. But, the real life version is, oh so much, worse. As I sit here in Tea Lounge attempting to have a freelancers daytime public internet moment, I am surrounded by approximately 50 toddlers, 2s and 3s, during a performance by a kiddy band. I feel I’ve crossed into a very dark realm. They just played a song called “I can do it all by myself” to the exact same tune as that “Don’t turn your back on me brother” song. Oh, but it’s too late for that, my brothers and sisters have turned their backs and stayed on the safe side of the tracks. I will now think twice before complaining about the ghetto-ness of Bed-Stuy. At least there it’s safe to venture out by day, without a trendy baby sling.

In solidarity,

The Brooklyn Socialite

Still Socialiting- with Legends

Posted in art, Book, film, People of Color, talk with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Wow, like a lost child I continue to stray from the Brooklyn Socialite path, but never too far my friends. Never too far. All the while as my keyboard fingers have gone limp, my little legs have still run from one cultural event to the next. Indeed, I have much to report.

In adventures in the surreal I have recently found myself in 2 interesting settings. One, a friendly neighborhood book group, with a selection of my peers. We had gathered to discuss A Mercy, by the legendary Toni Morrison. Halfway through some questions arose about characters and the author’s intention, when one of the group said, “Well, I’ll just call her and ask her, hold on a sec.”  “Excuse me?” I stuttered out. “What does she mean she’ll just call her?” “Well Toni Morrison is her grandmother.” Another member offered. Oh, I saw. Morrison was called and I sat dumbfounded. There was so much I wanted to ask her.

To continue on the theme of six degrees of separation, the next day, out of Brooklyn and all the way uptown at the 92 Street Y, I was picking up my ticket to Chinua Achebe from the press representative and he mentioned in passing that all 900 seats of the auditorium were packed. “I haven’t seen the Y this full since Toni Morrison was here.” He said. Of course, Morrison again.

My second brush with legend this past week or so, was a screening that I had the occasion to attend on the rooftop of the Chelsea Hotel. Yes, after seeing Chelsea on the Rocks, Abel Ferrara’s docudrama (it had re-enactments, many) next door at the Chelsea Cinema, I moved considerably closer to that old ghost, new art temple of legend, yes the Hotel in question. I got past the reception who didn’t seem to want to let any of us up to Sam Bassett‘s penthouse apt. We did make it though, the very small crew of myself, 5-6 other journalists, Sam, his girlfriend Erin Featherstone (I was having fashion week flashbacks, I had been to her show, but in person, she was more real life-like and very nice. Bryant Park makes one grand I suppose.) and Stanley Bard himself, with his support team of family and friends. There we sat, with an amazing view of the city, in Basset’s studio/home and watched the work unfold. His documentary, Stanley Bard, was decidedly different from Chelsea on the Rocks, although they were made at similar times, with similar subject matter. The comparison is a whole article in itself, but for now let’s leave it at more, on the gentle, kind and very talented Bassett, to come.

Next stop: Another screening in the series put on by the Royal Flush Festival. This art/music/film festival is a smallish local affair, still they have managed to pack their theaters and involve some amazing contributors. One such element of amazement, was Justin Strawhand’s film, War Against the Weak. Based on the seminal, critical history of  U.S. eugenics by Edwin Black, this film really mines our history in a way that many are not yet ready to own. It tracks how the Rockefeller foundation, along with several other rich American families funded eugenics research in the U.S and Germany from the beginning of the 20th century, all the way up through the Second World War. The startling tenet of the film is that Nazism was directly inspired and to some degree funded by racist American science, and what’s more, many other institutions and policies that remain in place here, to this day, were motivated by eugenics. A sinister origin is revealed for the SAT, the IQ test, and much of the  documentation, which has been kept by government agencies like jails and schools throughout the past century. Again much more can be said on the subject, and in order to verse myself more fully, I purchased, yes with my own limited funds, the last copy of Edwin Black’s book in the Union Square Barnes and Noble. Here once more, I accidentally approached legend, this book happened to be a hardcover, signed by the author.

But let’s take a step back, dedicated readers of this blog may remember that I first met Justin back in the spring at Full Frame. We got into a long discussion about Eugenics outside of a festival party. De ja vu, a couple of weekends back, when I was at the Hamptons Film Festival, lying low as Industry (that means I was on the screening committee, not that I am now an industry bigshot of any kind) who should I find myself hanging out with outside a party again. Yes, of course Justin and here it comes out that I still haven’t seen his film and the plan is made to be at his Royal Flush screening. Wait, what else happened in the Hamptons?

Well, I saw a lot of films and I took a little morning trip to Montauk, my favorite part of that area, where I went to Joni’s my favorite brunch spot in New York state. Oh, it’s charming, has amazing organic food, lots of  which is homemade. I also made a point to go the water everyday and watch the fishermen and walk and relax. Ahh the Brooklyn Socialite will survive Brooklyn only with regular exposure to nature. Yeah, I’m making a rule to get out as much as I can.

OK, but what were the filmic highlights? Let’s see, Shadow Billionaire, was intriguing, The Paper Man was great because of the fact that lots of stuffy audience members walked out in the middle including, one former Mayor Giuliani. Yes, this was my brush with not legend, but ignominy. Oh the shame. I wanted to give him an earful, but I was too polite to interrupt the film, unlike some people. Mira Nair’s collection of shorts was intense, also earned several walkouts, but as Guy Maddin (yes legend is the theme today) once shared with me the fact of the very high walk out rates in his films, I don’t think it is necessarily a bad sign.

To conclude with legends, and to reference my less than clever pun (Still Socialiting) yes I’m not just a boob, this is a reference to the film Still Bill. I saw it this week at Stranger than Fiction. The film is about, yes the legend, Bill Whithers, who after all these years is still Bill. He’s kept his roots and remained down to earth, a family man, who hasn’t released a record in 30 years, after such epic songs as Lean on Me, Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone and Grandma’s Hands. The film is candid and touching and made me really want to find the last autographed copy of the Bill Whiters CD at Barnes and Noble on 14th street.  Maybe my luck will hold.

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:

We Live In Public opening @ IFC Center

Posted in film, talk, tv with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Last night I saw this completely tripped out documentary called We Live In Public, check out the site, but do it during off hours ’cause it looks like their sever is crashing (ironically). Too many hits! That could be the subtitle of this Orwellian film about a time in the late 90’s, yes back when I was living in NYC as a 18-year old activist kid, in fact going to some of these parties, but having no idea what it was all about, this Internet mogul, dot-comer, Josh Harris was throwing crazy art projects parties and doing psychological and social experiments on people by way of Internet reality tv.

One might even venture to say that he created reality TV, but did it on the internet, before The Real World NYC, before Big Brother and before it morphed into the present day manifestation of completely scripted, un-real, reality TV shows like The Bachelor and The Real Housewives of NYC.

This guy actually did an experiment called “Quiet” in 1999, in which he housed 150 people for 30 days in an underground bunker, pimped out as a “Pod Hotel.” He dressed them in orange jail-chic jumpsuits and required them to sign their commitment to being filmed 24 hours a day, in every possible position, including showering, having sex, going to the bathroom, eating, fighting, and obliterating themselves with drugs and alcohol if they should chose to do so.

Everything was provided free of charge, free food, booze, what have you, but they would have no rights to the video that was taken of them and they wouldn’t be allowed to leave, once they committed to the project.  Where this begins to get even more grotesque, is that the underground, lower Manhattan, created-world, was complete with a shooting range, large collection of guns and an interrogation chamber. This M.O.D. style interview room, was where people would go to confess all of their psychological and historical messes. Think the “confession room” on The Real World crossed with Guantanomo Bay. This was sick shit. But the most fascinating part is that the people involved were all volunteers, many of whom were artists, friends, part of a larger social scene. It was meant to be fun.

In a way I suspect it was fun, the simulation of freedom, followed by a realization of the fundamental trap. Something like the philosophy of re-living pain in a safer-feeling environment, in order to exorcise the trauma. It reminds me of RENT crossed with Lord of the Flies. This was an experiment with human guinea pigs and it had an aim. The film, and the Quiet project itself records this fascistic, capitalist, gold-rush project of exploitation, an attempt to rush down the slope into internet addiction, and total lack of privacy.

As a prediction it proves to be quite true, our lives have changed enormously as a result of the Internet. In 1999, I didn’t own a phone didn’t really know how to use the computer and everything operated on this slower delivery system called word-of-mouth. I remember the New York of that time being a really vibrant place, but I  have doubted whether that’s true. It could just be me glorifying a left past. This film seems to corroborate my memory though. Perhaps since facebook, and myspace, blogs and online-newspapers have taken over our lives, we know about infinitely more things, yet there is less passionate and exciting fun to be had out there. New York does feel flat.

Beyond asking some very frightening moral questions, this film lovingly reminds us our city past.

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

Commentary- Dialogue. Human Rights

Posted in film, People of Color, politics with tags , , , , , , on July 15, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

I have been questioning the sanctity of commentary a bit as of late. Thanks to fevers and homebody time and, of course, multiple other factors. This morning, however, I got a welcome reminder of what the point of it all is. That’s right friends, Dialogue. It’s all about the discussion, debate, free share, book club style, writing workshop, round table chat. Sometimes we find engaged minds in non-cyber life that want to dig into our topics with us, while other times we find these passionate opinionated folks online. After I posted my recent interview with Pamela Yates, the director of The Reckoning on the Huffington Post, as promised, this lively multi-voiced dialogue ensued. In progress, and quoted full text, here are our comments.

godlessliberal I’m a

Great interview. It’s sad, a story about Sarah Palin can garner up to a thousand comments but a film about the International Criminal Court has one lonely comment, it speaks volumes about our priorities as a collective people. I, for one, am looking forward to watching this film to get a better understanding of the kinks that still need to be worked out within the court and why our government refuses to sign on as a member state.

Posted 10:27 PM on 07/14/2009

Robyn Hillman-Harrigan – Huffpost Blogger I’m a Fan of Robyn Hillman-Harrigan I’m a fan of this user permalink

Thanks, I’m glad the post has sparked your interest in the ICC. It is such significant work, quietly being hacked away at in the Hague and I agree that more of us should know about the court and our countries opposition to it.

Reply Favorite Flag as abusive Posted 01:45 AM on 07/15/2009

As a member of one of the communities that has dealt with the aftermath of ICC indictments — the ICC has a long way to go in terms of implementation. Especially in Uganda, we’ve witnessed a lot of double standards. The Ugandan President and Moreno-Ocampo attended a press conference together to announce the arrest warrants.

After seeing that, it was clear there would be no accountability or justice for crimes the Ugandan government had committed either in Congo or Uganda. Justice is a two-way street. This is one are the ICC must work on in order to garner popular support.

A couple of interesting articles:

Waiting for Bashir: http://ugandagenocide.info/?p=1527

The ICC is a Western Tool But Can Be Improved: http://www.blackstarnews.com/news/122/ARTICLE/5828/2009-07-01.html

Posted 07:05 PM on 07/14/2009

Robyn Hillman-Harrigan – Huffpost Blogger I’m a Fan of Robyn Hillman-Harrigan I’m a fan of this user permalink

Hi, thank you for your comment. Yours is an important perspective, could you tell us more about how the ICC is experienced on the ground in Uganda? The film definitely delves into the criticisms the court has received from African member states and their citizens. What do you see as the way forward?

Reply Favorite Flag as abusive Posted 01:49 AM on 07/15/2009

Thanks for the questions.

For many, the experience of the ICC in Uganda has been tinged with a lot of contradictions and confusion. People can see the government using the ICC when it is convenient, to garner international support, but the law has not been applied to the government itself.

(Right now, Uganda is presiding over the UN Security Council, and ICC prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo is in Uganda to convince Ugandan officials to arrest Sudan”s Al-Bashir, who will be visiting later in the month� in 2010 the ICC review conference will be in Uganda ” these facts alone bring up many contradictions.)

There is a national Amnesty Act for former rebels — this adds to the confusion of whether ICC law or Amnesty will be applied. A war crimes court is another confusing option.

Direct communication with the ICC has been difficult. Victims have written the court to raise issues of systematic government abuse but have received little response from the court. Meanwhile, the Court is spending money to “sensitize” victim communities about their rights.

Posted 10:29 AM on 07/15/2009

FindingTruth I’m a fan of th

(Continued Thoughts)

Many people see the court as a walking contradiction. I have a relative who is a member of the Ugandan army – he said the investigators were only interested in interviewing child soldiers. He raised the question of how truthful the child soldiers might have been, due to army presence.

Most people are afraid to speak too loudly about the history of serious human rights violations by the government. (It was stunning to see the people in the film speaking out.)

From a survivor perspective, the crimes of the government are worse than those of the LRA, yet it is only the LRA”s crimes that are being addressed. This is where the ICC’s lack of effectiveness is most apparent.

Amnesty International Report: http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2005/09/19/uprooted-and-forgotten

Many politicians and civil society groups who have raised issues of justice around the LRA issue have been targeted for intimidation by the government ” the conversation in Uganda around the ICC/LRA/Justice is far from free.

The way forward in Uganda: interpret the ICC Statute as it is written and aid the Chief Prosecutor in neutrally applying the law to both sides. The Court also must recognize that governments do not have the ability to try themselves!

The other issue is execution of the warrants. Perhaps the warrants need not be made public? The court’s current system of relying on member countries for arrests hasn’t been successful.

The dialogue is still in progress. To read the actual interview with Pamela Yates click here.