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9/20, 9PM





Saturday, January 26, 2002
2:11 PM      

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 Yeats' "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 her presence.

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 an online companion site.

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 home.

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 numb.

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 Movement....

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 Color Conscious - I think I'll have to add it to my reading list.


Jason Zada and just got nominated for an SXSW web award. They're Blogger - powered sites.

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