Archive for People of Color

Word of the Day- ManCode

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

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

Yes he really did say that.

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

R

Ella at Howard Zinn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Ella Fitzsimmons

The Girlfriend Experience, Fixer, Print vs Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tribeca Film Festival-Indiewire Party at the Apple Store

Posted in film, Party, People of Color with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Last nights Indiewire Filmmakers party was a bit of a whirlwind. I had to explain my moniker to a few people when they asked, “So are you a socialite?” “No,” I clarified, “I’m the Brooklyn Socialite.” Big difference, indeed!

I ran into filmmaker Joe Brewster who I know from many Stranger than Fiction’s ago, and from seeing his film, Slaying Goliath at the African Diaspora Film Festival. He was excited to see me and took me on a fast-paced, arm pulling tour of the entire party. Determined to introduce me to all the filmmakers of color who are involved in the Tribeca all Access program and everyone else he knew along the way, including his wife, Michelle Stephenson.

Some of the highlights of these rapid fire meetings, included a guy named James? who is opening a 3-plex art cinema in Williamsburg in December (more info on this when I figure out his last name and actually get a contact for him!), Molly Charnoff of the Lava Dance company, who’s performance, We Become I saw at the Lyceum back in December, Lisa Lucas, who I haven’t seen since we went to High School together and who turns out to now work for the Tribeca Institute, small world! She looked great. I also met numerous filmmakers who seem to have great projects in the works like The Kivalina Project , Wam!Bam!Islam! and Binawee by Australian Aboriginal filmmaker, Sam Saunders.

Plus I ran into filmmaker, Ian Olds, who I had met at Full Frame and who’s feature documentary, Fixer:The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi,  I am excited to see next week. The film is about a  Afghan fixer hired by a Italian journalist to help navigate Afghanistan, who is then kidnapped by the Taliban and ultimately executed. More on this after I see it.

All in all the party was fun for meeting and self-watering, there was a lively dj but not much dancing, they did have great sugar covered chicken triangle things going around in trays and in true Freegan style I ate as many as possible!

Brooklyn locavore at Full Frame

Posted in film, Food, People of Color, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

We’ve discussed my vegan-envy in the past, but this sentiment has now reached new heights. After seeing Food Inc. I’ve been pretty much unable to eat meat, and quite uncomfortable with eating corn products.

True, it’s only been 2 days, but I feel pretty serious about this new conviction. The film details the social impact of the meat industry, as well as its environmental impact and effect on animal welfare. Meatpacking and processing is now one of the most dangerous jobs in the country and the very small number of employers actively recruit illegal Mexican immigrants to work in the plants. Under constant threat of deportation, the workers will then submit to the most dangerous conditions and minimal salaries.

Farmers who raise soybeans, corn and chickens fare no better within the American food industry. Monsanto, famous for having created Agent Orange and for championing genetically engineered food has  patented the soybean. That corporation now owns a piece of natural life. This means that all over the country farmers are being sued and harassed for growing non- Monsanto seeds. Since the dawn of agriculture farmers have saved their own seeds, but now the law says that only corporate owned and sold seeds are permissible, seeds that require toxic Monsanto fertilizers in order to grow.

It gets worse, remember Mad Cow disease, aka  E. coli. This is not a mutant strand that appeared out of nowhere, it is a disease created by the meat industry’s practice of feeding cows corn, in place of their natural grass diet and confining them in inhumane conditions, where they are left standing in their own feces. When one cow contracts this virus, it easily spread to the others, and it then finds itself mixed into meat at processing plants.

These are just a few examples, the list of abuses is long. Yet, because of the powerful legislative bargaining power of corporate food interests, there is no law in place to require labelling of GE or cloned foods and Kevins Law,  the legislation that would  hold the meat industry accountable for e coli deaths, and protect against further infections has still not passed 7 years after its proposal.

I have long been an organic food eater, have tended to favor local over corporate and am even a member of my local csa( community supported agriculture), but I wasn’t exactly a purist before. I’d eat microwave popcorn and dubious diner hamburgers, but I’m just about ready to make a locavore pledge… To Know Where my Food has Come From and to understand its true social, environmental, and animal welfare costs.

The Food Inc trailer- Directed by Robert Keener

The South…..Brooklyn Socialite takes Full Frame-Wounded Knee

Posted in film, People of Color, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Wow guys,
Its been a busy couple of weeks. Aside from working like crazy(as always), I’ve been traveling and socialiting, rest assured. Now I’ve finally gotten the chance to breathe and blog, of equal priority right? Yes. So gosh, where to begin. I’ll start by talking like a southerner, saying this like, “oh gosh” and ma’am. Except, no way am I saying that to anyone and I wish that I could stop them from saying it to me. I’m not your mama, your mom, your missus or any combination of those terms. I am from New York, and no that’s not why I’m being rude. I’m being rude because you are looking at me like I’m an Alien. I’m not an Alien, am from Brooklyn and don’t like your fashion sense either thank you very much. Whew, now that I got that out of the way, lets talk film.

This afternoon, I saw Wounded Knee , which is a great new film, directed by Stanley Nelson about the second Battle of Wounded Knee. The first took place in 1890 and is considered to be the end of the Great Indian Wars. Over 300 Native Americans were massacred. This event would usher in the period of forcibly removing children from their homes to send them to de-Indianization boarding schools. The second battle at Wounded Knee began when the Oglala Lakota who lived on Pine Ridge reservation teamed up with the American Indian Movement(AIM) to occupy the village of Wounded Knee as a bargaining tool. The demands that they placed on the table, were that Dick Wilson, the so called Tribal council leader (this was an appointment made by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, not by way of local election) and his goon squad be removed from power. They also requested that the government money and food supplies that were being funneled into the reservation, actually be distributed among the people (rather then kept by Wilson and his cronies).

After trying all legal means to redress their grievances, the Oglala Lakota called in the, at time militant, AIM leadership and membership to take up arms and escalate the fight for their people. The seizure lasted for 72 days and was met with an occupation by federal marshals and other agencies under the aegis of the U.S. government. The media extensively covered the event, reporting favorably on the movement, and Indians from all over the U.S. came to join the struggle at Wounded Knee. The film deftly captures the conflict and provides useful background into the childhood experiences and historical understandings of many of the people who were involved in the standoff. Take note: These events, which took place in 1973, set the stage for a continued reign of terror by the goon squad, and the eventual arrest of AIM leader Leonard Peltier, who was  accused of killing 2 FBI agents and remains in jail to this day.

Ok, lets stop there, got to go see another film…but I promise I will be keeping a daily Full Frame diary. Back soon! Robyn

Battlestar Gallactica at the UN with Woopi Goldberg

Posted in People of Color, politics, tv with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

A Battlestar Galactica discussion, held at the United Nations Economic and Social Council Chamber, moderated by Whoopi Goldberg? It sounds like the premise of a fevered dream or a bad trip. It may well be the first time that the UN’s diligent sign makers had to dedicate their skills to crafting signs with the names of extra-terrestrial places like “Virgon” and “Sagittarion” for the assembled delegates.  It was definitely the first time The Brooklyn Socialite made a dent in the United Nation’s amazing seafood buffet, looking out over the Hudson while chugging industrial-sized whiskeys and thinking about the strangeness of being in a building which, as the wise Whoopi G put it, “is as much an idea as a place”. Which we agree with – especially as it’s an idea that incorporates waiters in tuxes and brings together diplomats, high school students and geeks in a building decorated with tapestry portraits of Secretary Generals past and present.

A team-effort between the UN Department of Public Information and the Sci Fi Channel, the evening was less trippy and more substantial than it sounds. Tying in themes from the science fiction series with the UN’s work, actors Mary McDonnell (who plays President Laura Roslin), Edward James Olmos (the battle-scarred Admiral Adama), producers Ronald Moore and David Eick were joined on the podium by a variety of UN representatives, touching on subjects such as human rights, children in armed conflict, terrorism and religious reconciliation.

Helping the non-Sci Fi geeks in the audience, each segment was introduced by a clip from the series. It quickly became clear that Whoopi hadn’t only done her homework by watching the show, but that she’s a genuine Sci Fi fan (she admitted to using the Battlestar Galactica curse word “fraq” on The View – she works with Elizabeth Hasselbeck, so innovative, non-censored swear words are clearly called for). Deputy director of the NY office of the high commissioner for human rights Craig Mokhiber’s gave an impassioned and witty description of the continued importance of the UN declaration of Human Rights, saying that it is not a quaint idea only held by the liberal softies at the UN, but  what stands between humanity and the slippery slope of moral relativism , which de-humanizes the “other”. Ron Moore seemed to agree, though throughout the evening he hesitated to take a clear stance on any of the moral issues in the show.  Instead, he’d emphasize the complexity of the characters – answers which may have disappointed the avid fan who, delighted to have avoided paying the entrance fee for a Comic Con, wanted the definitive definition of the difference between Cylons and Humans in the show.

No fan’s passion for Battlestar Galactica could match that of Olmos, who seemed to be slipping in to his Adama character throughout the evening. His voice is pretty mesmerizing (he seemed to think so too), so he might be forgiven for some of his more extraordinary statements – at one stage he seemed to be supporting Cheney’s policies on national security, which we all know is more ridiculous than thinking you’re a commander at a floating space colony.  Though to be fair to Adama (Olmos?) he did have some interesting ideas about how fans blogging about the show had caused it to take on a life of its own, to become a cultural phenomenon intelligently addressing current affairs.

The only downer of the evening, actually, was the disinterested girl who, during Radhika Coomaraswamy’s touching presentation about children and armed conflict, sat next to The Brooklyn Socialite playing Brick Breaker on her BlackBerry. Not cool.

By Ella Fitzsimmons

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.

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

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

This article was written by the wonderful Ray Wofsy

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

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

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

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

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.

Salmon Rushdie,Irshad Manji, Morality

Posted in People of Color, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite


At the 92 St Y, on Sunday night, I heard Irshad Manji, aka “Osama bin Laden’s worst nightmare”, interview Salmon Rushdie, aka Padma Lakshmi’s womanizing ex-husband, aaka one of the greatest living writers. The subject of their chat was Moral Courage. In fact, it was the first conversation in a series started by Manji, which aims to tackle the subject of ethical fortitude from several different angles. Manji, a reformist Muslim, questioned Rushdie, an Indian born devout Atheist, about the effects of the Fatwa, which Ayatollah Khomeini passed against him after the publication of his book, The Satanic Verses.

At the time of the book’s release, Islamic fundamentalists took offense at his descriptions of the prophet Mohamed, and the circumstances of his life. The fatwa called for the death of Rushdie, and when it was issued there were serious attempts to assassinate him, initiated by the government of Iran. As a result of this it was dangerous for Rushdie to travel to the Middle East, imposing a form of exile upon the man, although he was already living in the west. The attacks and threats even spilled over into England and were also used to intimidate his publisher and other colleagues. Rushdie was educated in India, then England and has since lived in Pakistan and here in the United States

A lot of my friends don’t like the man. Rushdie although well-versed in upper-class charm, has often been called sexist and elitist for good reason. However, like that old Woody Allen, it’s too hard to hate him, no matter how much I try. He is a great writer. His brilliant way with words is matched by his lucid mind. It is a rare gift to possess the ability to craft such unique characters and give them appropriate language styles, distinguishing one from the next so effectively that the reader can really get lost in the dreamscape of the novel, without remembering to be cynical. Agreeing to judge the artist, above the man (no matter how much he reminds me of Bridshead Revisited), let us move on to what the Muslim-Canadian-Feminist-Lesbian said to the Indian/British/American- Sexist-Atheist-Booker Prize winning Writer…

Although you could sense a note of resistance between the two, there also seemed to be a significant amount of respect flowing both ways. They both oppose censorship and bemoaned the way that our society has slinked into an Orwellian dystopia. They spoke against the type of moral relativism and political-correctness, which dissuades people from speaking out against things like honor killings, stonings and female genital mutilation. Rushdie said that in the past 20 years people have become more afraid to speak out about things. However, he also called our contemporary culture, “a culture of offense.” He claimed that because of the explosion of identity politics, people now define themselves by what they’re angry about. “Who are you if you’re not pissed off by anything?” Rushdie said.

He seems to want it both ways, and maybe we all do. One should be able to shout at someone else for offending their cultural, religious or gender identity, expecting a degree of “tolerance” or political-correctness. Yet, people should not just accept and respect each other, because their practices fit under the veil of some sort of culture. Now this is tricky terrain. I think the main point is that we can disagree, and even vocalize this, but the danger comes when we back our views with violence, whichever side we’re on. But again, the danger, If the US violently intervenes, for instance, when the Taliban oppress and kill women, this is an example of not tolerating or succumbing to moral relativism. When they attack us as infidels, is it the same example reversed? It is as though they are saying, we are Right, so we can use might, they are wrong, and so they can’t. Maintaining a sense of moral superiority is nice, but somehow not an effective argument against others who believe they are also superior. For all his pretty words, I’m curious as to how Rushdie would respond to this, and for all of her moral courage, how would Manji? I welcome their responses.

Inauguration 2009-Andrea Chalupa

Posted in People of Color, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

I want to extend a warm Brooklyn Socialite welcome to the illustrious Andrea Chalupa.

Letter to Myself, 2004- by Andrea Chalupa

My first job out of college was community organizer. Now that’s a hot term. Back then, for me, in the 2004 presidential election it was a duty. For my country, for the world. Every morning I was getting up to keep George W. Bush from getting re-elected. If he won another term, he would be getting away with it–away with starting the wars, putting our country into some dark shell of its former self. Paul Krugman’s right, we cannot ignore the crimes of the Bush administration even if crisis forces us to move forward.

I fought for my country in 2004. I didn’t fight for it like my former college roommate is fighting now in Iraq, but I lived and breathed something I believed was a matter of life and death. Bush smelled of Armageddon since the first election. We couldn’t give him a second term. Ironically, before graduating college and joining the 2004 campaign, I read a book that nearly shocked me out of my young idealism. It’s called Addicted to War, a comic book about the U.S. military industrial complex and its widespread impact and control on the world. This book is devastating, each footnoted fact lifts back the veil of ignorant bliss. Reading it made me realize that Bush can’t be defeated. I even called my dad in a near panic. He did his best Yogi Berra speech, using one of his favorite sayings: have the courage of your convictions. So I went heart first into the 2004 election.

The campaign was amazing. The long, long hours. Being in at 7am, staying sometimes until 1am, later. Working closely and intensely with dynamic, hilarious people, doing the craziest things like office dodgeball, because there’s no loonier high than lack of sleep. The drinking, the sex, the Melrose Place gossip, the alliances and betrayals. I can’t tell you how strange a site it was to see young people in their pajamas on a Sunday going to brunch, leading normal lives, when I had already been turbo-productive since 8am. You learn to make five minutes go a long way working on a campaign. Every vote counts so you spend your time trying to reach the most people possible. I feel bad for the men and women who lost or nearly lost their boyfriends and girlfriends to campaigns. Working on one is a special experience, the stuff of novels. The only time I woke up with a hangover was the day after the election–Bush had won. Never been so hungover.

I wouldn’t say I lost my ideals after that, I just needed to do something other than think about governance. I had been working in politics since I was sixteen. Okay, I felt dead inside. I chose the private sector route, over a job on Capital Hill or at a non-profit. I didn’t hitch my star to that name that was being buzzed about even back then, Barack Obama. I thought: Bush won again, it’s obviously meant to be. The apathy set in. There’s this condition called learned helplessness where the sufferer feels resistance is futile. Why vote? That’s what I heard so many times while campaigning. Why vote, when corporations, the C.I.A., Dick Cheney decides elections for us? Why vote? I was struggling to shove my idealism down the throats of apathetic voters. Incensed by their cynicism, their laziness, I soon became one after we lost. I suffered learned helplessness along with the rest of the country.

And then came Barack Obama. I admit I didn’t fall in love right away, it took me until the general election to dive into that kool-aid and get it. I guess I was annoyed at the wave of support he got because he was some rock star, a Messiah, when that shouldn’t matter. John Kerry should have gotten the same amount of support in 2004 because of what was at stake if Bush got four more years, and he did, all because John Kerry couldn’t give a speech that wasn’t the color of oatmeal or make a decision without a focus group. I resented the Obamamaniacs for not being there sooner, for needing a rock star before they got that active, that instrumental. I sat this election out, knowing full well what I was missing, and I was jealous that the fight was so much more electrifying this time around because of the leader. Though I am thrilled Obama has turned so many people on to public service–he isn’t the only one we need right now.

Today I go to Washington to experience the inauguration, to be with my fellow Americans. And today I write a letter to my former self, the one who lost a four-year relationship working long hours on that campaign, who felt so sure of victory on that campaign, who learned to stop worrying and love John Kerry, on that campaign. I write that letter to you because since then, the impossible has happened. And it’s going to have to keep on happening to turn this world around. What I’m saying is, don’t go in fear, don’t go in isolation, open your heart to the impossible.

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.