Hello, hello! I've been offline too long, and I've missed
writing to you. January has been a blizzard of activity, and
my attentions were drawn away.
My cohort at work was off for the first two weeks of this
month, and I had a good amount extra work to do at the office.
Things on the homefront have been busy, too. (At least those
activities have been more interesting and fulfilling.) As
things settle into a new groove, I hope to be giving you more
regular installments again.
One of the things that are keeping me busy, is I'm in a
poetry workshop uptown. The theme of the workshop series is
poets' response to war. It's been a long while since my last
workshop, and I found returning to that environment to be
instantly compelling and challenging. On the first night I
brought a new piece, and workshopped it. We also analysed
"Lapis Lazuli" - a piece that is particularly relevant
in the aftermath of September 11. When I went to look up the
poem, I found this bit about
lapis, the stone, and this about
the poem and literary criticism.
I've become very much accustomed to having others offer
critique and input into my writing process. In fact, I think
I've come to crave it, especially with my poetry. It's a level
of collaboration that I don't find in any other area of my
life right now, and I am extremely pleased with the results.
We took in the Irving
Penn photo exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The work is spectacular. Penn's photographs, inspired by ancient
notions of the fertile female form, approach sculpture in
their texture and abstraction.
As fascinating as Penn's work was, it was equally fascinating
to overhear bits of people's reaction to the work. The model
for most of the photos might be called "Rubinesque", and the
poses were not meant to be "sexy." One woman voiced her embarrasment
at seeing the photos, and wondered if the model, the photographer,
or both, would not have been embarrassed during the sessions.
Someone else called the images "ugly."
But, more than 50 years after the photos were created, they
are still powerful, and still fresh. It's particularly impressive
that a photographer, whose profession is commercial photography,
could step completely out of the mindset of commercial photography
to create something so artistically expressive.
There is a Second small exhibit on the (hard to find) Mezzanine
@ the Whitney Museum. The smaller images are from a recent
collaboration between a dancer from the Bill T. Jones dance
company and Penn. These photos again challenge the norms.
The dancer is not some lithe ballerina, but is more reminiscent
of Robert Crumb's fantasy woman. Unlike the 1949 nudes, we
see her face and feet, and she is extremely active. Not only
does she articulate her body, but even the walls respond to
The real attraction at the Whitney is the Jacob Lawrence
exhibit, which focuses on Jacob's remarkable approach to visual
storytelling. Central to the exhibit are 65 panels that tell
the story of African-Americans' migration from the south.
The Whitney has taken exhibition a step further, by creating
Margaret Cho brought her one-woman show to Carnegie
Hall as part of her Notorious C.H.O. tour. The series of monolougues
are an assault on political correctness, that end with a potent
message about self-love.
Her warm-up act was a trash-talking drag queen named Vaginal
Davis, whose "Cherries in the Snow" routine required a plastic
tarp on the floor of that famous stage. When Margaret took
the stage, she offered heartfelt appreciation for the audience,
then proceeded to philosophize about colonic irrigation and
speculate about what it would be like if single men got a
period. Margaret was never mean-spirited about other people,
saving her most comic observations for herself.
Her most politically incorrect routines, though, are her
hilarious impersonations of her Korean mother. Margaret breathes
believable life into the character of her mother, and ultimately
manages to illustrate something about the relationship between
parents to each other and to their children, without becoming
shrill or sarcastic.
Brotherhood of the Wolf is an extremely well-done
period piece based on a legend that grew out of real events
in 18th Century France. The movie is beautifully shot and
edited, and has a number of surprise turns, owing at least
in some part to the fact that it's a French production, not
a Hollywood show. It's in French with subtitles. Also interesting
- it was shot on digital video and transferred to 35mm, and
impressively edited by a first-timer. Most of the film was
shot in outdoor settings, significantly complicating the shooting
process. Here's a link
to the site, but be warned, it crashes on my machine at
In the Bedroom is a reflective morality tale. You're
a fly on the wall in a story of small-town justice, where
the justice system itself is essentially another character.
The film uses some very interesting techniques in telling
the story, using short scenes without dialog in important
ways, and avoiding the trap of using music to create dramatic
tension. This is a masterful film, that will make you think.
A Beautiful Mind is worth the hype it's receiving.
I never saw Gladiator, but I'm very interested in Russel Crowe's
work now. His portrayal of Nash is fantastic.
Ron Howard keeps getting better as a director. While he
uses some dramatic shots - for example, circling around Nash
in a particularly significant scene - his filmic technique
never upstages the story. He sucks you deep into the story,
allowing you to essentially experience some of Nash's delusion
from Nash's perspecive. Somehow, he manages to distance us
from that perspective later on, without losing continuity.
As much as I can't stand the way the site is set up, I still
read the New York Times online. The registration thing is
lame. I've had to reset my password at least 3 times already.
When my login cookie expires, it takes too much time and effort
to log in.
... And, I endure this because of gem stories like these:
"...She sat over coffee with women who had spiked hair
and swastika tattoos, and respectable-looking homemakers
who smiled as they delivered racist utterances about blacks
and Jews. At first, Ms. Blee, a sociology professor at the
University of Pittsburgh, was horrified. Then scared. And
then she got bored, pretending in desperation that she was
just a tape recorder taking it all in. Finally, she grew
But in the end, what she found surprised her greatly.
Her assumptions about hate groups were turned upside down,
and this month, the University of California Press is publishing
the results, Inside Organized Racism: Women in the Hate
Read more of The
Women Behind the Masks of Hate [NYT
link - requires login]
Kathleen Blee, who is featured in the article wrote "Inside
Organized Racism: Women in the Hate Movement" and "Women
of the Klan: Racism and Gender in the 1920's"
In a somewhat related story, Professor K. Anthony Appiah
has left Harvard's Afro-American Studies Department, and is
expected to become a Professor at Princeton. Some years ago,
Harvard "stole" Cornell West from Princeton. This may signal
the unravelling of Harvard's Afro American Studies department,
one of the premier AAS departments in the world.
In reading about Professor Appiah, I came across the book
Conscious - I think I'll have to add it to my reading
just got nominated for an SXSW web
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