Sunday, January 30, 2011


Last night I watched Whole (2003), a documentary by Melody Gilbert about voluntary amputees.

I had come across this phenomenon in the course of my own research and this documentary came up when I started googling. I was nervous to watch it, as the concept so deeply creeped me out. I felt like I was going to watch a horror show.

However, Whole did such a good job of not sensationalizing its subject, that my fears were put to rest. It follows a few people who have a strong longstanding need to be amputated. They feel that they are not "whole" with the superfluous limb, and the need is felt very acutely and chronically. Two of the people had harmed their legs so severely that they had to be medically amputated. One found the rare surgeon willing to perform the operation. Two contemplated the procedure, one binding his leg and living as an amputee.

What was so odd was that these men were in every other sense "normal" (rather boringly so, in fact) -- it was difficult to reconcile this with their bizarre and peculiar and extreme need.

I thought Whole was very well done. In only 55 minutes it included discussions with psychiatrists and family members, in addition to the amputees and "wannabes."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Simon Boccanegra (again)

The second night in a row at the Met; the second night in a row of Verdi -- last night I saw Simon Boccanegra! These were orchestra tickets which I won for $25 in their weekly drawing.

Meridita and I saw Simon Boccanegra last year with Placido, and loved it. This evening featured Dmitri Hvorostovksy in the title role and he was amazing.

However, I had two glasses of sparkling rose before the performance, and it was a Friday night, which is tough for me because I am so wiped out at the end of the week. All this to say I was horribly tired, and actually slept through the powerful 4th act.

In spite of that, I deeply appreciated the awesome singing, and this remains a favorite opera of mine.

The conductor was the great James Levine. Richard Berstein sang Pietro; Ferruccia Furlanetto sang Fiesco; Ramon Vargas was amazing as Adorno; and Barbara Frittoli sang Amelia/Maria.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Rigoletto at the Met!

What an incredible evening! Last night Meridita and I saw Rigoletto at the Met!

It was a powerful, rich, full-bodied, lusty, muscular opera.

I loved it.

The performances included a wildly charismatic Piotr Beczala who was replacing Joseph Calleja as the Duke of Mantua. He lit up the stage with his charming and arrogant persona and had an incredibly beautiful voice.

I was also utterly captivated by Nino Machaidze's singing of the role of Gilda, Rigoletto's daughter. Her voice was incredible and the duets she sang with Giovanni Meoni (Rigoletto) were stunning. She was also adorable and charming during her curtain calls.

The evening was conducted by Paolo Arrivabeni; and Stefan Kocan sang Sparafucile.


I was disappointed by Sofia Coppola's Somewhere, but that didn't keep me from being captivated by it.

Somewhere is about a famous young actor experiencing alienation and ennui in the privileged Hollywood milieu. It's a mood piece, an extended portrayal of baffled isolation. What makes it so strong is the actor's polite passivity and slightly stunned confusion -- not confusion exactly but lack of emotional or intellectual or social clarity.

The mood is lifted, temporarily, by an extended visit with his daughter, played beautifully by Elle Fanning. Her subtle performance is riveting, and I watched her fascinated, wanting to no more about her. Somewhere is an exercise in understatement. Nothing much happens between the father and daughter, but their simple hanging out, their easy enjoyment of each others company is the light in the fathers privileged and spoiled fog. The ending bothered me a lot; it was contrived and cliched -- the father walking off into the distance after experiencing some sort of inner epiphany.

I guess I wanted a little more from Somewhere. It is similar in some way to Lost in Translation, which killed me, but lacks some sort of spark or crackle or tension. It felt like a very well executed short story, and perhaps I wanted more of a novel.

One incredible scene: the father (played by Stephen Dorff), is being fitted for a mold for special effects in some movie. He has to sit there with his face covered in plaster. Nothing but two globby holes for his nostrils. At one point the makeup people leave the room and he is sitting there for an interminable length of time. Breathing. Coppola took her time with this shot, luxuriating in it, and it was one of the most tense, painful, brilliantly claustrophobic moments I've ever experienced.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Single Man

A Single Man, starring Colin Firth, is a beautiful, sophisticated mood piece. An exploration of grief and loss and love.

It centers on a gay man in the 60s whose lover has died in a car crash. In addition to the deep painful grief he experiences is the isolation of being gay, of having lost a love that had to be hidden and unrecognized.

It is filmed in an intoxicating atmospheric way that is sometime too much, but it succeeds in bringing out emotional nuances.

I found the resolution kind of a cliche however, and, as much as I liked A Single Man, I couldn't really get absorbed in it. I actually watched it in spurts, a few minutes here one day, a few the next.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Homo Health & Fitness

Just read a fabulous little zine, Homo Health & Fitness (Your Guide to a New, Queer You!) -- a humorous take on 50s and 60s era health advice. Very cool.

"The task we have set for ourselves is to reveal the intimate, oft unsuspected relation that exists and the realization of queer ideals."

The Bulldyke Chronicles at Dixon Place

I had a great time last night at Dixon Place. I saw The Bulldyke Chronicles, a cabaret evening hosted by Shelly Mars.

It was so fun. The four or five performers were each very charming in their own ways. One comedian talking about coming out, another talking about interracial relationships, a very engaging, funny piano player/singer. And Ms. Mars was terrific! She adopted a bunch of different personas and delivered hilarious monologues. A wonderful show (even though it started at least an hour late).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Annie Attridge at Asya Geisberg Gallery

Last night I had a real treat: I went to an artist talk at Asya Geisberg Gallery. Annie Attridge's porcelain figures filled the gallery and on the wall were her large scale drawings.

The porcelain sculptures really captured my imagination. Depicting flowing female bodies that are literally oozing flesh, they are unconstrained images of female sexuality. This raw excess stands in stark contrast to typical porcelain figurines that depict shepherdesses and marquises. There is also a playfulness to these works, but there are dark undercurrents of conflicts and stormy feelings. They manage to be both charming and disturbing at the same time.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Inferno (a poet's novel)

I finished Eileen Myles' Inferno (a poet's novel) this morning. Sometimes enjoyment of reading is almost frustrating -- this energy energy energy.

That's how I felt reading this, enjoying it so much that I was racing to finish it, and the same time panicked that it would end.

This is a gorgeously singular memoir/novel written in shiningly confident smart prose. Crackling with lovely shots of insight, surfacing beauty. All written with this charmingly disarming muscularity.

That's what happens when a great woman writes.

It's about New York, it's about writers and writing, it's about dykes, it's about history. And I loved it because I'm a fan of Eileen Myles, and it incorporates all that is great in that project. But I also loved it because of the setting and characters, all of which and of whom I have a proximity. This made it more mine.

Some favorite moments, of which there were many:

"I was a 43-year old calendar of shifting desire that summer. Do other women notate their cycle, imagining themselves not an open plain exactly but a pond, not enclosed so much as focused in a way so that the shifting density of my itch, my urge, like a radio station of sex or fertility was now on this setting or that. In some quiet completely absorbing way I read me every day, especially when I was reading. I read my tone which altered along the slope of the month and it would inform me when the reading must end I couldn't bear my body anymore in its fake agreement with my mind, the body then vaulting over the mind's walls."

"We were carrying that message, day and night for about ten years. That's about as long as you get. The houses are open and all you need is about three of you to go everywhere and make these gauzy invisible strings between people. It just makes sense that so many of us had time during the day and would stand in one another's kitchen. Smoking and talking and watching our faces change in the light."

When I finished Inferno I had to go get my eyebrows waxed. I lay on the table buzzing with this story, the words, the poem of it all. A strange woman gently touched me, and then inflicted pain, making me more beautiful.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Erica Kaufman & Eileen Myles at Red Horse Cafe

What a terrific poetry reading!

I heard Erica Kaufman and Eileen Myles
read tonight at the Red Horse Cafe here in Park Slope (I've been in the neighborhood for over a decade and had no clue this place existed...).

Erica read a beautiful and complex long poem "Instant Classic" that just shimmered with evocative, powerful, surprising lines (For instance, "The grand science of dildonics " and "I admit not to be afraid of my semi-object state. My first swimming lessons were from an amputee."

Eileen read some marvelous, poignant-funny poems, and then a chapter from her novel, Inferno. The chapter she read was about getting to know Alice Notley and Ted Berrigan
in the 70s. Her voice is at once fresh, familiar and startling.

I enjoyed it so much I bought a copy. And in spite of the fact that I didn't intend to start reading it till after my biography of Hans Christian Andersen (which hasn't even arrived yet), I tore into it when I got home (after tearing into a Vietnamese sandwich) and I'm hooked.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Date Night

Last night I watched Date Night on DVD.

I don't usually like these silly comedies very much, but this one was pretty harmless and generally entertaining.

It's about a middle aged couple who have a good relationship and are yet in a rut. To make their weekly date night special, they go to dinner in the city. They take someone else's reservation and end up embroiled in a dangerous blackmail conspiracy. Two guy are trying to kill them in order to get a flash drive with information vital to the mob... It's all very ridiculous and over the top. But the dialogue was just fresh enough, and the performances just pleasant enough, that overall I didn't mind watching it.

James Franco had a small but very charming role.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Kids are All Right

I didn't expect to like The Kids are All Right, and guess what? I did not like it.

For one thing the situation comedy type premise turned me off; it just felt contrived (the story is about a lesbian couple with two teenagers who find their sperm donor). I didn't find anything particularly funny and never laughed. And I think it was supposed to be a warm hearted quirky comedy. But every attempt at a joke fell flat for me.

It seemed like it was trying too hard to show that the lesbian couple is just like any other "normal" (ie straight) married couple. The affair (this doesn't count as a spoiler because everyone already knows what happens in this movie) seemed forced as well. I didn't feel any chemistry between the two and felt kind of annoyed that I had to be dragged through this obligatory plot device.

I didn't really like any of the characters, although none were especially unlikable either. It's more that they just didn't seem to have much substance. Everyone has said how good the acting was, but I wasn't that impressed. I thought the cast did a competent but uninteresting job.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

37th Annual New Year's Day Marathon Reading at the The Poetry Project

Yesterday was the Marathon reading at the Poetry Project.

An excellent line-up as always. Loved John S. Hall's poem about facebook, and Erica Kaufman, Todd Colby and CA Conrad read work that really stood out for me as well.

I volunteered this year, worked the reader check-in table from 2-4. Then -- and this is huge -- I read between 4-5. I've never gotten up in front of such a large crowd. I had to take half a Xanax to calm my nerves, but I think I did a good job. (I read my poem, "like blanks in a spiritual system"). The Xanax tired me out, so by 9:30, after Patti Smith read a beautiful poem, I was about to crash and had to leave...

(I always buy poetry books at the Project on new year's. Yesterday I picked up Patti Smith's Auguries of Innocence and kari edwards' Bharat jiva.)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Patti Smith at the Bowery Ballroom

Patti Smith rocked so fucking awesomely and exquisitely hard last night at the Bowery Ballroom!

I am fairly sure it was the best concert I've ever been to.

First, it took a while to adjust to how great her voice sounded. It was so rich and powerful that I was kind of overwhelmed at first. Surprised, because I've been listening to her records for nearly 30 years.

She was just so gorgeous and sweet and cool and terrific and put on a truly exciting show. She came on around10:30 and rocked till 1 with one short pee break. We brought 2011 in in the middle of "People Have the Power" which was such a moving, inspiring way to begin the new year.

She went through many of the stand outs in her repertoire: "Because the Night", etc. Her rendition of "Horses/Gloria" was one of the most stunning and powerful things I've ever seen.

Covers: "Strawberry Fields" and "Cheer Up Sleepy Jean" (if that's the name of the Monkey's song). This were sweet and fun and brought the audience together.

At the end Patti performed a song she is working on that is about her and Mapplethorpe, and the refrain was "Just Kids"-- it was great.

A few side notes: during the extended "Horses/Gloria" two young girls in the balcony were putting on a side show for us: they were making out and grinding like no tomorrow. It was distracting, but entertaining and kind of cool given the intense rocking out going on on stage.

Then, I witnessed a cat fight. I woman pushed in front of another woman, and when confronted, threw a drink in her face!

Anyway, Patti Smith, I love you so. An incredible concert. I want to make this my new year's tradition.