Monday, June 27, 2011

Pride NYC 2011

Yesterday was the first time I went to the Pride parade in about a decade. It was so much fun! My friends and I had a great spot on 19th and 5th, right behind the barricade. It was awesome. Although on an intellectual level I'm critical of the institution of marriage, it was thrilling celebrating Pride a day (or two?) after New York passed gay marriage. Very exciting.

The weather was perfect, warm and mild. Not too hot, not too sunny, not too humid, and the spirit in the crowds was great.

Topped the afternoon off with many margaritas at Rosa Mexicano...

Least Weasel Chapbook Launch

On Saturday night I went to a wonderful reading reception for the launch of 6 new chapbooks by Least Weasel.

The readers were:

Brenda Iijima, who read from Glossematics; Joanna Fuhrman, who read from The Emotive Function; Christopher Funkhouser, who sang his poems from Electro perdix; erica kaufman, who read from the amazing Instant Classic; and Christina Strong, who read from Fifth Plateau. The sixth reader, Jane Rice, couldn't be there, so the publisher read from her book of poems, The Truth About the World.

It was a great evening of interesting, well-crafted poetry. I enjoyed Fuhrman, Iijima, and kaufman's work the most.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Muriel's Wedding

I am pretty sure that I had liked Muriel's Wedding when it first came out in the early 90s, so I was surprised by how intensely it grated on me and turned me off when I watched it again last night on Watch Instantly.

About 25 minutes in I turned it off. The screeching mean girls did not seem funny to me. Muriel's awkwardness and neediness just seemed sad, and I found there to be something unlikable about her.

However, friends on facebook encouraged me to keep watching. And I was rewarded with a few wonderfully awkward and interesting moments. Particularly worthwhile was Rachel Griffiths as Muriel's true friend. Still, overall Muriel's Wedding was shrill and pathetic, with a lot of unredeemed meanness. Muriel's family was so sad that I could find no humor in it. And the woman who played her mother was so good at portraying the beaten down hopeless and neglected wife that it was her sadness and tragedy that stood out most for me.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Look! Look! Feathers

Mike Young is an amazing prose writer!

I just finished a sharp, dynamic, poignant, and expertly written collection of his short stories, Look! Look! Feathers.

These stories take place in pockets of suburban subcultures. Often written from the collective first person (is that the phrase? what I mean is the narrator speaks from the perspective of "we"), there is a strong sense of community within these small towns and cliques, a sense of belonging even while there is simultaneously a strong undercurrent of alienation, isolation, and twenty-first century futility.

What stands out most about these stories is the powerful crackling prose. The writing is fast and just bursts. I want to quote at great length, to give a sense of the spit-fire energy. The characters all have a dynamism because they are wrapped in this wonderful friction of language.

I enjoyed all the stories immensely. My favorite, however, was "Susan White and the Summer of the Game Show", about what happens to a small town when an invasive reality show descends on them. Also, "Stay Awhile If You Can". Oh, it's hard to choose -- I loved them all.

Hal Willner's Freedom Rides Project at Celebrate Brooklyn

Last night I went to an interesting concert in Prospect Park, one I had been looking forward to for a while. Hal Willner's Freedom Rides Project brought together some musicians I was very excited to see: Toshi Reagon, Lou Reed, Roseanne Cash... The event was to commemorate and celebrate the Freedom Riders 50 year anniversary.

I'm afraid I was a bit disappointed in the event. It seemed not to have cohesion, and, more importantly, it seemed to lack in spirit.

The audience was all white, which I was not expecting. The large band that backed the performers seemed at times to be competing with them, and the contemporary arrangements at times seemed a bit discordant, cacophonous, and uncomfortable. For instance, a marvelous and powerful singer, Catherine Russell, had to belt out her song on top of them, and it took away from my ability to hear and appreciate her amazing voice.

Things seemed to pick up more when Tao Seeger came on; I think he was the first performer to directly address the Freedom Riders and the civil rights movement. He was a great, energetic, charismatic perform aer, and he got the audience singing with him. However, it felt a bit awkward or off, being in an all white audience singing about the freedom of riding on the front of the bus.

Toshi Reagon was awesome. She came on next and also talked about rights movements, comparing the civil rights movement to the need for women's rights right now. Her two numbers were wonderful.

I really wanted to hear more of Roseanne Cash, Tao Seeger, Catherine Russell, and Toshi Reagon. They all stood out for me (much more so than then straining Eric Mingus) (even more so than Lou Reed -- it was cool to see him live, but he seemed a bit to be phoning it in).

All in all, a good but uneven show.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Memorial reading for Akilah Oliver

Last night I went to a memorial reading for the dear, wonderful, deeply questioning, and relentlessly beautiful poet Akilah Oliver. It was held at The Poetry Project, and sponsored by belladonna.

A number of poets read their own work in tribute to her or inspired by her, which was very touching. Most read from Akilah's own impressive, incredible body of work -- her explorations of desire, of subjectivity, race, culture... and most piercingly, of loss and grief. Her poems all contain a lucid, brave, and vulnerably honest voice that haunts me and makes me so sad for her passing.

One former member of Akilah's group, The Sacred Naked Nature Girls, performed, nude, riding a bicycle. It was heart wrenching, in part because Laura Meyers was such a talented performer, but also because it invoked a younger Akilah, the Akilah right before I met her in 1996. I remember her talking about The Sacred Naked Nature Girls, and wishing I had had an opportunity to see them. I felt Akilah's presence so sharply and sweetly during this performance.

At the end of the reading there was a screening of her reading her own work. It was so intense -- after two hours of people reading her work, invoking her through her language, to see her physically, in high resolution, and to hear her warm, firm, and living voice. The last line was, I believe, "someone is calling my name" -- and, of course, we all were, and are, and will for a long, long time.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Bright Stream

I saw a marvelously joyous ballet last night: American Ballet Theater's production of The Bright Stream at the Met.

This ballet was originally produced in Russia in 1935, and was re-choreographed by Ratmanksy in 2003. It is a comedic ballet that takes place on a farm collective, and has a silly and somewhat complicated plot. It involves a dancer dressed as a dog, a man in a Sylphide costume, a woman dressed as a man, and elderly gentleman on a bicycle.

I, however, did not worry myself over the narrative one bit. Instead I enjoyed the rousing music and delightful dancing. The evening was such a pleasure. When it was over I felt like I wanted to see an entire other act.

Our seats were in the highest section, which made it somewhat difficult to really see the dancers, but allowed me to appreciate the choreography and entire staging. Also, the long thinness of the ballerinas arms was particularly apparent and lovely from afar.

The score is by Shostakovich, and the principal dancers were Paloma Herrera, Marcelo Gomes, and Gillian Murphy.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Ballet Nacional de Cuba: La Magia de la Danza

I LOVE ballet! And I'm so glad I got to see Ballet Nacional de Cuba present La Magia de la Danza at BAM tonight!

The performance featured scenes from several classic ballets: Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, Coppelia, Don Quixote, and Swan Lake, as well as another ballet, Gottschalk Symphony. The classic ballets were all re-choreographed by Alicia Alonso, the Director of the company. Unfortunately I am not familiar enough with any of these ballets to appreciate her changes.

It was a remarkably beautiful and joyous evening. The dancers were amazing. Even though our seats were very high up, I felt I could see everything quite well and could take in the full staging.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Low Life 5: Flaming Queens at the Howl! Festival

I enjoyed a wonderful set of performances on the main stage at the Howl! Festival in Tompkins Square Park. Particularly entertaining was Low Life 5: Flaming Queens, a raunchy and dynamic drag cabaret.

The acts included a trio of bishops or cardinals dancing to an image of a crucified Justin Beiber (and going down on him); a terrific Diana Ross impersonator; a sexy male stripper; and a French duo costumed circa 1700s (or whatever, point is: great wigs)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Mary and Max

I just watched an extraordinary claymation film, Mary and Max.

It is about a friendship that develops through correspondence between an unhappy child in Australia and fortysomething Jewish man in New York with Asperger's syndrome.

Visually grim and wonderfully detailed, Mary and Max is an exploration of loneliness. Both characters have an incredible sweetness and honesty to them, and the narrative spans many years, into Mary's adulthood.

I was immediately drawn into the movie, and was fascinated and touched by the characters. Although the plot gets slightly over the top, all in all it is marvelous, dark, and moving.

By the way, Philip Seymour Hoffman voiced Max, and he was terrific. I think he is not only a phenomenal actor, but he is so good at choosing unique projects.