Tuesday, October 31, 2006

good-for-nothing tenderness

I'm not even going to get anywhere near my actual life right now. All I have to offer is a picture from my Civic Halloween concert, where the viola section dressed up as the cast of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory". Sorry it's so tiny, I'm inept with electronic pictures.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

hard in the best kind of way

I just saw Inga Muscio read at Women and Children First (a wonderful feminist bookstore down the street) from "Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil." Here's what I had to say about it from last March:
"I also have been reading Inga Muscio's new book, "Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil," an examination of racism and how people constantly partake in and perpetuate it. It was a good read, but one that was somewhat emotionally devastating at the same time. I spent all day on Thursday basically sitting on my couch immersed in the horror of police brutality and public complacence after an intense reading session. Combined with the fact that I just finished Malcolm X before this, I'm at least feeling better informed if not as proactive in antiracism as I should be."
I had been consdidering re-reading this book, partially because I knew she was coming to read here and partially because some things I have to read many times before they compute and I can remember them. As I'm sitting here thinking about this, I realize that fiction is very easy for me to remember but horrifying truth is very difficult. Why would that be? Why can I remember the names and emotions of fictional characters many years after I read them, but this book that I read in March that dealt with atrocity and blindness and self-confrontation is almost a complete blank? All I remember is the experience of the utter annihilation I felt under the weight of so much new and almost unbearable information. Maybe I'm blocking it out as a painful experience?
None of this is to say you shouldn't read the book. Even if you don't agree with what she says or already know more about what she's talking about than I did (do), give it a shot. I will, when i feel ready again.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

on a lighter note

You can read Anna's reviews of all the films she saw at the festival, including "Shortbus", here.


I just read about a Texas inmate who committed suicide the day of his legal execution. The spokesperson for the criminal justice system said this: "He had made no indications that he was contemplating suicide, nor has a note or other explanation been found." I mean, really. He was about to be executed for something he said he didn't even do. Isn't that enough of an explanation?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

reality cinema

Anna and I went to see "Shortbus", John Cameron Mitchell's followup to "Hedwig and the Angry Inch", at the Chicago International Film Festival last night. It's a look at the (sometimes tenuously) connected lives of a handful of confused New Yorkers who mostly interact at a club called Shortbus, a performance space/club/constant sex party hosted by the lovely Justin Bond of New York's Kiki and Herb. If you've heard about it, you've probably mostly heard about the fact that all the sex (and there's a lot of it) is real. It's interesting, because Mitchell effectively blurs the line between (as one of the actresses put it) porn and non-porn but also because it seemed to me that by showing all that sex it just became another part of people's lives. It makes me reconsider what porn might be defined as, whether it is characterized by its explicitness or by the erotic effect on the viewer. Two of the main actresses, Sook-Yin Lee and Lindsay Beamish, were at the screening and answered questions afterwards, and Lee pointed out that although there is a lot of graphic sex she didn't think that most of it was particularly sexy, and when I think back about it I feel like she has a point. Not that there weren't extremely erotically charged moments (and really, if you can watch a sex party and not feel something than you might be a bit jaded), but when I'm remembering what really struck me it wasn't so much the acts as the moments of tenderness between people. Sometimes those occur at the same time, but not always.
The other interesting thing to me was the presence of the penis. The first shot of an actual person contains a penis, which is a pretty good indication of how things are going to go in terms of nudity. It reminded me of how infrequently you see that in film. I read something last year about how, in terms of rating stuff and things like that, showing a woman's breasts is barely considered nudity at all anymore, but show a penis and you know all hell's going to break loose. (I could go on about how this is because the people rating and judging things are mostly men and male nudity opens up the male body to way too much discussion, not to mention the same kind of criticism and value systems that are routinely attributed to women's bodies, but I won't.) In "Shortbus" there were some breasts and some cunts, but most of what we were seeing was full frontal male nudity. Because it is something that I'm not used to (unlike naked women, which sometimes seem to be plastered everywhere in media and advertising) it was a little shocking to me. Behind my theory, it still is so startling to me to see male bodies so exposed to the viewer but it's also kind of exciting, to see men in the way that normally I would only see women. I felt positively voyeuristic at times.
When I looked this movie up on IMDB, one of the comments by a viewer was "Should we also use real bullets onscreen?" All I could think was wow, that person really missed the boat.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


I saw Ani last night for the third time, which was awesome. I think every other time I've seen her perform, she's either been a)angry at the audience for being to noisy or b)kind of tense and unhappy seeming. But last night she seemed up and really into it, talking at length about politics (she compared the US foreign policy to pretending there's not an elephant in the room, if that makes any sense)and pilates ("medieval torture devices"). And although there was a lot of audience noise at times, she took it well and even played some of the requests that people were yelling out. At one point a girl yelled "Ani, I want to be your baby's daddy!" and Ani responded that if said person could make her a pair of pants that she could stand to wear (she was visibly pregnant) she would call them daddy herself. The playing was also great, of course, and even though I am not all that fond of the new album Anna rightly said that she liked the new songs a lot better live than she did on the recording. Her playing was very energetic and energizing, and although I haven't been spending that much time listening to her lately I was very much reminded of how much her music has meant to me over the past few years.
Anyway, here's the set list.

78% H2O
Done Wrong
In the Way
Independance Day
Reprieve (poem)
Alla This (unrecorded)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

those canadians...

My funny email title of the day: ratio undressed.
It's all drippy and cold out, and the heat hasn't yet been turned on. Brrrr.
I must say I've really been enjoying my Margaret Atwood lately. I remember reading "The Handmaid's Tale" in about 10th grade and being blown away (also very embarrassed, as I had to give a class presentation and at that point it was hard for me to even say the word "sex" in front of people, much less talk about it), but after that we had kind of an uneasy relationship. In the novel (Cat's Eye) and the short stories (Bluebeard's Egg) I read always felt like she was saying something really important, but I wasn't getting it. It made me feel kind of left out, if that makes any sense. But earlier this summer I reread "The Blind Assassin", a great interwoven novel that blends an old woman's present and past together with a science fiction love story written by her younger sister and published postumously after said sister's early suicide. There is such a tender treatment of aging (the first time I read this book was perhaps the first time I actively understood a little bit about what growing old might be like; it scared the shit out of me), and the science fiction story, which initially seemed like an utterly bizarre thing to include, actually ends up being very illuminating and touching.
Then, over the last few days, I read "Alias Grace", a novel about a real happening and its aftermath. Grace Marks was convicted at the age of sixteen of participating in the murders of her master and his housekeeper and spent about thirty years in prison. Atwood takes the extremely uncertain facts of the case and adds in fictitious details to create a complex narrative, presenting Grace as an enigmatic figure who is not even certain herself of her guilt or innocence. There are other details--a young doctor, his unorthodox landlady, the uncertain historical narritatives that Atwood quotes--that make the story much more interesting than it otherwise would have been and left me feeling unsettled and questioning when I finished.
Next up: Murakami. I've only read one of his books ("The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles"), which was utterly entrancing and wonderful until the ending, which was such a letdown for me. But I think I'm going to borrow "A Wild Sheep Chase" (mostly because I like the name) from Anna's roommate and see if it's more entirely satisfying.

Monday, October 09, 2006

my window

This was the sunset from my window the other day. Nothing on Arizona, but not too bad.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


I found these never really tell me that much about myself, but they do make my less-than-stellar qualities stand out quite visibly.

My Personality
Openness To Experience
Test Yourself Compare Yourself View Full Report
Find your soulmate / pysch twin

MySpace Layouts, Mortgage Refinance Information and MySpace Layouts by Pulseware Survey Software

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

email, interrupted

I recently noted on a friend's blog that I have a tendancy to write about nothing much. So today I'll focus mostly on a book I read recently, with an intro consisting of something funny in my bulk mail folder.
I have to say that I love looking at my spam, because it's so funny and obvious. You know, mostly I go like this: "Hmmm, I have an email from Rebecca Turgid titled "You want to please your woman all night long", I think I should open that one!" But lately mine have been coming with really weird titles. Here's a compendium of titles from my bulk mail folder today:
"disfavor shrapnel"
"mother collie"
and my favorite, "backwoods clergywoman"
I recently read the memoir "Girl, Interrupted" by Susanna Kaysen. I'm assuming most of you remember the movie with Winona Ryder, and maybe even that it was based on the true story of Kaysen's almost two years in a mental hospital during the 60's, but I saw this in the library and decided to pick it up on a whim. Wow. Kaysen not only chronicals her life inside the asylum (which from what I remember of the movie basically functioned as the plot) but gets to work analyzing our medical and cultural definitions of mental health (and lack thereof), our ways of dealing with deviance, and what it is like for her even now to question what happened to her and what it means. For all that her stories of life inside are frequently funny, entrancing, and fascinating, I feel like the true strength of the book lies in this analysis. Kaysen scrutinizes her medical records, places the definition of her "problem" (borderline personality) within the context of her life and finds it lacking as a critical look at herself.
"My chronic feelings of emphasis and boredom came from the fact that I was living a life based on my incapacities, which were numerous...
"My self-image was not unstable. I saw myself, quite correctly, as unfit for the educational and social systems.
"But my parents and teachers did not share my self-image. Their image of me was unstable, since it was out of kilter with reality and based on their needs and wishes. They did not put much value on my capacities, which were admittedly few, but genuine."
I got the distinct feeling that Kaysen still ponders this diagnosis and its truths and lies on a regular basis.
The book also contains some very interesting meditations on mind vs. brain in the control of behavior and the ways in which illness is consequently treated (think psychoanalysis vs. hormone therapy), and her personal observations of how she and those around her functioned in contrast to what they "should" act like. Mostly, I took away that craziness is a relative state. Maybe sometimes it's only in the eye of the beholder, a side effect of the lack of tolerance for deviant behavior or even just a desire to protect people from the pull of things outside the norm. (At one point Kaysen speculates that the doctor who sent her to the asylum--after seeing her for twenty minutes--justified his action as saving a young girl from the countercultural influences of the late 60's.)
I'll leave you with Kaysen's summation of her inital statement about mental illness as an alternate world, a place enough outside that you can look in and be frightened or fascinated by the contrast between where you are and where you were.
"Every window on Alcatraz has a view of San Francisco."