Archive for September, 2008

Booklust

Posted in Uncategorized on September 29, 2008 by thebibliophile

Here are some of the books I’m excited to read in the coming months

A Mercy, by Toni Morrison will be released November 11th

A Mercy

You can listen to Morrison read from her new book here:

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The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed, which will be released today:

An American Family

Black on the Block by Mary Patillo:

The Politics of Race and Class in the City

Where is Robin Givhan? I need her to speak on this…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 25, 2008 by thebibliophile

Sculpture of Michelle Obama  

Created by Sculptors David Edwards (top) Michelle Obama and David Cuero (below) Barack Obama as savior.

How do you get the above from this?: 

 Daniel Edwards is a controversial sculptor. He has also done sculptures of Paris Hilton (dead on on the autopsy table with her dog perched on her breast), Prince Harry laying in State, and Britney Spears, nude on all fours, giving birth on a bear-skin rug. So, perhaps Michelle Obama was spared….

Here is the sarcophagus sculpture he did of Oprah, which put me in mind of images of Saartje Baartman, othwerwise known as the Venus Hottentot:

I’d like Robin Givhan, one of my favorite writers of culture and fashion, to write on this. Givhan who won a Pulitzer in 2006 for her criticism, I think would deliver a thorough deconstruction of how the image of Black womyn’s bodies has been, and continues to be, (mis)used. In the absence of notes from Robin, I have to create my own critical analysis.

Here are some bullet points:

– Oh thank goodness, Edwards did not go supadupa crazy, and create a completely nude Michelle Obama.

– Thank you Jesus that fool didn’t put her on no bear-skin rug.

– Why did he have to give her a ‘fro and expose her breasts?

– You know how sometimes white people say they’re being liberal and they want to be really frank about race, because that’s the only way we’re going to move forward, and you want to believe them, but you know it’s just the introduction to them getting ready to call you n*gg*r or act out one of their racist fantasies? Witness it…

– A pick in the ‘fro – oh really? And a tattoo? Branded, with the American flag, no less…

– Black womyn fascinate the hell out of our society. Racism is a sexualized oppression – meaning racism is linked to sexual repression and oppression. Racist fantasies are linked to fantasies about sex, and womyn are often trapped in that vortex. Patricia Hill Collins speaks about it:  http://www.iupui.edu/~ncafws/spotlight.htm

More later.

NYC Fashion Week

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 22, 2008 by thebibliophile

Looks I am currently interested in from Fashion Week

Design by Cynthia Steffe:

Marcio Madeira

Dennis Basso:

Marcio Madeira

Marcio Madeira

Halston:

Marcio Madeira

Jeremy Laing:

Marcio Madeira

Marc Jacobs:

Marcio Madeira

Sophie Théallet

Marcio Madeira

Vivienne Tam:

Marcio Madeira

Where Beautiful Babies are Reborn? Oh Really? Fake babies in the UK

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 22, 2008 by thebibliophile

Apparently, in the UK there’s a rising trend for what’s being called “reborn babies.” These extremely life-like dolls, are replicas of babies. Those who build them spend a great deal of time and money creating babies that look real. In some cases, artisans, create reborns that are warm to the touch, have heartbeats, and need diaper changes. The dolls, and let’s be clear, they are dolls, are even weighted to feel like babies. Eyelashes, hair, nostril holes, and half-moon fingernails are all meticulously added to the doll. The end result does indeed look like a real child:

This is a whole new example of baby hunger. You can learn more about reborns, here, http://www.reborn-baby.com/

The twist of course, is that these life-like replicas of babies, aren’t being used as toys for children, or in high school classes to tamp down teen pregnancy, or even as training tools for soon-to-be parents.  The reborn babies are being purchased, largely by womyn in the UK, many of whom identify as doll collectors – many of whom also seem to exhibit an emotional attachment to these extremely realistic dolls.

As you can see from the YouTube clip, it’s sometimes very easy to forget that the reborns are in fact dolls. Notice how the artist (in pink, no less) cradles the doll in the crook of her arm as if it were alive, supporting the head and leaning her weight, as you might see a mother holding her child doing. She goes on to admit that she often takes the baby out into public as if it were a real baby. She notes that she does this for two reasons. First, as a product, taking the reborn out into public, allows her to promote her product. Secondly, as she confides in the video introduction to the piece about reborns, taking the reborn out, draws the attention she used to get when she was a new mother, back to her.

Watch the Reborning Video on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Foexis5nEtA&feature=related

Toward the end of the clip, as the new “mother” receives the replica of her grandson, the grandfather has a disturbed and disgusted reaction. He remarks, that the reborn seems to him funerary – like a death mask. That led me to wonder, if in fact, womyn might be seeking to replace or fill a void left by a formerly living or present child, with a reborn.

There are many examples of reborning on youtube. You can learn how to make your own by watching this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSjhAwQHwWM. It is disturbing to me, to watch the dismembered body parts of a baby come together in a doll. The video combined with the music is unsettling.

So, what does this all mean? Why are grown womyn walking around with life-like doll babies? It at once reinforces the idea that womyn must have children in order to be real, that they are biologically required to having children, and feel inferior or unhappy without the experience of a baby at their breast, while at the same time rendering grown womyn into girls – the terrain of childishness so often foisted upon womyn.

As the psychologist in the clip quips, with his scientific air, its the hormones from holding the child that make us feel good. Okay…I’m not a scientist. I’d suggest that all humans biologically respond to touch hormonally. What “hormonal needs” does society have met by witnessing womyn in full regression, enjoying “play” with dolls. The fantasy of motherhood – but only when the baby is young. As womyn in the clip point out, that’s the best stage, the stage at which you’re closest to your child. Read: most in control, most likely to be at the center of attention, most likely to gain from the social benefits of being a new mother. It is a bit suggestive of Munchausen Syndrome.

To each their own….

Jennifer Lopez & Posh: The New Landscape of American Beauty

Posted in Uncategorized on September 19, 2008 by thebibliophile

Victoria Beckham and Jennifer Lopez // © Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage 

About four months ago, I attended a curated lecture, at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The lecture, conducted by the very talented Anna Daveare Smith, was an intrepretation of a photo of Julie Harris, Carson McCullers, and Ethel Waters.

The snapshot of the three women after the Broadway opening of McCuller’s play, Member of the Wedding,  encapsulates much of the personalities and relationships which existed, not only between the three women, but also the characters they originated (or in McCullers case, imagined) in the Broadway show. Harris, who plays a young girl, is quick to shrug off her character’s youthful persona – shown at once with a cigarette, champagne glass, and coffee. McCullers, seated between Harris and Waters, looks to have taken on the full mantle of her protagonist’s vulnerability and youthfulness. Allowing us to see, just how autobiographical Member of the Wedding was, at least inasmuch as it captured the fluctuating emotions, excitement, nervousness, shyness, and vulnerability of being a female pre-teen – seesawing between womanhood and an aggressive love of childhood’s freedoms. We see McCullers at a time and place of stress and vulnerability – waiting for her first Broadway reviews, regressing. She leans sheepishly and indulgently against Waters, who seems comfortable – laughing, hardly aware of this young white womyn, very literally taking nourishment and comfort at her busom; a reenactment of so many U.S. domestic narratives and imaginings.

How then, does this photo of Jennifer Lopez and Posh Spice (a.k.a Victoria Beckham), bring to mind Waters, McCullers, and Harris? It seems yet another snapshot of versions of womynhood: Posh on the one hand grasping for comfort, belonging, caught amidst a pose, and Lopez, clear-eyed, above the fury of paprazzi, dream-like in her posing. 

There is an uncanny resemblance between McCullers and Beckham, not only in the way their bodies are positioned, but also in the very real similarity between their physical features. Both are small-boned and bird-like – McCullers’ frail body a result of years of physical pain and the whittling done by the rheumatic fever she contracted at age 15, while Beckham’s diminishing frame has been widely rumored to be the result of a severe eating disorder. Ironically both conditions, the rheumatic fever and the severe eating disorders, are known to cause strokes. While Beckham has never had a stroke (and certainly I hope never will), McCullers suffered many, beginning in her early twenties. Both Beckham and McCullers have dark hair, cut short. Beckham, like McCullers, has a similar tilt to her head – as if she is leaning into an imaginary Waters – both of their necks angled and revealed, just so, toward the photo lens.

It is the look in their eyes that solidifies it for me: defiant, direct, looking into a middle distance, and mysterious – if only because we, the viewing public, are unsure of how this womyn will express the complications and paradoxes in herself and her life. There is, lurking below both McCullers’ and Beckham’s eyes, a very real sense of an ability to create destruction. For McCullers, it was a fight against the destruction or her body and her own alcoholism. One can only wonder at eckham’s tendencies toward defiance and destruction. Though if her skeletal frame is any indication, certainly it is the denial of the posh luxury of eating, that suggests what method Beckham has chosen. Beckham, unlike McCullers, has no Waters to lean and gain comfort against. Instead, it almost looks as if the cameras themselves, the vulture paparazzi we hear so much about, have become the comforting shelter Beckham seeks – and for which she may so vigilantly work to control her image.

Beckham is not McCullers, McCullers is not Beckham. It is only a trick of the camera that recalls them to one another, that offers these instances (one  post-war and the other post-modern) of a womyn captured by that most modern media, the camera, in a deep well of vulnerability – one who knows it and does not shy away (McCullers) and one who seems unaware of her own self, posing, in what a teenager might imagine as coquiettishness, but which a grown womyn should recognize as an unecessary display for others (Beckham).

John Huston in his 1980 biography, said of McCullers, “She was then in her early twenties, and had already suffered the first of a series of strokes. I remember her as a fragile thing with great shining eyes, and a tremor in her hand as she placed it in mine. It wasn’t palsy, rather a quiver of animal timidity. But there was nothing timid or frail about the manner in which Carson McCullers faced life. And as her afflictions multiplied, she only grew stronger.” McCullers does not recoil or pretend for the camera here, she allows nothing to be obscured – her fragility is not paired with a lack of courage or bravery. It is full of depth. Beckham so many decades later, is doing the opposite of McCullers, and yet her core fragility seeps out.

McCullers was on a mission, one that led her to say that, “Writing, for me, is a search for God.” Beckham seems as if she is on a search for high fashion only – sample size. And yet, the look in her eye, calls one to some form of compassion; some recognition that she is trapped in a role – a grown womyn, playing at being an ingenue, playing at being a coquette. How exhausting – how representative of the roles womyn are so often trapped within, of the only roles, that allow us to be called beautiful. But to me, McCullers, Harris, and Waters are truly beautiful – for they give us a moment of womyn not wearing any masks – of being in the very instant of a moment; of being entirely engaged in their own internally navigated needs.

Lopez, beside Posh Spice, has an eerie distance from it all. As opposed to Beckham, so wholly outwardly engaged, Lopez seems to be holding her own counsel. She is caught posing – looking up, we’re not quite sure at what. Nevertheless, it is clear she is distant: the Julie Harris of the photo. There is a very small hint of a smirk tugging at the corner of her mouth. As if to say, “I know that you’re here. I know that you are watching, and isn’t it all a little bit silly.” But other than this, Lopez seems unflapped. Posh is in full pose mode – bony, emaciated clavicles, childlike body, and all. Both womyn seem to represent some unattainable and unhealthy image of beauty – the distant self-contained beauty, remaining still while being watched, and the other eager to please.  

If I am honest, in this image, I feel so gratetful for Lopez, distant and dreamlike though she may be, because she looks healthy. She has the blessed body of a womyn. She is not under the complete thrall of the media. She is contained, she is performing, on her terms. She is controlling her image, not through starvation, but through her knowledge of the situation she is in – she has that allusive allure. In a culture where as a famous womyn, you can and will be devoured, self-containment, the ability to hold one’s counsel, to serve as one’s own navigational guide, is as in real life, a powerful tool for survival. This is not to chastise Beckham for seeming to enjoy being viewed or displayed, for often womyn are also punished for daring to be seen – daring to be brash or liking to be looked at, it is, however, to suggest that a womyn who cannot escape the spotlight, who manages not to become craven for the spotlight, has attained something which the media seems to want to deny womyn: the role of an adult womyn.

That is what makes Jennifer Lopez so stunning in this photo. She is wearing her clothes, her clothes are not wearing her. She is in possession of herself. And that possession is in such stark contrast to Beckham’s lack, that all those things Beckham may try to cover in her posing, are moved that much more to the forefront. Self-denial may get you into high fashion’s sample size, but it will not help you wear it or be in possession of yourself. Lopez is a womyn for whom haute-couture is intended.  Possession of self, no matter the emotion or place, is always the highest form of beauty.

Perhaps that is why Beckham is so painfully thin – she is feasting only upon the spotlight. Such a feast could never be filling. After all the spotlight only follows designated members. Maybe that is why Beckham is in a frenzy to capture and keep the camera’s eye, even as her own show a very real destitution. She like McCullers’ character in Member of the Wedding, is desperate, ambivalent, overwhelmed, and yet steadied by her membership, in this case in the cult of celebrity. It is as McCullers wrote in the opening lines of her most famous novel, “It happened that green and crazy summer. It was a summer when for a long time she had not been a member. She belonged to no club and she was a member of nothing in the world. And she was afraid.”

In Simple & Humble Remembrance

Posted in Uncategorized on September 11, 2008 by thebibliophile

Prayers for peace:

http://www.sacredspace.ie/peaceprayer/pp_day1.htm

A novena is a nine-day prayer and is generally understood to be part of the Catholic faith. Novena’s can be prayers for peace, health, abundance, or a loved-one. They are prayers focused on manifesting good – manifesting peace, health, or abundance. We all pray or talk to G*d, a higher being, or the universe in different ways. I invite you, if you are a believer and this is within your faith practice, to pray the novena for peace with me – starting today.

I think that we can all practice peace – and we can do it without saying a novena. For me, this matches my faith practice, and it is the way I have chosen to recognize and remember this day.

Pray for peace, work for peace, love peace and justice.

Finding New Ways to Undermine the Constitution

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 10, 2008 by thebibliophile

A bill to eviscerate the Washington, DC gun bill is before the House. Currently it is supported by 50 Democrats and several Republicans. The bill would make it legal to carry guns, riffles, and even semi-automatic weapons in DC. Furthermore, it completely ignores Washington, DC’s right to govern and legislate itself! This is wrong and yet another example of DC’s continued, unconstitutional, and illogical taxation without representation.

It is amazing to me, that Sarah Palin, Republicans, and conservatives can imply that Democrats and liberals want the “government to tell you what to do; to make your choices,” and yet they support efforts that undermine the votes, thoughts, and concerns of half a million people. It is outlandishly offensive.

Here is the NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/10/opinion/10wed2.html?th&emc=th