Thursday, October 29, 2009

This is The Last Post on Blogger- I've Moved To kjswanson.com/blog/

Hey friends, it's been a good two years or more here on Blogspot, but it's time to do things my own way- (meaning writing a lot more html code and having trouble figuring out widgets that are not automatic like blogspot widgets). That said, though there are still a few little things to tweak (still trying to get a good blog roll widget going- happy to take suggestions),I am officially no longer blogging here at blogspot.

"Bulletin Board of the Brain can now be found at this NEW LOCATION.


Adjust google readers, blog feeders and widget meters accordingly. Gracious adoration goes to Josue Blanco both for the re-design, and the goad to become kjswanson.com.

See you on the new page!

-Kj

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Can I Just Clarify One Thing Real Quickly Here?

"...one of the problems with women taking full leadership is that it inevitably involves a collapsing of the distinctions between the sexes."

--Thomas R. Schreiner in his conluding statements about contemporary application of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, edited by J. Piper and W. Grudem. Wheaton: Crossway, 1991.


It's probably irresponsible or lazy for me to just throw this quote out here without offering an in-depth response or critique, but as I sit here reading this text, researching "Male-Headship" readings of 1 Corinthians, I just want to go on record to say that as women continue to take on full leadership roles both in church and society, it will highlight the distinctions between the sexes, not collapse them. That's the whole point, from my perspective. I want women in leadership because they will lead as women, not lead as men. Only then can we experience a reframing/healing/redesign of what we have only been offered from male paradigms.

An egalitarian society does not equal an un-gendered society.


That's all I have to say for now, Messieurs Piper and Grudem.

Monday, October 12, 2009

There's A Whole Chapter On Cannibalism And I'm Not Sure Why

The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature by Leon R. Kass


My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Kass's philosophical exploration of the human need and habits around food, seems to depend largely on Western, modernist notions of self-perfection through progress. Kass appears to equate human civilization with virtue, (references to animals always being pejorative) and rarely accounts for the psychological constraints of culture and society that produced much of the manners/customs he seems to praise as progress. The book has intriguing arguments, but only in the context of a larger conversation about food and human/cultural identity. It's often hard to tell if Kass is asserting what he believes or merely reporting trends. As such, I found myself pushing against much of his claims, while not knowing if he was actually claiming the idea I was pushing against.

Perhaps this book is simply exploring questions that don't interest me. A very odd read. Or maybe I really just don't like/get reading philosophy.

View all my reviews >>

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Criterion Caitlin

I don't follow many non-friend Twitters. However, one of my non-friend Twitterers just twittered about my friend and basically blew my mind apart with awesomeness.

I follow The Criterion Collection and get updates on their film releases, etc. Like most non-uber-avant-garde-film-buff people, the only Criterion Collection films I own are by Wes Anderson, but I like getting regular updates about Belgian films from the 70's that I've never heard of. It's my version of CNN.

But tonight, scrolling through my Twitter updates, I saw this,


wherein I little did a double take at the name Caitlin Kuhwald, one of the most talented people I knew in high school, and that's saying something. Caitlin actaully left SCPA (The San Diego School For Creative And Performing Arts) a bit after junior high to go to COSA (Coronado School of the Arts) but she's still a formative member of our ever-aging gang of SCPA class of '98ers, despite the fact that she wore a green gown at her graduation and we wore white.

Caitlin was actually the first (and to some extent, still the only) person I ever went on a road trip with. We drove from San Diego up Highway 101 and spent a bit of time in San Francisco then spent a week with our friend Christa who was staying with her Dad in the awesomely small town of Susanville, CA. While there, Caitlin painted a mural inside Christa's house. We stayed up late at night writing satirical pop songs (I still know most of the words to "90's Girl") and watching "Say Antyhing". (Actually, come to think of it- any Bennington people who remember my "stand-up" routine of fake indie girl band- that song "I'll be True" was written that week- Kim, you know what I'm talking about--oh the history!!)

Also, the only time I've ever been to Chicago was to visit Caitlin at her Dad's house. It's pretty amazing the more I think about it, how many places are marked by Caitlin's presence in my memory and her art in actuality. (Not to mention to full page in the back of my 8th grade yearbook where she drew an unbelievably accurate picture of the guy I like-liked.)

Caitlin has moved on from yearbooks and onto the cover of Criterion's releases of Heaven Can Wait, The Thief of Baghdad and Amarcord. See her Top 10 Criterion favorites here.

Congratulations Caitlin. I'm so excited that your art will grace so many homes- in prized movie collections. Glad I already have some treasured Kuhwald's of my own, and some truly wonderful memories (and trip photo albums- especially the black and whites from the graveyard that day...) .

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tiny TV Review: Mad Men

Confession- this isn't really a review so much as knee-jerk response. I gave up watching the series after only 2 episodes. When asked why, this was my answer:
"Well- it just didn't grab me, for one. The directing and pacing is really odd. And it seems way too amused by its cultural differences and historical no-nos, like we're supposed to say every five minutes "Oh my, they were so ignorant and inappropriate back then!" and to me, that's not the same as immersing the viewer in a different time/culture or good storytelling for that matter. Seems gratuitously self-indulgent, like someone overusing the f-word once they realize they can say it without being punished by their parents."

Though I'll add one thing: nice to see Christina Hendricks featured on a series. And admittedly, I'll likely give the series another chance eventually. But for now, so long boring chauvinists.

Mama Wants A Time Machine

Blaine has been collecting 100 Words from various folk and topics (presumably) connected to them. He gave me "Reading". There's a lot I would want to say about reading, and have previously given 100 words to Story for Joshua. But I went with the first thing I tend to think of with reading, and of course, it's about how much I want a time machine. Here's my 100 Words.

Thanks Blaine.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tiny Movie Review: Son of Rambow

Dizzyingly odd.

Fiendishly compelling.

It's like Wes Anderson's foreign exchange student overdosed on cough syrup then had ecstatic visions of religious fundamentalism, then made a movie about his boyhood fantasies.


3/5 stars

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Is Fox Playing With Dolls?

Ian wrote an excellent post reviewing the Season 2 premier of Joss Whedon's Fox series Dollhouse. While still paling in comparison to the brilliance of Firefly and creativity of Buffy the vampire Slayer, Dollhouse has the seeds of a great series. The unaired 13th episode of the first season, "Epitaph One", especially, is a knock-out, nearly perfect television episode that launches the series ten years into the future and 10,000 brilliant degrees deeper into the shows potential trajectory. Season 2 is expected to show much of what leads up to Epitaph One.

I posted a comment on Ian's blog, and decided to re-post it here for any of you that might be Dollhouse folk. I have some issues with how the series has been going, that were still present in this Season 2 premiere. I hope it's just the dregs of Fox producers' requirements on the show that will hopefully become unnecessary as the show gets better and better: more Joss, less Fox. Here's my response to Ian.

"I also was very very pleased with the season 2 premiere. Especially, since I re-watched 'Epitaph One' right before and there were totally references to that episode (or rather, this episode foreshadowed Epitaph One's events)- particularly Topher saying "I know what I know"

What did hugely disappoint however, was the Echo/Jamie Bamber sex scene which felt totally gratuitous since we didn't know or care about those characters- just felt like awkward, un-sexy "SEXY" scenes. Would have been better if it just showed the married couple together in bed the next morning, then cut to the shot of Ballard alone on the stakeout sofa. Would have said so much more about the relationships- without the grody muscle make out scenes devoid of feeling or intelligent storytelling.

Also, I have PROBLEMS with the whole Ballard beating up Echo to trigger her into being a weapon/defending herself. I just don't think its okay or acceptable to show men brutalizing women. Culturally, its just way too loaded to have that be part of entertainment.

But those are issues that are pretty connected to the shows themes- and someone could argue that my discomfort is what was intended- but if so, those scenes are so poorly integrated compared to the rest of how the show works. Basically, those feel like the "FOX" scenes; violence and sex for entertainment, rather than as truthful storytelling. I'm not against violence and sex in film- but is it honest? These scenes felt pornographic, in the sense of being objectifying and without integrity.

Hopefully Joss will hold down the fort and keep it about character and narrative from here on, not just ex-Battlestar Gallactica actors getting down and dirty.

And Amy Acker astounded me. Utterly".

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mark My Body For Life: Only $5!

Today I went here:
...to schedule an appontment for Friday, October 16.
Visit Tattoo Me to learn how you can help do just that.

Don't miss this exciting opportunity!!!


(You'll also get a pseudo-preview of my soon-to-be-released new blog site)

Monday, September 21, 2009

"If I Read Your Play, Will You Promise To Stop Writing Them?"

This is my third year reviewing submissions for a playwrights' residency program in NY. Every year I wait excitedly for my packet of plays to arrive in a giant manilla envelope. Then, every year my smile slackens upon reading the first line of the first play, wherein I remember that 4,999 out of every 5,000 un-represented (by agent) play submissions are horrendously un-readable. But I must read on, constrained by my commitment (and paycheck) to read every single word on every single unnecessary page. By play number four I remember why I stopped working in theater Literary departments: You thought retail was soul-killing? Try spending day after day reading people's open-hearted, dream-filled, creative offerings and thinking to yourself, "Sir/Madam, you are entirely deluded in thinking you have a career in play-writing; rarely (actually quite frequently) have I encountered a text so devoid of talent or promise."

It's only slightly less depressing than watching SAG-enforced open auditions.

But in the end, I get a little bit of cash, a little boost to my inner-critic-ego, and a nostalgic (is it truly in the past or just on pause?) return to theatre work.

Here's some quotes from my reviews:
(And no, the playwrights do not read these- just the selection committee- I'm not that mean)

"A flat and tired treatment of an unoriginal narrative, this play fails to be believable in either characterization or action."

"[The] themes fail to take shape either in character interaction or in the language/imagery of the piece. The metaphors appear but never take on meaning."

"This play appears more an exercise in dramatic theory than an expression of creative vision."

"The repetition and gestures that are the primary substance of the play appear only as attempts at avant-garde, rather than embodiment of the dramatic tension. "

"A sentimental and melodramatic story spread thin by too many dramatic questions."

"Hackneyed and derivative ex-lover scenario with tinges of detective drama a-la 'Murder She Wrote'."

Friday, September 18, 2009

"A" is for "AHA!": The Scarlet Letter as Nathaniel Hawthorne's Biggest Inside Joke

The Scarlet Letter (Modern Library Classics) The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We all read it in eleventh grade. The language was dense, but we ached for Hester, hated Chillingworth and rooted for Dimmesdale. It all felt so dramatic and deep and dark, like moss on an old oak tree covering up secret messages carved long ago by two star-crossed lovers.

And then you read it as an adult.

Umm...sorry Ms. Vehar, but how did you fail to mention that this books is hilarious? I could practically hear Nathaniel Hawthorne's eyelashes swishing as he winked sarcastically from from behind every page. The faux Puritan prose is just that: faux. While Hawthorne makes grandiose statements about the severity and coldness of those old Puritan days, he is practically bruising the reader with elbow jabs to the ribs saying, "Nudge, nudge, get it? WE ARE JUST AS JUDGMENTAL AND SEVERE TODAY! HA!!"

Despite the mild bruising, I couldn't help but adorn the margins with smiley faces every time I felt my buddy Nathaniel winking at me. But for all the smiley faces, it was a surprise to realize how distant the narrator really stays from the characters. While adaptations of the story focus on the passion of the silenced lovers and imagine a rich thought life for Hester, the book rarely visits the interior worlds of the characters beyond what is symbolically represented by their, well, symbols- her daughter Pearl, the rose bushes, the gallows, meteors, the eponymous scarlet letter, etc. The narrator spends far more time alluding to foreboding symbolic omens of psychological disruption, than inviting the reader to feel what the characters feel, or even know what they are feeling. This book is anything but romantic.

Further, Dimmesdale is in no way a hero to root for. From my reading, Hawthone thinks him the worst kind of cowardly narcissist there is. For all of Dimmesdale's self-imposed chastisement and loathing, he goes about his life feeling rather proud of his status as secret horrible sinner, whereas Hester bears the public shame and maintains her integrity. Dimmesdale's death (oops, spoiler) is his final pathetic act of grandiosity- he begs for Hester to give him her strength, but still chooses the easy way out as a martyr for his own sinfulness. He avoids the real risk, following Hester into a life beyond Salem's black & white punitive moral justice. He disintegrates into the non-person he is, rather than choosing to live honestly as an imperfect man.

I enjoyed my revisit to The Scarlet Letter, especially considering it had been twelve years since I'd read it. It's a short read, and if you can read it as satire, not morose allegory, it really shines with brilliant psychological insights. And no matter how unlikable I found her to be, Hester really is an amazing female character. Hawthorne supposedly based her largely on Margaret Fuller, a woman whom nearly all those transcendentalist fellows were head over heals for. She marched to her own drum, choosing lovers often over marriage, and career over domestic security. It must have been pretty shocking in 1850 to read about the choices Hester Prynne makes, and I bet a lot of Hawthorne's ironical winks and nudges would not have been as humorous if you were the party being implicated. But for 2009, it's an enlightening and entertaining read.


View all my reviews >>

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Like Muriel Rukeyser's poem...

...which asks,

"What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open,"

this video exemplifies my belief which posits,

"What would happen if one guy danced with all his might?
The world would come running."





I think its as important for men to feel free to dance as it is for women to feel free to speak. Say no to shame, yes to freedom, (and boogie).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Make Way For Segues!

Oh Seattle, the odd caravans that traverse your sidewalks.
video

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dialogical Film Club: Part 1, Wherein 6 adults spend 4 hours watching "Twilight"

In late April 2009, I was at a local pub surrounded by friends who had just graduated (leaving me behind to complete my 4 year degree sans all my 3rd year degree friends). Three of us started discussing the recent Twilight film: who'd seen it, who hadn't, and why. Within about 20 minutes a spontaneous group of six had formed, deciding that we needed to watch Twilight together so we could talk through it and by doing so, perhaps survive it. Knowing that if we didn't pick a date right then, that it would never happen, we decided on a Monday three weeks in the future.

Setting the date so far ahead brought a certain formality and sense of expectation to the movie watching night. 3 weeks away meant the need for email reminders, confirmation emails, plans about food and drink, and how we would obtain a copy of Twlight. It was in one of these emails that I celebratorily, yet causaully, referred to us as the "Dialogical Film Club". Dialogical, because we would be dialoguing through the movie; pressing pause whenever someone had an observation or question. This is how I always watch movies, but the group setting formalized it. The body of the email read:

"We six shall gather to experience the glory and depravity that is the film 'Twilight" We will lose ourselves, find ourselves, hit the pause button and work out the sado-masochism and erotic violence that is the film Twilight. It will be transcendent. We will giggle and so "oh my gosh" a lot."

And we did. We spent four hours watching a two hour movie. It was incredible In fact, it was because of this friend-movie-gathering, that I arrived at my Integrative Thesis Project topic for the next academic year. One of our main take-aways from the film had to do with the portrayal of male protector and silenced woman. It was also the DFC (as we have now come to know ourselves) who first began referencing similarites of the narrative's ethos to the complementatian values of New Calvinism. Then, during a phone conversation the following Thursday (Stacy had told Kim George about our Twilight night, then Kim called me with some Twilight questions for a course she was teaching on sexual violence in the media) it all coalesced in my brain and I said (outloud to Kim) "I think this is what I'm going to spend the next year working on."

So besides coming up with a thesis topic (which, by the way, is tentatively titled "Why are you apologizing for bleeding?": Twilight, New Calvinism and the Evangelical Embrace of Sadomasochistic Narrative) that Monday spawned a whole summer of marvelous Mondays. This happened because Jeremy said we should do it again, then Holly said "How about in four weeks?" and it was settled. Jeremy also proposed that following our first offering, it would be interesting to choose films that are hugely popular for some reason, and watch them to discuss the cultural trends/values/beliefs being consumed/propagated.

We liked that idea. To be continued...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Reading the Worst the Bible Has to Offer

Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives (Overtures to Biblical Theology) Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives by Phyllis Trible


My rating: 4 of 5 stars




While Trible's literary/rhetorical criticism asks a lot of an ancient, multi-sourced text, the endeavor is still humbling in scope and purpose. Published over 25 years ago now, Texts of Terror is still a shining example of feminist Biblical criticism, as well a work of deep faith, hope and compassion. Trible takes four of the most disturbing Biblical examples of sexual violence against women and exegetes them with a Christological lens. Buried under the violence, subjugation and silencing, Trible unearths the following women:

Hagar: Egyptian Slave Woman
She was wounded for our transgressions; she was bruised for our iniquities
Genesis 16;1-16; 21:9-21

Tamar: Princess of Judah
A woman of sorrows and acquainted with grief
2 Samuel 13:1-22

An Unnamed Woman: Concubine from Bethlehem
Her body was broken and given to many
Judges 19:1-30

The Daughter of Jephthah: Virgin in Gilead
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken her?
Judges 11:29-40

By reading these texts closely and attending to the subject/object of grammar and the often chiasmic nature of the syntax, Trible finds the people and poetry under the stories, and through them, a glimpse of redemption for these texts of terror as they reveal the brokenness of human violence paired with solidarity in Christ's suffering and sacrifice.

View all my reviews >>

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Why Edna Stays on My Desk At All Times

Collected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay

Collected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Edna St. Vincent Millay


My rating: 4 of 5 stars



The Spring and the Fall

In the spring of the year, in the spring of the year,
I walked the road beside my dear.
The trees were black where the bark was wet.
I see them yet, in the spring of the year.
He broke me a bough of the blossoming peach
That was out of the way and hard to reach.

In the fall of the year, in the fall of the year,
I walked the road beside my dear.
The rooks went up with a raucous trill.
I hear them still, in the fall of the year.
He laughed at all I dared to praise,
And broke my heart, in little ways.

Year be springing or year be falling,
The bark will drip and the birds be calling.
There's much that's fine to see and hear
In the spring of a year, in the fall of a year.
'Tis not love's going hurt my days.
But that it went in little ways.

View all my reviews >>

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Almost October Haiku

Woke up, stayed in bed
haiku-ing about being
thirty and single.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Part IV of Prolegomena to Further Critique of Sadomasochistic Teenage Erotica

Breaking Dawn (Twilight, #4) Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer


My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Breaking Dawn is the fourth and final book of Stephenie Meyer's vampire "love" story. This is the hardest of all for me to write about. The story is scattered across different narrators, has no story arc to speak of and drags the reader from chaotic scenes of violence to endless chapters of banal wish fulfillment. But unlike the previous books, there is no definable landing point either for critique or narrative discussion. Reading this book was like watching a slasher film on a TV with horrible reception- the picture keeps flaying out into blurry but disturbing images, only to be interrupted by ads for Hallmark and Wal-Mart: juxtapositions of physical and emotional violence with images of domesticity and consumption.

On top of that, I was bored to the point of literally needing to write "I'm bored" every 20 pages or so. Needless to say, I am not yet ready to equitably or creatively engage the issues of the text. I mostly just want to complain. But I will try to say something beyond “Why? Why? Why? Why?”

Whereas the three previous books in the Twilight Saga used awkward literary intertexts, arguably to underline a theme of Bella and Edward's relationship, Breaking Dawn has no such allusions. The first book, Twilight, has Bella reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. At first I thought this was an embarrassing plug to encourage girls to do their English homework. After the next two books, however, I realized this was supposed to serve as meaningful literary allusion. Bella reads Pride and Prejudice then meets an aloof, severe man who then turns out to be her ideal charming counterpart. At least that’s how it’s supposed to come across. Instead, we get the evocation of a classic prototype of the rude, narcissistic, controlling man as dashing romantic hero. Mr. Darcy and Edward Cullen do have something in common: they make women swoon by being uncommunicative and evasive.

New Moon has Bella reading and watching Romeo & Juliet. Then, surprise! Bella and Edward find themselves in a situation where one lover thinks the other lover is dead and wants to kill themself as a result. We have the reinforcement of star-crossed romance being noble and romantic- i.e.: the pairing of love with tragedy and adversity, rather than health and mutuality. Not to mention the fact that both characters fantasize about suicide and death rather than separation from one another.

By Eclipse, I’d come to expect these trite intertexts, but I was in no way prepared for the bomb Meyer set off in this third book. Pride and Prejudice and Romeo and Juliet are two of the most celebrated love stories in Western literature, so surely Meyer’s third choice would be something even more exemplary of our perceptions (however troublesome) of romantic love, right? Nope. Here I was reading the book through the lens of sadomasochism, and BOOM! Meyer lobs out Wuthering Heights in the very first chapter! My eyes nearly disengaged from their sockets. Wuthering Heights is THE sadomasochistic text of all time, barring the actual writings of the Marquis de Sade perhaps. Catherine and Heathcliff threaten one another, abuse and imprison others, and ultimately die in order to torture one another from beyond the grave. While Meyer’s characters debate about the idea of Catherine and Heathcliff being romantic characters- is there anything admirable about them at all?- such in-novel debate does not change the fact that the characters are being evoked and compared. Bella even interprets Edward’s actions using Heathcliff’s dialogue. Eclipse is actually the only case of appropriate intertextuality in the whole trilogy (except maybe the brief reference to Macbeth in Twilight). Wuthering Heights’ violence, dominance and dysfunction of enmeshed, co-dependant, petulant adolescents obsessed with one another matches Meyer’s characters perfectly. What her real intent was, I shudder to imagine.

But there is no 11th grade English class intertext in Breaking Dawn, the final book. Instead, we get Bella’s continually bruised, bleeding, ripped body that eventually (and painfully) transforms into a goddess-like body of a sex object. As usual, she finds continually creative ways to be secretive regarding her real feelings, resorting to manipulation and oftentimes begging in order to be listened to or have her desires responded to. She hides her suffering (physical and emotional) from her protectors (husband, male best friend/father/step-father/intrusive sister-in-law, dissociated mother) and when her injuries are too visible to be hidden, she convinces herself that there’s nothing wrong. This includes her waking up on her wedding morning covered with bruises from her husband’s (vampire) passion. She spends the morning trying to assuage him that the bruises don’t hurt…

Here is where I need about 50 more pages to talk. Fortunately, I’ve given myself a year to work on this text and these issues. So I’ll stop now.

Conclusion to my prolegomena: I find nothing redeemable or enjoyable about these books or these characters. So much suffering, so much guilt, so much dissociation, lying, SARCASM, anger, SARCASM, violence, self-contempt, not to mention the sickening paring of perfect family domestic life with gratuitous conspicuous consumerism. The Cullens are supposed to be the most generous and loving family ever to live, and yet they have millions of dollars just sitting around being spent on fashion, luxury cars and private islands. The Cullens are angelic immortals yet they keep $40,000 in loose change rather than, say, spending their eternal lives giving it away to those who actually need to eat. Also- while I’m on a Cullen rant- I thought it was problematic that Dr. Cullen kept purchasing blood from the hospital for his new vampire family members, but the only issue raised about it was the expense, not the fact that donated blood is there to save human lives, not sustain the appetites of newborn vampires. But I digress…

So many people I trust, value and respect have found great meaning in these stories. Now begins the journey of trying to understand why.

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Dear Spinal Cord Meningocele Oversized Thecal Sac..."

Little more than a month ago, Maryann received some life-altering news about her body. Even more life-altering in the sense that she learned about something that had been there all her life, and in having never made itself known, was only life-altering once it was recognized. She could have gone her whole life without ever knowing it was there.

Her journey though shock, surrender, denial, rage, despair and survival has been perseveringly, vulnerably, hilariously, passionately and heartbreakingly recorded on her blog. There's still so much about which she's waiting for answers, not the least of which being when will she finally have surgery, but my heart has been soaring along with her ability to process and feel such highs and lows in the midst of complete and utter "WTF?!".


Her most recent post, felt like such a tender and brave step towards both accepting the reality of what she's learned, and asserting her own anger and hope at the same time. I have so much respect for her. I wanted to share with others this amazing letter she wrote to part of her body. Just reading her words makes my own heart feel 20 times more brave.

Thank you for sharing with us Maryann. You astound me.

(And don't even get me started on how this woman dances)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Self-Referential Haiku

Jeremy said I
write such sad haiku. Okay
if that made me smile?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I Hope You're Right, Nathaniel Hawthorne.

"It is to the credit of human nature, that, except where its selfishness is brought into play, it loves more readily than it hates. Hatred, by a gradual and quiet process, will even be transformed to love, unless the change be impeded by a continually new irritation of the original feeling of hostility."

-Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Finally feeling like that "gradual and quiet process" might be able to start.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gone Gone Gone Haiku

Well, good luck, I guess.
I wish that you had let us
love your frightened heart.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Part III of Prolegomena to Further Critique of Sadomasochistic Teenage Erotica

Eclipse (Twilight, #3) Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer


My rating: 1 of 5 stars

See Twilight Post Part I for context explanation.


In Eclipse, we have the continuing issue of people, particularly men, undermining and re-naming Bella’s experience. She is repeatedly told, “You don’t feel that” “Don’t be silly” “You’re being oversensitive” “Don’t freak out”. What is worse, however, is that by this third book, Bella rarely needs to be told this by others, because she does it for herself. We see Bella compartmentalize her feelings before she has a chance to feel them. Every action she takes is out of a misguided sense of protection for other people’s reactions and feelings. She equates telling the truth with hurting others. She continually (Literally) asks others to punish her rather than forgive her when she says what she feels and it disappoints them. She looks for ways to bleed for others rather than acknowledge how they have manipulated, coerced or betrayed her. She blames herself for any “selfish” feeling regarding her own experience, but refuses to let others apologize, even when their behavior borders on abusive.

As a woman, hurting someone’s feelings is the most selfish crime one can commit. Better to remain silent than suffer the guilt after telling someone a truth they will not like hearing. If someone says you’re being oversensitive or silly, believe them. Others know what you’re feeling better than you do. A woman should never put a man in a position where he has to watch her cry, be angry or show any other emotion beyond compliance. If you do this, you are a selfish monster and don’t deserve to be loved.

That’s Book Three.

View all my reviews >>

Part II of Prolegomena to Further Critique of Sadomasochistic Teenage Erotica

New Moon (Twilight, #2) New Moon by Stephenie Meyer


My rating: 2 of 5 stars

See Twilight Post Part I for context explanation.

New Moon’s thematic trope has to do with abandonment and control. Bella is made promises by numerous males in her life that they will protect her at all costs and that she will never come to harm. Those promises are repeatedly broken, leaving Bella abandoned by those who made sweeping, possessive claims regarding their roles as protector. Thus, we have the repeating theme of men being both the self-proclaimed protectors and the ones who leave you unprotected. The men who swear to protect you are also the men who will leave you. Bella is not only abandoned by men, but bears the guilt of believing its her fault they left. In most cases, the men give no reason for their silence or absence, and she is left to find the cause in herself. When they return and cite their initial promises that they promised they’d always protect her, she feels even more guilt for how hard it is to trust their word. This crazy-making cycle always comes back to men who say, “Why did you doubt that I would protect you?” and then say, “I’m leaving and it’s for your own good.” Women are expected to trust men even when they break their word. If you doubt a man’s word, you hurt his feelings. Then he might leave you. The cycle continues.

Women, keep your fears and doubts to yourself. Men will make promises, break them, then reestablish trust by saying you were crazy for ever doubting them. Possesion/Abdandonement/Guilt/Possession/Abandonement/Guilt as pattern for relationship.

That’s Book Two.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Prolegomena to Further Critique of Sadomasochistic Teenage Erotica

Twilight (Twilight, #1) Twilight by Stephenie Meyer


My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Since I feel awkward having these books appearing in my "read" shelves without any explanation, I feel I must offer a little context, before I unleash my full response to the Twilight Saga sometime next spring.

I'm currently doing research based on the series, looking at themes of sexual violence, specifically, identifying the Twilight saga as an example of a sadomasochistic narrative. Without going into the details, I'll offer my short version of the main theme I've found so far in each book.


Twilight introduces teenage Bella and her vampire lover Edward. My main take away from Twilight is that in order for Bella to receive physical and emotional intimacy, she must literally stand as still as possible, hold her breath and hold back any of her own responses. To receive closeness, she must shut down and dissociate. She is held responsible for Edward's sexual and physical actions. Its her job to make sure he doesn't lose control. If she does respond to his advances, thus arousing him, he gets angry, pushes her away and blames her for tempting him past his limit. He, however, is free to be as sensual with her as he likes.

Women as both the tempter and manager of men's sexuality- while their own feminine sexuality must be suppressed.


That's book one.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

District 9 and the Noble Savage or "Why I Need To Spoil The Film Everyone Loves"

*****Spoiler Alert***** (In more ways than one)


I saw District 9 on opening night. My two concluding statements: "I loved every minute of watching that movie" and "I officially despise this movie"

It took me about an hour to reach the second statement, but there were hints throughout. Though I was completely riveted the whole time, like, jaw-open-eyes agog-throughout kind of riveted, I was continually bumping up against issues of logic, suspension of disbelief as well as character/narrative issues. But I'll leave those for the film critics to parse.

What puts this film officially on my shit-list is that in its attempted exploration of issues about immigration, race, prejudice, oppression, power and privilege, it actually propagates the mentality its presumably challenging. Here’s some of what I saw.

We are faced early on with the blatant human disregard for the alien species, as we see them nicknamed, murdered, abused and displaced with flippancy by the South African community. This exposition part of the film is really quite stunning and disturbing- you see an unassuming paper-pusher of a man explain how the alien eggs (unborn children) burst like popcorn when they're burned, while he oversees the systematic destruction of a whole pod of eggs. He's giddy and childlike--his innocence to the horror he's committing is freakish, and the audience, understandably and appropriately, gasps. The parallels throughout the film regarding the aliens as refugees, slaves or genocide victims are hardly subtle. It's clear that as we watch, we are supposed to shrink in horror at the similarity between the atrocities being causally committed by humans against aliens and our own cultural histories and present tenses regarding outsiders, minorities and the oppressed.

But this is where the film gets dangerous or at least grotesque. The film never leaves the perspective of the oppressors. The aliens (clear stand-ins for oppressed cultures) are helpless, stupid, volatile and violent. In one of the first noticeable non-"archival" scenes in the film, we see two aliens scrounging for scraps. They are noticeably wearing clothes, (cue the viewer: all aliens look alike but this one's wearing clothing so you can recognize it- maybe this will be a main character). Next, a toddler sized alien appears, talking to the boldly dressed alien, (cue the viewer: this alien has a kid, so this is definitely the main character, and you are now going to sympathize with it because there's a little cute alien to go with it). I nearly "ugghhed" out loud when these aliens shortly reappeared in a new scene, confirming the stereotyped character coding.

Next, when the main alien character interacts with the humans, they all notice that he is smarter than the rest of the aliens. As I watched, I waited for when the film would explain that the aliens are intelligent, and it’s just prejudice framing them all as stupid animals. But this never happens. Not one reasonably sentient alien besides "Christopher" and his son ever appears. The film never alludes to why Christopher seems able to survive without killing others over cat-food (another offensive trend in the alien lifestyle- they inexplicably love cat-food (ahem-Crack) and will do anything for it). Christopher is merely the ONE alien who isn't a dumb-insect-riot monger-addict.

In hearing the alien's name, the audience chuckles or is confused by his Anglo name, Christopher Johnson. At first I thought this was appropriately upsetting, and a set-up for when we'd get to learn his true name. But we never learn his non-"Ellis Island" or oppressor-given name. It's never addressed. And maybe that would be an okay element of ambiguity/mystery in the narrative, were it not for all the other disappointments as far as the cultural parallels.

The worst element of all, however, is the fact that after being continually manipulated, abandoned, beaten, threatened and taken advantage of by the main human character, (including his son being essentially kidnapped), "Christopher" then turns to Wikus and refuses to leave him behind. While this reflects well on Christopher's integrity and shows-up Wikus's cowardice, what I really think it reflects is an oppressor's version of the scenario. It's basically a story of a beaten and abused slave turning to save their master from drowning. Of course that's the white people version of the story. To frame the story in such a way that the abused alien risks twenty times more on behalf of the white man than the white man risks for him, creates a self-aggrandized catharsis for us, the powerful and privileged, to get to watch a story of wounded, marginalized people wholeheartedly forgiving our oppression. It is the noble savage thanking us in a pure British accent, for domesticating him and teaching him how to behave. It's horrific.

Further, while the aliens are clearly the more sympathetic characters, the film ends focused on the pathos and tragedy of the human character having been transformed into an alien. We are left with the image of lonely Wikus the now-alien, rather than the victory of Christopher, escaping to free his people. We don’t even get to know if Christopher was successful in his mission. The end made me so furious, that it erased my entire experience of enjoying the previous two hours. Shouldn’t Wikus’s new identity as an alien/outsider, be his literal and figurative character transformation? The story was so clearly headed in this direction. But we never see Wikus repentant of how he’d treated the aliens (of which he is now one). We only see his survival instinct and his guilt. What’s the point of changing the oppressor into the shape of the oppressed if he is never made aware of his violence? Though I’m all for subverting viewer’s expectations in narrative tropes, this is one case where I felt gross when left with the aborted trajectory. If feeling gross at our identification with Wikus was the goal, then the film shouldn’t end with him making a tin flower for his wife. Really.

For a film about exposing the abuses we commit to “the other”, this film only furthers a colonialist view of other cultures, wherein those we conquer and subdue, probably deserve it because they are so uncivilized and, literally in this film’s case, inhuman. I’m pretty shocked and appalled that a film so close to being amazing, got it so, so, so wrong.

Friday, August 14, 2009

My Horoscope Today

"...don't be so quick to negate your desires for the sake of the community."


It's like they know I'm a woman or something.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Countdown To Losing Ian, Part II: Wherein We Are Treated Like Celebrities

Tuesday we had an unexpected cancellation for a get-together with friends, so Ian, smart fellow that he is, made reservations at a favorite restaurant. Back in Ian's days as a hotel concierge, he made connections with quite a few fine eating establishments. This makes it very fun and rewarding to go out on the town with him.

First, the two of us met up for Happy Hour at Vessel, one of Seattle's premier cocktail bars. Two birthdays ago, Ian gifted me two free cocktail passes, and it seemed fitting we should use them for his farewell tour. We happened to be there on a night when they were hosting a guest bartender. We decided to order of the new list. Ian and I are both bartenders, and Ian knows a lot more about fancy cocktails than I do, but when we looked at the list, we only recognized two of the ingrediants on the whole page. We used his IPhone to look up things like Aperol and Gammel Dansk. This only heightened our intrigue.

We were both drawn to "Unnecessary Noise" a combination of various expensive spirits including Makers Marks Bourbon, Dolin Blanc and Pernod Absinthe. Since we didn't want to order the same thing, Ian took a risk and ordered the Haiku, whose ingredients you can read in the photo below. While Ian's drink was prettier than mine, with it's latte-looking foam art, it smelled and tasted primarily of beef jerky. Yes, the cherrywood smoked syrup was heavy on the smoke and light on the cherry. But Ian felt it was worth it since to order the Haiku cocktail, he was required by the bartender to write a haiku. We both clapped giddily when we were informed of this, and got busy wiritng. Ian wrote his in honor of his cocktail:
and I wrote mine in honor of him.

Always the leaver.
Never the one being left.
Not 'till this Monday.

After finishing our free cocktails, we headed down Pike street to meet up with two other friends at Steelhead Diner in the market. Before we had even ordered our entrees, an important looking young gentlemen who had come by the table to greet Ian, asked if any of us had any allergies. We said "no" and wondered what surprise would arrive. Shortly, we were gazing at the restaurant's famous "Caviar Pie", a cheese spread hors d'oeuvre featuring some five different kinds of caviar. It was delicious and disappeared quickly.

I had decided to spare no expense for our unexpected night on the town, so I treated myself to the Wagyu beef tri tip with golden russet potatoes, fresh greens and red wine sauce. If beef can be incandescent, this certainly was. Everyone else ate lushly and lavishly as well. We decided on two desserts. I really wanted the $10 sundae and shared it with Chase. Ian and Nir went for the Black Velvet cake. This was also the first time Ian and I had ever eaten out on the restaurat's balcony. We had a sweet view overlooking Post alley.

After our delicious meal was done and we were simply enjoying the atmosphere, BJ returned to say goodbye to Ian, and also to inform us that our meal was on the house. Yes, our $200 meal was on the house. I'm so glad I had decided to spare no expense since I ended up with no expense at all. In fact, the whole night only cost me about $16 in tips. And it was some of the best eating/drinking I've enjoyed in some time. It was magical. Another night of surprises during Ian's final week. What will happen next? Probably a call from Joss Whedon saying he'd like us to pitch him a new series and co-write it. Yep. He's probably reading our paper right now wondering how he can get us on his team. Joss, all ye need do is ask. And provide caviar maybe.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Time To Say Goodbye (Imagine this in an insipid Sarah Brightman voice)

Ian is moving to New York on Monday morning to start Columbia's MFA prgram for dramaturgy. Ian's parting is significant for me in many ways, not the least of which being that for 3 years, he's been the one person I could really talk shop with here in Seattle as far as theatre/collaboration/avant garde/narrative studies/crazy theatre patrons/crazy actors/and all the other things that marked my life before moving to Seattle. Not that I don't have great conversation partners here, but Ian felt like the place where I didn't have to do any translating about what the last ten years of my life have been about. With him leaving, I almost feel like Im losing my last link to New York. Which is ironic, since he's moving to NY.

But Ian leaving is also- as far as I can remember at all, the first significant time where I am the friend being left, not the friend leaving. All my partings have been me moving on to new adventures, or all of us friends in mass departure from college or something. I've never known Seattle, or Intiman Theatre more specifically, without Ian. I have no idea what it will be like without him. No idea how to prepare for that.

But at least we're doing a pretty good job with the saying goodbye part. Sunday, after the closing matinee of Othello, we raced over to Palomino via the monorail, whilst making a quick stop at the FunForest roller-coaster. As Ian is a crazy theme park fanatic, it felt appropriate that we ride at least one roller-coaster together before he departs. After tasty cocktails and wood-fired pizzas, we still had an hour to kill before revisiting Star Trek at the downtown Regal. Ian still had some GameWorks credits, so we journeyed into the darkened depressing depths of the arcade land to play some shooting/driving/dancing/tossing games. It was hilarious. After the movie, (which is like an amusement park in and of itself) I couldn't believe all the random entertainments we'd encountered in downtown Seattle. Felt more like a day at Six Flags. Love it.

We've been doing more celebrating since Sunday, but I'll do a separate post, otherwise no one will read it. Long posts = inevitable non-readership. But oh, last night was so blog-worthy!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

No, We Do Not Make Mojitos...

...but we do come up with clever cocktail tie-ins for every production.

Here's the batch from the last two shows at Intiman. The next show, which opens in two weeks, is gonna have cucumber martinis! My idea! (followed by collaboration on the recipe of course)

The Clown Car
Patrón Silver tequila
Rose’s Lime Juice
Splash of Sweet & Sour
Shaken and served up with a lime
(it's kind of a Tequila Gimlet)

The Chippermunkie
Maker’s Mark bourbon
Disaronno amaretto
Dash of bitters
Shaken and served on the rocks
Top with club soda
Garnish with lemon wedge and cherry

The Green-Eyed Monster
Bacardi white rum
Midori melon liquor
Pineapple juice
Shaken and served on the rocks
Garnish with a cherry

The Strawberry Handkerchief
Smirnoff Strawberry Twist vodka
Crème de Cacao
Dash of Campari
Cream
Shaken and served up
Garnish with a white chocolate truffle

This last drink was a victory.
(Side note- I came up with the name for this one before we had a recipe) We've been trying to get rid of Campari for two seasons- it tastes like a combo of grapefruit peel and gasoline- but one bartender had an ingenious thought: Campari is bitter- so is coffee- what do we put in coffee? Cream- why not try Campari and cream?
It was magical. We were already serving the Strawberry Handkerchief with the vodka, liqueur and cream- but when we added Campari, it made the drink not only more subtle and herbal tasting, but it turned the drink pink! Ideal for something named after strawberries.

Feel free to try these at home. The Chippermunkie is quite nice.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

"We will never know how the mind turns the water of our cells into the wine of consciousness"

Proust Was a Neuroscientist Proust Was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer


My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was drawn to Jonah Lehrer's book when I saw a light blue paperback with a madeleine cookie on the cover along with the word "neuroscientist". Tasty looking indeed. When I opened it up, I saw that an entire chapter was devoted to George Eliot and "The Biology of Freedom". With little more info than that, I basically took the book to the cash register and had at it.

To quote the description on the back, Lehrer's book explores the idea that "when it comes to understanding the brain, art got there first." Each chapter profiles a 19th-early 20th century artist and how their work revealed an understanding of how our brains function that neuroscience is only just beginning to discover. Most engaging was the chapter on chef Auguste Escoffier and the intuiting of umami- our only very recently canonized new taste- joining savory, sweet and the rest. The chapter on Stravinsky and how our brains learn to enjoy music was also refreshing.

Overall, however, I find I was most alert while Lehrer profiled the artists, particularly as he located them within the scientific atmosphere of their time. Once each chapter switched to descriptions of neurological functioning the writing became dense and hard to connect with. Maybe there's just no easy way to write about neuroscience no matter how many literary references one uses. Lehrer's effort is much appreciated, but still feels only mildly successful. I loved learning about the relationships (or animosities) these artists had to the scientific communities of their era, but the connection to what their art revealed about what we now know of the brain still felt like a bit of a reach. But still interesting. Ultimately, I love Lehrer's goal of fostering dialogue and mutual understanding between science and art.

"We now know enough to know that we will never know everything. That is why we need art: it teaches us how to live with mystery. Only the artist can explore the ineffable without offering us an answer, for sometimes there is no answer...When we venture beyond the edge of our knowledge, all we have is art."

Beautiful.

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