Thursday, July 30, 2009

Beware of Domestic Objects: Claude Cahun

Prenez garde aux objets domestiques - Claude Cahun

I am reading a book (Disavowels) by Claude Cahun (25 October 1894 – 8 December 1954)... a pseudonym for a woman who explored gender identity ... and many other things. She was born Lucy Renee Mathilde Schwob in Nantes, France. Cahun was a name on her maternal side of the family. In the early 20's, she settled in Paris with her long-time partner and stepsister, Suzanne Malherbe. Malherbe (who adopted the pseudonym "Marcel Moore") collaborated with Cahun on various written works, sculptures, photomontages and collages. By World War II they were living on the island of Jersey -- part of the Channel Islands. [Why is it that the Channel Islands never come up ... then this year I read Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and then a few months later ... I become fascinated with Claude Cahun? I love that sort of thing. And what led me to Disavowels was my interest in a book called Rrose is a Rrose is a Rrose: Gender Performance in Photography -- Cahun's self-portrait which is above ... is on the front cover of the book. I LOVE THAT PHOTOGRAPH. Plus, I've been reading a lot about Marcel Duchamp (aka Marchand du Sel) and the Putteaux Group. Life is funny that way.]

Cahun and Moore were very active in the resistance and had a front row seat -- the Germans occupied Jersey during the war:
Fervently against war, the two worked extensively in producing anti-German fliers. Many were snippets from English-to-German translations of BBC reports on the Nazi's crimes and insolence, which were pasted together to create rhythmic poems and harsh criticism. The couple then dressed up and attended many German military events in Jersey, strategically placing them in soldier's pockets, on their chairs, etc. Also, fliers were inconspicuously crumpled up and thrown into cars and windows. In many ways, Cahun and Malherbe's resistance efforts were not only political but artistic actions, using their creative talents to manipulate and undermine the authority which they despised. [source: Wikipedia]
You can read more about Cahun here.

And you can watch a slide show of her photographs and collages here:

Fascinating! I can't wait to read more.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno: On Fresh Air today

If you haven't heard today's NPR radio program Fresh Air with Terry Gross, please try to listen to it on your computer. Here's where to go: Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno on Fresh Air. Her poems are incredible. Her daughter was murdered in 2003 by her daughter's ex-boyfriend. Bonanno's poems are about this tragedy and her feelings about it. This is a tragedy that no parent wants to face. It's a very thoughtful program.

Friday, July 24, 2009

An Orgasm a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Some thoughts about one of those great joys of life that are absolutely free (like complaining) ... masturbation.

It seems that the historical disdain and prohibition against masturbation comes from its "wastefulness" ... the idea that it is a sin to waste your seed. Women, do you see: we have nothing to fear! This taboo has nothing to do with us.

And recently, in the city of Sheffield, England, the National Health Service produced a sex ed pamphlet for teens called “Pleasure” -- beautifully named IMHO. The pamphlet “encourages educators to tell teens about the positive physical and emotional effects of sex and masturbation, which is described as an easy way for people to explore their bodies and feel good."

The magic rub ... that's what I lovingly call it ... yes, I agree wholeheartedly. I think it’s a disgrace that we don’t encourage people of all ages to “get to know themselves” -- take away the historical bullshit and what really is the problem with masturbation? And think of the problems it could solve. I really believe that there might be less unwanted pregnancies -- and this includes pregnancies of married women too -- if people masturbated. Less sexual diseases passed on from one person to another. Oh, true, this won’t happen if we just give lip service (hee hee) to “an orgasm a day keeps the doctor a way.” No, it has to be the full thrust of commitment.

Less depression ...

More respect for your body ...

Less dangerous encounters with strangers ... [of course, some people do get off on that]


Lastly, Dr. Joycelyn Elders was so unjustly harassed -- she is actually one of my heroes. And what she said about masturbation at that UN conference in 1994 seems so tame:
"I think that it is part of human sexuality, and perhaps it should be taught."

Cyndi Lauper ... gotta love that grrrrrl ... got it right in "She Bop" ...

... Hey I've been thinking of a new sensation
I'm picking up--good vibration--
Oop--she bop--

Do I wanna go out with a lion's roar
Huh, yea, I wanna go south n get me some more ...

She bop--he bop--a--we bop
I bop--you bop--a--they bop
Be bop--be bop--a--lu--she bop ...



Thursday, July 16, 2009

Art Imitates Life

Noor Abed's public art installation, Rotten, in the making at Ramallah's Manarah Square. Courtesy Noor Abed

From Ramallah in Occupied Palestine comes the interesting story of 21-year-old artist Noor Abed, who got tired of comments and catcalls from men on the street and decided to see if she could do a little consciousness-raising with art. FTA in the UAE paper, The National:
Ms Abed decided to place a mannequin in a long white dress in Manara Square in central Ramallah. Then, with two male colleagues, she urged passersby to write comments on the dress. She asked them to write what they might have thought had they seen a woman walking down the street in similar attire.

The comments veered between corny and outright filthy. But almost all had as a common thread: sex, or the desire for it.
Sex is universal. The desire for it is universal. But the expression of that desire varies from culture to culture, and has historically been oppressive to women and those whose sexuality differs from the norm.

Sex advice columnist Dan Savage, an icon of our queer community, talks to the parent of a gay adolescent and advises him to treat his gay son like a daughter:
You should also regard your son, at least through his adolescence, as more of a daughter to you than a son. We tend to be more protective of our daughters — our straight daughters —than we are of our sons. Why? A sexist desire to keep our daughters “pure”? That’s a part of it, sure, but there’s also this: Men are pigs, and people on the receiving end of male sexual desire and attention are in more danger than people on the receiving end of female sexual desire and attention. (In general — individual results may vary.) Testosterone is the crystal meth of hormones, a badass drug, and men are more likely to be abusive and violent. The prevalence of HIV among gay men makes the stakes higher for your son. So don’t allow him to date anyone you don’t get to meet and approve of, and don’t confuse “being supportive” with “letting him do whatever/whomever he wants.” Be active, be engaged, and never stop being his meddling, interfering, hypersuspicious dad.
Kudos to Danny for voicing those sentiments, and kudos to Ms. Abed also for her courageous art!

Happy Birthday, Tony Kushner!

Tony Kushner was born on this day in 1956 -- in New York City. He is a very fine writer. Here are two quotes from is play Angels in America ...

"Fabulous. If you possess it, you don’t need to ask what it is. When you attempt to delineate it, you move away from it. Fabulous is one of those words that provide a measure of the degree to which a person or event manifests a particular oppressed subculture’s most distinctive, invigorating features. What are the salient features of fabulousness? Irony. Tragic History. Defiance. Gender-fuck. Glitter. Drama. It is not butch. It is not hot. The cathexis surrounding fabulousness is not necessarily erotic. The fabulous is not delineated by age or beauty. It is raw materials reworked into illusion. To be truly fabulous, one must completely triumph over tragedy, age, and physical insufficiencies. The fabulous is the rapturous embrace of difference, the discovering of self not in that which has rejected you but in that which makes you unlike, the dislike, the other."

"Don't be afraid; people are so afraid; don't be afraid to live in the raw wind, naked, alone...Learn at least this: What you are capable of. Let nothing stand in your way."

I saw Angels in America twice -- once in New York City in 1994, then again in San Francisco in 1995 with my reading group.

It was F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mary Gaitskill's Father: A Perfect Response

here's an excerpt from the march/april issue of poets & writers ... it's an article about the author, mary gaitskill ...

The effusive dedication to Gaitskill's parents in Two Girls, Fat and Thin was "my crude attempt to let people know this was not about my parents," she says. It wasn't entirely effective. "Some idiot reporter called my dad in Kentucky and asked how he felt about his daughter publishing a novel about father-daughter rape and incest." She imitates, with clear affection, her father's bellowed response, "Do you think Edgar Rice Burroughs was raised by apes?"

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The High Line: Bill Cunningham's piece ...

I really love Bill Cunningham's audio + photo slide pieces in the NYTimes. You have to register for the NYTimes -- but it's free to read their stuff ... or view their stuff as the case may be.

Bill Cunningham has a very cool piece about the elevated sidewalk in NYCity called the "High Line". Wikipedia calls it a "greenway." If you want to see his audio slide, click here. If I were going to NYCity any time soon -- you best believe that I would go to this greenway for a nice walk. [mumble mumble ... wish I were going ... ]

Here's an excerpt from the item in Wikipedia:

The High Line is a 1.45-mile (2.33 km) section of the former elevated freight railroad of the West Side Line, along the lower west side of Manhattan, which has been redesigned and planted as a greenway. It runs from the former 34th Street freightyard, near the Javits Convention Center, through the neighborhood of Chelsea to Gansevoort Street in the Meat Packing District of the West Village. The High Line was built in the early 1930s by the New York Central Railroad to offer direct warehouse-to-freight car service that reduced pilferage for the Bell Laboratories Building (now the Westbeth Artists Community) and the Nabisco plant (now Chelsea Market), which were served from protected sidings within the structures. It was in active use until 1980.

In the 1990s, it became known to a few urban explorers and local residents for the tough, drought-tolerant wild grasses, forbs and trees that had sprung up in the gravel along the abandoned railway.

By 1999 broadened community support of public redevelopment for the High Line for pedestrian use grew, and funding was allocated in 2004. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was an important supporter. The southernmost section reopened as a city park on June 8, 2009. The middle section is still being refurbished, while the northernmost section's future remains uncertain, access disputed between the City of New York and the MTA.
To read the whole thing, click here.

And here's the website of the High Line organizers:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Origin of the Moonwalk

Yes, MJ was so very talented. But let's not forget those who went before:

The Origin of the Moonwalk