Saturday, October 28, 2006

lost ones

the new jay-z song, "lost ones." i understand why the title is what it is, but i'm not sure how i feel about it, given lauryn hill's not obscure song of the same title (tho not the same subject). kinda like i understood what common was doing when he named his album like what for chocolate, but i wasn't sure how i felt about the reference to a not obscure book. two different meanings entirely: for common, it was a reference to segregated water fountains, for laura esquivel, the author of the book, it was a reference to being at the point of boiling over, like water for making (hot) chocolate. what do you think?

listen here.


new books

just purchased all aunt hagar's children, the new collection of short stories by edward p. jones. jones also wrote the known world, a rather interesting and beautifully written book, set in antebellum virginia, about the seemingly unlikely topic of black slaveowners and their black slaves. the known world has received all kinds of critical acclaim, and was named one of the most important books of the century (or something like that) by the new york times.

i'm only on the first story of all aunt hagar's children, but it, too, seems to have the same beautiful style. i know writers don't often want their work to be described as beautiful, fearing that a compliment of their aesthetic means that their substance leaves nothing to be complimented, but jones's aesthetic is impossible to ignore. his sentences are finely crafted, each word seems to be chosen with great care and attention, and though his structure is simple, unornamented, not flowery, it's just...well, beautiful. but he's also deeply exploring his characters and their world: all of these stories are set in washington d.c.

well, i'll write more when i finish it. and i'm very much looking forward to finishing it.


not without laughter

<--i just finished reading this book, langston hughes's first novel, originally published in 1930. the novel was ok, more successful as a portrait and a study of black america in the early 1910s than as a story, but the title is clearly the most apt observation. anything can be endured, as long as you've got a bit of laughter.

which is why i spent so much of last night laughing. after a rather long work week, i went out with some friends to chef yu, a restaurant in midtown west that has $3 mixed drinks during happy hour. we asked for a table for 3 (there were two of us there at the moment, but one was coming to meet us) and we were told that there were no tables available, and we'd have to wait. we went to the bar to get a drink while we waited...and then a party of 4 entered the restaurant was seated right away. i looked at my friend, she looked at me, and we decided it had to be the hair, me with my afro and she with her hair hidden under a black headwrap. we obviously looked too intimidating to be seated right away. well, maybe not. but i couldn't think of any other reason why we weren't seated immediately. (and this was not a reservations necessary type of place.)

eventually, we got a table, a waitress came and took our order...and never came back. so we flagged down a random waiter and made an order, and he said something we couldn't understand and disappeared. he eventually brought us our order. then i noticed that my menu had a random drink which careful inspection and interviews of patrons seated nearby revealed did not exist on any other menu: the woo woo. where my menu said woo woo, their menus said "terquila sunrise." yes, that's right, teRquila sunrise. ok. we asked a random waiter what a woo woo was, and he said he didn't know. hmmm.....if we had laughed at not getting service (and we did), then this was a knee slapper.

and about an half hour later, the original waitress came back, not to check and see how we were doing, but to ask if she could take the empty chair, since they were running low on chairs. ok, fine. wierd, but fine. then a waiter came by and asked if we were done with our drinks, since they were running low on glasses. umm...yeah, we're done with our drinks. if we had laughed about not getting service, and about our speculations about what a woo woo could possibly be, then this was just absolute hilarity. ridiculous. i suggested that the staff take a course on how to run a restaurant. they were so amusingly clueless.

i am happy to report that my shrimp dumplings had actual shrimp in them. that's a plus.

later, on the train ride home, i recounted the restaurant mishaps to a couple of random folks. one young man decried the rudeness of the waitstaff. i shrugged; can't get mad about everything, right? how small a thing, this was, at least at that moment. one of those random folks was a very nice, very tall young gentleman (who offered me his seat) who just so happened to be the tallest person i have ever seen in my life. turns out, he is 7'1. i have a very tall family (even if i'm only moderately tall) but this dude takes the very tall cake. and not long after he got off the train, a much shorter young man with a surfboard got on the train. it's rainy, it's cold, it's brooklyn, and he's getting on the train with a surfboard. seems a bit...unusual. so i asked him where he goes to surf, and in this weather, and he said, rockaway, this is the best time of year, the waves are great! the beach will be crowded with surfers! there are more surfers in the city than i would think! he needs to make it out there by 5am in order to get the good waves! (ok, he didn't actually talk with all those exclamation points, but he was rather enthusiastic.) and this other woman asked him where his wetsuit was, and he said he'd left it at his friends house, he lives not far from rockaway beach. and i asked him what a surfboard is made of, and he said, the core is foam and its got something or other wrapped around it (sorry, i forgot what).

apparently, some of the best waves to be had are at the very tip of long island at this time of year. not very many good waves to be had close to the city, the flow of the rivers into the ocean really messes up the waves, but the further away from the city you get...

well, thanks everyone who shared a laugh with me.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

the face of illegal immigration

it looks very much like the face of the legal citizenry,
though perhaps sometimes more hopeful
sometimes more frightened.
i remember my grandmother was always deathly afraid
of any document requiring a signature,
school report cards, etc,
because she didn't want to get picked up immigration.

still if she had ever been detected by immigration, she wouldn't have faced anything as severe as the girl faces, should she be deported (found this in today's new york times):

Young Woman Fears Deportation, and Mutilation

"Adama Bah’s schoolmates were jubilant when she returned to 10th grade at Heritage High School in Manhattan in May 2005 after six weeks in a distant juvenile detention center. Her release put to rest the federal government’s unexplained assertion that Adama, a popular 16-year-old who wore jeans under her Islamic garb, was a potential suicide bomber.

"But a year and a half later, with many of her friends planning proms and applying to college, Ms. Bah, now 18, was still wearing an electronic ankle bracelet and tethered to a 10 p.m. government curfew, restrictions that were conditions of her release. And she was still facing deportation to Guinea, where she has not lived since she was 2.

"Today, at a closed hearing in Manhattan’s federal building, she will plead for political asylum from Guinea’s entrenched practice of female genital mutilation, which has marked all the women in her extended family, including her mother. An immigration judge could decide her fate on the spot.

“I’m worried about being sent back,” Ms. Bah said on Tuesday in her first extended interview about the lasting consequences of a case that briefly became a cause célèbre in the debate over government vigilance and the protection of individual liberties. “I’m worried about being separated from my family. This is all I have left now — what hasn’t been taken.”

"Officially, she and a 16-year-old Bangladeshi girl arrested in Queens the same day were detained solely because their childhood visas were no longer valid. That remains the only reason Ms. Bah is in deportation proceedings, and the sole legal basis for an order last year that released the other girl, Tashnuba Hayder, on the condition that she leave the country immediately."

"Even now, Ms. Bah says she has no idea whether her slight acquaintance with Ms. Hayder was what caused agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to hold her for questioning. Though a document provided by a federal agent at the time said the F.B.I. considered the girls “an imminent threat” to national security, it provided no evidence, and officials refused to discuss the matter.

“Why me?” she asked, before her volunteer lawyers warned that a judicial order limits what she can say about the experience. “Nobody answers, why me?”

She has had little time to dwell on the question, however, because she has been struggling to replace her father as the family’s primary breadwinner. Her father, a cabdriver who was arrested along with her and held on immigration violations, stayed in detention until his deportation last month. Her mother, illiterate and speaking little English, soon lost the family business, a trinket stand."

more here.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

the last king of scotland

went to go see the last king of scotland on friday. came away from it feeling, at best, lukewarm. (my friend downright hated it...sorry bout that.)

The Last King of Scotland Poster
the last king of scotland, based on a novel of the same name, is the story of the (fictional) personal physician of idi amin. while i don't have a problem with fictional characters parading in and out of films inspired by or about real personages (malcolm x comes immediately to mind - all kinds of fictional folks there) the film suffered from being almost totally about the fictional person, and only skimming the surface of idi amin's story.

idi amin is quite possibly one of the most notorious leaders in recent history, and yet, for some reason the film pretends that his personal physician could be completely unaware of his ruthless tyranny.* unlikely that someone on the inside, whom amin trusted, could be so isolated. and his actions alone, without the frontloaded plot concerning the privileged, young scottish doctor nicholas garrigan's improbable sexcapades in uganda, could have occupied an audience.

the performances by the actors, however, were not disappointing. forest whitaker played an alarmingly captivating amin, and james mcavoy (who was wonderful as mr. tumnus in the lion, the witch, and the wardrobe) had the part of the bored, well-to-do european youth looking for some excitement (and changing the world and feeling real important in the process) down pat. i can't fault the actors here at all. and not even so much the writing, because the dialogue was great...i think that the film could have done with some judicious editing in the storyboard phase. or perhaps some reimagining of it's dramatic structure, because while the elements of a good film were there (premise, cast, crew, etc) the sum of film did not turn out to be more compelling than its parts.

*i mean the previous post, tropicália, i briefly mentioned literary artistic anthropophagy (cannibalism), the artistic aesthetic of "eating" other aesthetics. idi amin, on the other hand, has been accused of actual cannibalism. yeah. and that, as monumentally shocking a charge that is, was just a footnote in this film. and literary cannibalism gets mountains written about it every year.

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knowing my appreciation for things brazilian (among them paintings by tarsila do amaral, the theory of literary/artistic anthropophagy [which extends across latin america and the caribbean], couve, the seleção) my coworker passed on to me info on this exhibit now showing at the bronx museum of art. since i'll likely be too broke to hop a flight to brazil anytime soon, i suppose i'll be checking out this exhibit cuz i do have an unlimited metrocard.

October 7, 2006 - January 28, 2007

Tropicália: A Revolution in Brazilian Culture

Tropicália is the first comprehensive exhibition to explore one of the most significant chapters in modern cultural history, a period beginning in the late 1960s when daring experiments in Brazilian art, music, film, architecture and theater converged—and ignited. Although suppressed by an increasingly oppressive military dictatorship, the moment produced a counterculture that has influenced successive generations of artists, even up to the present day.

The exhibition revisits this seminal time in Brazil through more than 250 objects. Highlighting major historical works from the 1967 New Brazilian Objectivity exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro, Tropicália features artists Lygia Clark, Antônio Dias, Nelson Leirner, Hélio Oiticica, and Lygia Pape, among others. Searching for their own identity, these artists were inspired by one of the founders of Brazilian modernism, Oswald de Andrade, and his concept of “cultural cannibalism.” They sought to liberate their art from traditional European forms and cultural hierarchies and a narrow cultural elite. As a result, they often embraced an aesthetic of informality, interactivity, and cultural hybridity.

The title of the exhibition is drawn from an installation created by the influential artist Hélio Oiticica in 1967, as well as from the 1968 pop record, featuring Gilberto Gil, Os Mutantes, Caetano Veloso, and others, which became one of the most celebrated albums in Brazilian music.

The impact of this period in current Brazilian culture and contemporary art internationally is revealed through the inclusion of a younger generation of artists and musicians including Matthew Antezzo, assume vivid astro focus, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Arto Lindsay, Marepe, Ernesto Neto, Rivane Neuenschwander, and Karin Schneider, many of whom have created new works for the exhibition.


By Train
D or B to the 167 St./Grand Concourse station. Exit at rear of station, walk south along Grand Concourse two blocks.

4 to the 161 St./Yankee Stadium station. Walk east three blocks to the Grand Concourse, then, walk north four blocks along Grand Concourse to 165th St.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

spread love, it's the brooklyn way... said the late, great notorious b.i.g. and i felt that quote is appropriate for this video, by alicia stewart and gerry sievers (dunno who you are, but respect to you) which spreads all kinds of brooklyn love (and some history and perspective, too) for good old do or die bed stuy. i have to completely agree with the commentary: bed stuy is, if nothing else, a genuine neighborhood where people say, hello, how are you, to each other for no reason other than the fact that they are neighbors.

and the soundtrack to this video = perfection.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

the anniversary

one year anniversary of jam on it poetry off broadway showcase. good performances, good poetry, good audience, good music, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches (i'm really serious about that), so i suggest you check it out.

JAM ON IT POETRY: "The Anniversary Jam "

October 21st 2006 @ 8pm
The Chasama Theater
217 East 42nd Street
Directions by train:

To Grand Central


Lemon :

Born and raised in New York City, Lemon Andersen has been a regular on HBO's Def Poetry. He was also one of the original cast members and writers for the TONY Award winning Def Poetry Jam on Broadway. After coming a drama desk nominee Lemon was chosen to be the poet to help sign Lebron James to Nike. Lemon's extensive theatrical work is not limited to Broadway productions. He has been featured in several Spike Lee films including "sucker free city," "She Hate Me" and most recently "The Inside Man." Lemon has also taught performance art workshops at such universities and venues including Harvard, Princeton, UMASS and Sing Sing prison. For more info on Lemon

Taylor Mali:

Performance poet Taylor Mali is the most successful poetry slam strategist of all time, having lead six of his seven national poetry slam teams to the finals stage and winning the championship itself a record four times before anyone had even tied him at three. A native of New York City, Mali was one of the original poets to appear on the HBO original series "Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry." He was also the "golden-tongued, Armani clad villain" of Paul Devlin's 1997 documentary film "SlamNation," which chronicled the National Poetry Slam Championship of 1996, the year of Mali's first national team championship. For more info on Taylor

Iyeoka Ivie Okoawo:

Iyeoka Ivie Okoawo is a Nigerian-American poet/singer residing in Boston, MA. She is a Winner of a 2006 New England Urban Music Award for Best Female Spoken-Word Poet. Iyeoka was also awarded the title "Performance Poet of the Year" along with "Slam Poet of the Year" at the 2003 Cambridge Poetry Awards. For the past 5 years she has been a strong member of the Boston Slam Team 2000-2005. Iyeoka was also a member of the wonderful group "Blackout Boston." Iyeoka has also been been featured at the House of Blues in Boston, the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, the Embassy, Avalon and Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam airing on HBO. For more info on Iyeoka

Jared Paul:

In 2004, after years of local and national performances Jared traveled the U.S. on the 32 venue "DIY Fight The Tide Tour" registering poets in various spoken word communities to vote and raise awareness about voter fraud. The tour was swallowed and redirected when it met up with Sage Francis and his "FUCK CLEAR CHANNEL TOUR." Jared stayed with the FCC tour for an additional 20 dates, helping to register over a thousand people to vote, and assist in spreading the word about the dangers of the corrupt, money driven, and community destroying media ownership empire Clear Channel. Jared was next enlisted as a featured hip hop/spoken word act for all 40 dates on Sage Franciss 2005 A Health Distrust Tour. For more info onJared Paul

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

the rejection thread (update)

one more rejection! i'm on a roll, here. latest addition at bold at the top.

three candles journal
Calabash Journal of Caribbean Arts and Letters
ep;phany zine
Tribes Magazine
Mosaic Literary Magazine*
Cave Canem Summer Poetry Fellowship

i still have some pieces in circulation. we'll see what the verdict on them becomes.

*though they have rejected me, their rejection messages were rather gently and nicely worded.

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catch a fire is....

my favorite bob marley song of all time. so when i heard that they were doing a movie by that same title i thought, please, don't let this just be random cultural commodification, especially for the sake of a craptacular movie.

and let me just say, catch a fire is definitely NOT that. went to a screening of it last night, and really really really enjoyed it, which is saying something because one of the projectors at the screening room broke (who knew bryant park hotel would have such poor equipment?) so we had to watch the film on one projector -- and films come on many reels, in the case of catch a fire, there were 5 reels, so that meant five breaks to switch the reels on the one working projector. these breaks were more than mildly annoying, but to think of it another way, it also means five moments when the audience might lose interest and leave. and that did not happen.

i found myself riveted. catch a fire is the story of what ordinary people are driven to do/become under extraodinary circumstances. many movies recently (syriana and paradise now come immediately to mind) examine what is it that makes pushes an ordinary human being (and let's face it, most human beings are quite ordinary) to become a terrorist. catch a fire makes a similar examination, but with two glaring differences. (1) the context for catch a fire is not the current middle eastern conflict, but the struggle to dismantle/maintain apartheid in south africa, and (2) this film is based on the true story of an actual individual, patrick chamusso. chamusso is played by derek luke, (antwone fisher in the eponymous film) who was brilliantly convincing in this role. his work stood up to comparision to the south african actors about him. bonnie henna played his wife precious, and the two had remarkable chemistry. chamusso is like the most typical suburban husband and father, loving, hardworking, not particularly political though not politically ignorant, even coaching a neighborhood soccer team. but is he capable of resisting apartheid? what would drive him to that point, when his life was so (comparatively) good?

tim robbins played a most deliberative police official who's job it is to suss out the "terrorists," anc activists. i thought it interesting that the word terrorist occured several times throughout the film - it seems that, since 9/11 terrorist is a word that everyone throws about freely. after the screening there was a q&a with the producer, robyn slovo, who said that there was no intentional insertion of the "war on terror" motif into the film - that's just the way that period in south africa played out.

robyn explained that the film was quite a personal labor of love. it was written by her sister, shawn slovo, based on the story of patrick chamusso, which mr. chamusso related directly to shawn. robyn and shawn's father, joe, was an anc activist who knew mr. chamusso personally, and remarked to his daughters that if ever a film about the struggle against apartheid was made, it should be about patrick chamusso. and his daughters obviously listened.

with films like this, it's deceptively easy to pick out your hero and villian conclusively. patrick chamusso is still alive, and at the end there is footage of him meeting derek luke, who plays him in the film. tim robbins's character, nic vos, is a composite character based on two security inspectors, who, as it turns out, refused to tell their versions of events to the truth and reconciliation commission. so i guess, in this case, mr. chamusso's version of events gets to be history (which is always written by the victors.)

i had to ask robyn about the title, why catch a fire? she said that bob marley's music resonated with anti-apartheid struggle of the era, and it resonated with the filmmakers personally. but i found it odd that the song catch a fire was never at all used in the film. o sure, there was plenty of bob marley music at the most climactic moments, especially could you be loved? and exodus. but catch a fire didn't even play during the credits. i suppose there is something to be said for the subtle tie-in...and i suppose there is something to be said about the fact that the title will also resonate with bob marley fans who may not know anything about south africa.

anyway, catch a fire opens oct 26 nationwide, and in feb 2007 in south africa. (ms. slovo said she believes it will be well-received in south africa, especially given the national climate/attitude that resulted from the truth and reconciliation commission, but south africa suffers from a severe dearth of cinemas in the rural areas.) go check it out. and if you care nothing for its social implications, it also has some good action sequences.

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Monday, October 09, 2006

my brother, the genius

my older brother: he was supposed to be a dentist when he grew up. (incidentally, i was supposed to be a lawyer. those were the ideals. fortunately, our mother turned out to be ok with us being anything we wanted except for lazy bums.)

anyway, he's a bit of a multitalented genius. he's a poet, and a dj, and a poet/dj. and now, it seems, he's delved into the world of video mashups. so entertain yourselves with a couple of them.

bounty killer & fat albert.>beyonce & jessica rabbit.

Friday, October 06, 2006


nyc. at least for awhile. gimme a week or so to recharge.

going to nc for a moment, which raises all kinds of dilemmas of identity. i mean, born in buffalo, moved from there to nc when i was 14, did high school down there, came to nyc for college. and stayed (so far.) first generation american...i really don't know what to tell people when they ask me what home is. what, who, where i am or more importantly my heart, or my subconscious...i dunno.

whatever. see you soon.

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

"educated fools...

they have ruined the world." so said damian marley in the song (appropriately titled "educated fools") on the album that first caused me to fall in love with him, halfway tree.

i'm inclined to agree with him, and not just cuz i love him. in fact, i think i love him because i agree. education and the supposed enlightenment it brings are supposed to be the keys to bettering the human condition, right? but more and more people are getting that education, and is the human condition improving? maybe. but i'm definitely not convinced that it is.

some people make the one-way elevator comparison. people, especially those from typically underserved communities, get lucky and get on that elevator and go all the way up and graduate from college, and then never go back to where they started and try and help out.

some say, i can't help others before i help myself. can't be too mad at that, it is understandable logic. i guess the problem with that type of thinking is that it is difficult to reckon exactly when one has helped oneself enough. there is always more one can reach for for oneself. like big, said, mo' money, mo' problems. success takes a lot hard of hard work to achieve, and a lot of maintenance once you achieve it.

i guess the best thing to do is avoid that thinking entirely. and i would guess you've gotta start early. so when i came across this article about p.s. 27, an elementary school in red hook, i was moved and impressed. all of the academic education in the world won't teach you how to live, and how to feel good about yourself, and how to reach back and help others...

"But at a public school in Red Hook, Brooklyn, "caring is part of the curriculum," says principal Sara Belcher-Barnes. So when fifth-graders raised $300 through bake sales, they donated it to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. When third-graders collected art supplies, they shipped them to a village in Ghana. And when second-graders grew lettuce and radishes, they made a salad for a Red Hook senior center.

"I was happy, because I gave something to the senior citizens," Kymani Jackson, 8, proudly explained. "They said it was really good."

the article later states:

"While improving academics and graduation rates are the top priorities, "we also want our students, when they leave us, to become very productive adults. And community service does that," said Marge Feinberg, spokeswoman for the city Department of Education.

"Red Hook is a gritty, working-class and somewhat isolated section of Brooklyn. Nearly all the students are black or Hispanic, and fewer than 40 percent meet state standards in reading and math."

well, thank you for teaching the kids that you don't have to wait til you get to the end of the elevator ride to get to doing. thank you for caring. and this might seem somewhat incongruous, but i think it isn't really, cuz i just recently read he's just not that into you, and the author stated that he believed in the verb love. love is not just a shadowy feeling or concept, it exists in an action state. and warren buffett getting old and giving vast billions to a supercharity is all good, but really, why sit around and wait for folks like him when your mind works and your eyes see and your ears hear and, wonder of wonder, you have reason and opposable thumbs of your own?

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

i hate all libraries

don't you? due dates, the overpowering smell of books, fines, those library demon-people who give you the evil eye if you breathe too loud, recalls, lost books, books shelved in the wrong place...

with that said, i've decided i could benefit from organizing & building my personal library. and i found this website,, where i am currently working on cataloging books that i have read and books that i own. and it's pretty fun. i've got 129 books on the list so far, i own most of them, and they are all books that i have chosen to read. (the majority are my leisure reads; the ones that were school related - well, i chose to read them, cuz there were certainly a lot of school related books that i chose not to read. [ahem, st. augustine, adam smith, fyodor dostoevsky...yeah, yeah, i should have, i know...])

and it's got pictures of the covers! check it out my lil library here:

and here is my author cloud as of today - the bigger the author's name, the more books by him or her that i've read
Chinua Achebe Edward Albee Louisa May Alcott Monica Ali Isabel Allende Julia Alvarez Maya Angelou Anonymous Jane Austen James Baldwin W. E. B. Du Bois Gwendolyn Brooks Claude Brown Dan Brown Octavia E. Butler Fox Butterfield Albert Camus Mayotte Capecia Truman Capote Alejo Carpentier Forrest Carter Aime Cesaire Veronica Chambers Patrick Chamoiseau Charles W. Chesnutt Tracy Chevalier Sandra Cisneros Maryse Conde Edwidge Danticat Junot Diaz Frederick Douglass Rita Dove Dave Eggers Duke Ellington Ralph Ellison Laura Esquivel Jeffrey Eugenides William Faulkner Zlata Filipovic F. Scott Fitzgerald Jonathan Safran Foer Anne Frank Cristina Garcia Henry Louis Gates Giovanni Nikki Giovanni Arthur Golden Ernesto Che Guevara Nicolas Guillen David Guterson Alex Haley Lorraine Hansberry Robert W. Harms Joseph Heller Ernest Hemingway Zora Neale Hurston Aldous Huxley Kazuo Ishiguro George Jackson C.L.R. James James Weldon Johnson Edward P. Jones Leroi Jones James Joyce Randall Kenan Jack Kerouac Ken Kesey Sue Monk Kidd Jamaica Kincaid Barbara Kingsolver Bakari Kitwana Gerda Weissmann Klein E.L. Konigsburg Milan Kundera Jhumpa Lahiri Nella Larsen Harper Lee Federico Garcia Lorca Audre Lorde Adam Mansbach Rita Marley Gabriel Garcia Marquez Paule Marshall Tony Martin Mark Mathabane Cormac McCarthy Frank McCourt Rigoberta Menchu James A. Michener Margaret Mitchell Anne Moody Toni Morrison Vladimir Nabokov Pablo Neruda Niane Anais Nin Tim O'Brien Scott O'Dell Christopher Okigbo George Orwell Helen Oyeyemi ZZ Packer Suzan-Lori Parks Katherine Paterson Alan Paton Okot p'Bitek Alexandre Dumas pere Miguel Pinero Sylvia Plath Scott Poulson-Bryant Patricia Powell Mary Prince Mario Puzo Alice Randall Jean Rhys Philip Roth Sonia Sanchez Sapphire Assata Shakur Tupac Shakur Ntozake Shange Curtis Sittenfeld Zadie Smith Suzanne Fisher Staples John Steinbeck Harriet Beecher Stowe William Styron Jonathan Swift Lalita Tademy Amy Tan Piri Thomas Wallace Thurman Monique Truong Sojourner Truth Mark Twain Alice Walker Rebecca Walker Robert Penn Warren Timothy White Tennessee Williams William Carlos Williams George C. Wolfe Virginia Woolf Richard Wright Shay Youngblood

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cuz beauty often...

falls short of satisfying.
the beholder.
and the possessor.
cuz its rarely absolute.

last night, for some reason, i was thinking about Art. yes, that big, gigantic concept, which is hard to define. funny how the tools that make art, and even artful things (books, poems, paintings, photographs, sculptures) can be easily defined, but art cannot be.

often people start talking about beauty when asked to define art. this frustrates me to no end. i'd like art to be just as often about ugliness or antibeauty as often as it is about beauty. why shouldn't it be? i really hated reading the ancient greeks while i was in school, but i do believe that their concept of catharsis comes as close to describing art as possible. that the purpose of art is to evoke some sort of visceral emotional response that helps the beholder (and the artist, for that matter) come closer to appreciating life. and life and emotions are often ugly and antibeautiful, so why shouldn't art be those things as well.

so then, i stumbled across this new york times article about a visual artist, ted meyer, who has recently launched a showing of portraits of scars. the article states about the exhibit:

" would probably be surprised to see the walls adorned with vaguely Conceptual-looking monochromatic prints featuring jagged ridges and blotches resembling some kind of late-Jackson Pollock experiment on loan from the Guggenheim.

"Yet their titles sound a lot less like museum labels than the check-in charts at a hospital trauma center: “Splenectomy”; “Lung Removal After Suicide Attempt”; “Broken Eye Socket Repair Using Bone From the Skull After Car Accident”; “Arm Reconstruction After Motorcycle Accident.”

"These seemingly abstract textures and surfaces are actually images of scars, many of them terrifyingly impressive and some acquired by their wearers with great suffering."

scars: what an unusual subject for a showing, but how intriguing. how antibeautiful, since scars are generally thought of those things that deform beauty. meyer applied ink the scars of willing subjects and pressed them onto paper.

the exhibition is showing at (where else?) the national museum of health and medicine. more about it here.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

the netflix rundown

haven't done one of these in a while, so i thought i'd write about the recent netflix activity. netflix is truly a miracle in my life. honestly. without netflix, the only moving images i'd ever see would be good morning america, law & order, america's next top model, project runway, and grey's anatomy. i'm about to divorce myself from desperate housewives, but that's neither here nor there, cuz i have netflix to diversify my viewing experiences.

ok, so i just sent back guess who. first, i will remark that i really like that the title does not include a question mark. second, i will say that i remember this movie being dismissed by critics as neither good nor bad. but i really liked it. the storyline was more than plausible. the actors were convincing, at least to me. ashton kutcher and zoe saldana made a nice on-screen couple. funny, but not too slapstick. not too over the top with the moralizing, but it clearly had a point. it may not make any best ever lists, but i'd recommend it to just about anyone.

i have in my possession favela rising. i have been dying to see this film, a documentary about a drug dealer turned community activist in rio de janeiro. since my very young days, i've had a deep and abiding fascination with brazil, this big country that is obviously quite flawed and yet still ridiculously beautiful. this film documents the rise of the afro reggae movement in rio, and to me, one of the most interesting aspects of the african diaspora is the way in which its cultural features are so easily adopted across the diaspora, despite language and economic barriers. will let you know what i think of it.

i still have crooklyn, and i've had it for a while now. don't plan on sending it back for a least a while longer. classic, classic film - i remember really identifying with troy, the little girl in the film. obviously, this was before i was aware of such a possibility as identifying with a fictional character. certainly, at the age when i first saw the movie, i couldn't know that in a few years i would be moving to the south, and that i would have the same type of cultural confusion as troy did when she visited the south in the movie. pure love for spike lee for this gem.

and a little look at the queue: i should be receiving paradise now sometime this week. paradise now was nominated for the best foreign language film oscar this year, and apparently it won the golden globe. it's about two palestinian young men who are preparing themselves for a suicide mission.

and i've moved city of men up to the top of my queue, now that it's been released on dvd and because of the deep and abiding fascination i have with brazil that i mentioned earlier. a mini series directed by fernando meirelles, the same gentleman who brought the world city of god and the constant gardener, both of which are top notch films that get better with each viewing. and after that, i have sylvia, because i find sylvia plath to be fascinating and brilliant.

ok. so if a theme is to be found in all of this, it would appear that i pick my movies because their topics are either (a) fascinating or (b) brilliant. to me. or maybe, i should work on finding some other adjectives to use...


Monday, October 02, 2006

this & that

couple of interesting stories i read today:

*an english woman filmmaker, penny woolcock, has interpreted the biblical account of exodus for a modern context, scripting it as a political struggle over immigration, and staged it as a massive public art performance involving an entire english town. sculpture, music, and theater - very interesting. i think it is quite intriguing. and while many people find the bible to old to be relevant, this project just goes to show that, in the end, human nature and the themes of our existence remain the same. there is nothing new under the sun...which is also a biblical perhaps we should be learning something from the story.

*sunday, october 1 marked the 44th anniversary of the integration of university of mississippi, good old ole miss. james meredith, the first black student to enter the university, and morgan freeman were on hand for the commemoration.

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