Friday, June 30, 2006
Late tonight I learned that the first Black director on Broadway, and one of the towering figures in American dramaturgy over the last forty years, Lloyd Richards, passed away. He was 84. I always think of him in conjunction with the late August Wilson and those astonishing plays, like Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner's Come and Gone (my favorite Wilson play), and The Piano Lesson, they brought to audiences from the mid 1980s through the mid-1990s, but Richards was also the Dean of the Yale School of Drama, and artistic director of the Yale Repertory Theater and of the National Playwrights' Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Connecticut. In the last capacity he nurtured several generations of a range of American playwrights whose works have since become canonical. If I'd had the opportunity to chat with him, I'd loved to have asked him about his early years in the theater in New York, especially during the late 1940s and 1950s, and about working with Lorraine Hansberry and the first cast of Raisin in the Sun.
An Academy of Achievement interview with Richards is available here (photo above at left, from the Academy of Achievement).
The New York Times obituary is here.
The Washington Post's obituary is here.
Thank you, Lloyd Richards, and rest in peace.
Carbonist School: Study Hall in ATL
Audiologo posted a week ago on the opening of "The Carbonist School: Study Hall" exhibit that opened at the Eyedrum/Art Music Gallery in Atlanta. She includes an excerpt from the Carbonist School manifesto and links to organizers Charles Huntley Nelson and Cinqué Hicks. The exhibit runs from June 24 through August 6, and there'll be an opening reception on July 15.
"The Carbonist School: Study Hall"
Suite 8, 290 MLK Jr. Drive SE
Atlanta, GA 30312, USA
On SWEAT, Mendi O. lets us know that she and Keith are in the exhibit, and also posts on some other projects she's been involved in recently. I wish there were teleporters so that I wouldn't have to miss these events....
Thursday, June 29, 2006
One topic I've been wanting to post about appeared in the Washington Post last week. Reporter Shankar Vedantam wrote an article on recent studies showing growing social isolation in the United States. Titled "Social Isolation Growing in U.S.," it begins
Americans are far more socially isolated today than they were two decades ago, and a sharply growing number of people say they have no one in whom they can confide, according to a comprehensive new evaluation of the decline of social ties in the United States.
A quarter of Americans say they have no one with whom they can discuss personal troubles, more than double the number who were similarly isolated in 1985. Overall, the number of people Americans have in their closest circle of confidants has dropped from around three to about two.
The comprehensive new study paints a sobering picture of an increasingly fragmented America, where intimate social ties -- once seen as an integral part of daily life and associated with a host of psychological and civic benefits -- are shrinking or nonexistent. In bad times, far more people appear to suffer alone.
"That image of people on roofs after Katrina resonates with me, because those people did not know someone with a car," said Lynn Smith-Lovin, a Duke University sociologist who helped conduct the study. "There really is less of a safety net of close friends and confidants."
If close social relationships support people in the same way that beams hold up buildings, more and more Americans appear to be dependent on a single beam.
Compared with 1985, nearly 50 percent more people in 2004 reported that their spouse is the only person they can confide in. But if people face trouble in that relationship, or if a spouse falls sick, that means these people have no one to turn to for help, Smith-Lovin said.
A few years ago I was somewhat skeptical about the main thesis of Harvard scholar Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone, which was extensively hyped in the media but not addressed, as far as I could tell, in any substantive way by commentators and not really mirrored in my own experience. But more recently based on personal experiences, especially in light of my regular cross-country commuting, and based onthose of friends and acquaintances who've endured various kinds of strains and difficulties, I've begun to think he was on to something, and want to explore this topic more at some point on this blog. I found University of Toronto scholar Barry Wellman's comments about the increase in many people's interpersonal connections resulting from the Internet also to be fascinating, but the question of how thin or thick, or shallow or deep, such connections are is worthy of further discussion.
This week's Village Voice has a short article by Ed Halter on the upcoming Afro-Punk Weekend, which'll run from tomorrow (June 30) through July 4 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Cinemathek. First there were the musical and artistic predecessors to and several generations of Afro-Punks themselves (or ourselves, as I was sort of one in my youth, and knew a good few)--performers and fans, then James Spooner's 2003 documentary, Afro-Punks: The Rock 'N Roll Nigger Experience (photo at left of Matt, from AfroPunk.com) and now Spooner is curating a weekend for those interested in taking in a number of documentaries that are, from the titles I've seen as much about Afro-Punkdom as a specific community per se as about its cultural, spiritual and metaphysical antecedents and its true status as a state of mind. Halter cites two films, the visually stunning Agnès Varda rally film The Black Panthers (1967), whose iconic protagonists remain political and cultural touchstones, and Black Briton Horace Ové's rarely screened Pressure (1975). Other fascinating ones include the 2004 documentary Negroes with Guns, which was on PBS just a few months ago; Aishah Shahidah Simmons's must-see No! (2006), which deals with rape and sexual abuse in African-America and which she spent a decade trying to find money to complete; the remarkable Shirley Clarke's documentaries The Cool World (1964) and Portrait of Jason (1967); and Don Letts's Sun Ra: Brother from Another Planet and Gil Scott Heron: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, on two figures who need no introduction. Letts will be present for a Q&A session on Saturday after the screening of his 2005 film Punk: Attitude.
A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Larry K. of the Knight Bird about an important literary event taking place in Brooklyn tomorrow night, a celebration of the 20th anniversary of Other Countries, one of the seminal groups in the development of contemporary Black gay/sgl/bi writing. I attended the 10th anniversary celebration, I believe, which took place at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and at that time, my memories of some of the members who'd passed away in the early 1990s, including Roy Gonsalves, whom I knew; Donald Woods, with whom I had one of my first readings ever in New York; and the incomparable Craig Harris, were fresh in my mind. Their creative work and literary activism, as reflected in their books and journals, their performances, and their examples, as out and outspoken artists, especially during the late 1980s era, when Reagan-Bushism reigned and AIDS ravaged Black and gay communities, played a central role in opening up a cultural space for all subsequent Black gay/sgl writers and performers who've followed. Their loss has left a hole that has yet to be adequately understood and which can never be fully filled. The event tomorrow will include performances by some of their ancestors and mentors, peers and contemporaries, and some of the newest generation of writers. The music I know will be beautiful.
A tribute in word, image and motion
to the 20-year legacy of
Other Countries: Black Gay Writing
Friday, June 30, 2006 at 8:00 PM
Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts
One University Plaza
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Phone: (718) 488-1624
Including work by Daniel Garrett, Roy Gonsalves, Craig G. Harris, Essex Hemphill, Gale Jackson*, Audre Lorde, Anton Nimblett*, Richard Bruce Nugent, Khary Polk*, Colin Robinson*, Assotto Saint, Pamela Sneed*, Donald Woods and others (*featured performers)
Directed by Valerie Winborne
Subway: 2/3/4/5 to Nevins St. B/M/Q/R to DeKalb Ave.
After-party: 10:00 pm on "Grand 275" - 275 Grand Avenue, btw. Lafayette Ave. & Clifton Pl. (20 blocks east of the theater) 718-398-4402
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
What most interests me about these spam strings is how there'll be some initial semblance of semantic coherence, as in the initial stanzas, with their echoes of later Eliot (channelling Ashbery), or the actual syntactically correct "thy mother is looking" or "of life in a perceived manner without the body," which could easily have been lifted out of Jorie Graham (and some computer program might very well have done that), before the generator just gives up and starts spitting out real and nonce words linked by "some" and "and" and "what" and "or" and "not" and "may." Some may remain or not and whatnot. The erotic potential of some of the strange combinations shouldn't be overlooked.
Actually, it's metrically sound enough that it could be set to music. Particularly very mellifluous or very loud music. I lack that skill, but I welcome anyone to try. If you do, please send jstheater the link to the file!
Amy or Antonio, a New National Anthem
What beastie what thoroughfare not decisionmade and duplex
neither broadside nor biconcave that hoary donkey hemorrhage
was first to speak: thy mother is looking
for some basic transportation fluorescence
in revery they saw his eyes wander over
all the gay marvels of this serially lighted steady war
by the electric athletics which fell from experiences
of life in a perceived manner without the body
in calfskin it's notated that certified and contemptible
a whirlwind like lenin left masks fluttering truisms
more direct in neuroses his cotangent like blackbirds
the committeemen mutter leitmotifs on bellatrix
yet presumptuous may depend on the gypsy
or mere christopher not mccabe his detractor
invade only when circled in boy meat
scream hershey to adage the special or specular
a confinement in epicyclic by way of toy certificate
some bema may ahoy in your city root petal
as large as his backstop what floor in that rank luge
as cerebral an inkling that ironist stank: foulmouth
that aisle what adulterous what stall or codify
what deplete when cameroun what coax as dispute
not wispy what fate the electro some portage
out camming a bifurcate or leaking baseboard cartels
as paranoid as angelina as yacht though yet confiscatory
youth turns her crankshaft that's bronx when it's covered
to tower with moustache over ephemeral bureaucracy
a first in toxicology may browse but excruciate
not sunburn nor efficacious that guinea individual
alderman so barmy it's meg so brant it's granary
oh lo we're farther on tearful yet what collision without icicles
or agave as slender a spencer whose conjugal certainty
or sender when tugging as palladium terminate not morphology
may seaboard may plumbago what annal june persistent
a clarence may continuant but telecommunicate as soluble
and deciduous in rockies or delicious continents yet enviable
some vexation a fatty genie it's chub and would caveat
or blanche in bombast motels and charleston a czech bobby
on sicken but gap junction some dionysian (not tissue)
to graham but famish when haggling what proclamation
it jujubes it libels some cauliflower (oh shiloh) through geoduck
seventy isotopic belgians still dragnet the adolescent
antonio who knew planetaria in nagasaki
when dreaming a capistrano nicole in heine
and now rhododendra of a jansenist like atalanta
as warmish as black feeney the amide old lynch
savor cognitive as frenzy whose accolades save fusiform
drunks on abolition like khrushchev transcriptions
seeking addition or saris please stagger your holography
and beggar their landscape true boone farm accompanist
plays thimble not atavism and beplaster its harrison
not buchenwald not gop not cutlass not angeles
it's amy the afflicted contemptous elephantine granddaughter
whose rambling brambles though conservativist may upswing
Friday, June 23, 2006
For a range of reasons, I found it a little tough to post the entries I started this week, but here, finally, are several in a row.
Last Sunday was both Father's Day--belated best wishes to all the fathers out there--and my birthday. A acquaintance sent me an email suggesting that as we get older we should start expanding birthdays to weeks and then months (and a friend of mine had already said a few years ago that he was going to do this, though he was only in his mid 30s), and while a day is fine for me, to all born in the month of June, under the signs of the twins or the crab, happy birthday!
Congratulations are due also to all of my students who graduated this year! You were a talented group and you will go far along whatever paths you choose.
I spent a good part of the week not only dealing with our own house-related matters, but also keeping watch on the workers who've been building a two-family structure on what was for years a huge, open, empty lot and occasional broken-down truck lot next to our home. In the process of throwing up a house that I hope is better constructed than I witnessed--picture poorly joined seams, hastily stapled on drywall, etc.--but which is being replicated all over Jersey City and which will bring the builder a pretty penny, they've knocked down the fence that stood between our properties, causing it to smash into the side of the house; repeatedly dumped trash and building debris into the yard; set a box of cheap siding on our roof, part of which had just been freshly coated with Silvercoat; and dropped a large cardboard box onto the telephone wires. Early on we had to venture down the litigious slope, but after approaching the brink, it's become an issue of documenting the crap they do and yelling at them to clean up their messes. As of today, they've clapped on all but the front and back siding, so it seems the mess from their remaining work on the building will mostly end up in the mudpatches that are their current front and back yards.
Thinking about activism
As I mentioned last week, Larry Lyons II (whom I got to meet at the anti-LGBT violence march) has posted his responses to the first of a series of questions posed to him about "activism." His response, full of the thoughfulness and elegance that are hallmarks of his blog, examines the notion that activism is "elitist." I was thinking as I headed to the anti-LGBT hate/violence march the other day that one way to think about activism, at least in terms of my own life, might be to place it within the context of a personal ethics, and more broadly a collective ethics. By this I mean activism, or my being an activist and acting conscientiously for positive change (for equality, for equal treatment of others under the law, for justice, for recognition to positive ends) represents one outcome of a particular ethical approach to life in which I act because it is part of my (and of others') ethical--and if applicable, moral--frameworks. Viewing activism this way allows a person to talk about it in its different modes and valences--a combinatorics of the political, social, economic, cultural, aesthetic--and situates it within a larger context that includes the private and public and what exists between them, as well as the extraordinary act and the everyday ones. The ethical, as its roots attest, points not only to customs but more specifically to customary behavior, from self-identified and elucidated, even if evolving, principles of duty and responsibility, that a person can put into practice on a regular (daily) basis. Activism thus can be something as basic as conscious and conscientious being in the world--if the world in which you exist expects that you will not exist, or aims to function as if you did not exist, or seeks to erase you and your presence; being, and thinking, are forms of activism in this view, and are forms and modes of action that anyone can undertake, not just an elite. In fact, most activism, I think, occurs in this way, and may at times may be unintended or unintentional, though its effects in the world are still effective. When personal ethics connect with collective ethics, when the person and her personal acts link to a larger goal, when they're replicated on a broader community and societal basis--I will work to work through my racism, my homophobia, my sexism and misogyny, my classism, etc., and I will work in concert with others to ensure that these plagues upon our society don't flourish, then change can occur. But even personal acts and activism can play a powerful role as well. Activism as it's commonly understood, then, conscious and conscientious, dedicated work on behalf of a cause, becomes one major tributary of the broader ethical framework a person may possess and function within. So I ultimately agree with Larry that it's not elitist, particularly if a person views activism as more than what goes on in front of the cameras, what gets the most attention, what drawing the most funding. Most activism, the activism that takes place in our everyday lives and interactions, gets almost no coverage or attention at all, even though it's often (utterly) vital for our own and others' survival.
Assia Djebar seated in French Academy
Speaking of ethical activists, Assia Djebar, one of the world's leading novelists and a signal figure in contemporary discussions of African, Arab, European immigrant, and transnational feminisms, has become the first Arab woman elected to and seated at the truly elite Académie Française. (Here's the announcement in French.) Djebar, born Fatima Zohra Imalayan in 1932 in Algeria, was the first woman from her country admitted to the extremely competitive École Normale Supérieur de Sèvres, and published her first novel, La soif (Thirst, also translated as Mischief) a year later, in 1956. Since then, she has published a series of novels that represent one of the highest and most sustained aesthetic and critical achievements in late 20th century literature. The works, which detail the struggles for self-determination, self-representation and self-voicing among Algerian women amidst colonialism, patriarchy and religious, economic, social and cultural constraints, include The Women of Algeria in Their Rooms; the trio (really a quartet) L'Amour, A Fantasia (which one of my undergraduate students wrote a brilliant thesis about this spring), Ombre Sultane (translated as A Sister), and So Vast a Prison; Children of the New World; and Far from Medina. Her previous awards include the Neustadt International Prize, the German Booksellers Friedenpreis, and the Venice Biennale Critics' Prize for her film La nouba des femmes de Mont Chenoua. I strongly believe that she should receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in the next several years. She is also Professor of Francophone Literature and Civilization at New York University.
At the ceremony yesterday, Djebar noted France's occupation of Algeria, from 1830 to 1962, which ended only with the horrific six-year war of liberation, and critiqued recent political rhetoric invoking colonialism, which she said represented "an immense wound" lived by four generations of her people. She also paid homage to the "numerous Algerians who today are battling for their right of citizenship," and to the victims of terrorism in her native country, which has been ruled by a military dictatorship for years. She added that she was accepting the chair, one of 40 for "immortals" of the French language, for "the recognition that that implies for Francophone literature from all the other countries," in particular for literature of the "Maghreb...but also from all African countries."
On the soccer front, the big news, at least for me, was the US team's 2-1 loss to Ghana, which sends the US team home and the "Black Stars" on to a second-round match against Brazil, which won all three of its matches, the third against Japan in impressive fashion. For the US, it'll be a return to the drawing board, both on the playing and coaching sides. In terms of the team itself, the US never appeared to have a viable scoring plan against any of its opponents, and must work on getting speedier players who know how to control the ball, take advantage of any rare opportunities to score, and also generate goals. Watching the Argentinian, English, Brazilian, and Portuguese teams' matches would certainly help the US. Part of the problem is that the US lacks a player who can elevate the team to the next level; DaMarcus Beasley comes close, and after the first match, in which he played as if in a daze, he became one of the main playmakers, and factored in the lone goal the US scored, as well as the one that was disallowed in the second game. But Beasley and Bobby Convey, who played well in all three games, cannot do it alone, and need a handful of forwards and midfielders who can leverage their talents. A glaring problem for the US was its weak middle defense. Oguchi Onyewu certainly merits being included as one of the top "Sexies" by a local Spanish-language paper, but he really has got to hone his marking and tackling if he isn't going to be a liability for the team. His defensive errors factored into at least two of the goals scored against the US team, and the controversial foul he garnered in the penalty box in the game against Ghana led to a certain goal and the US team's departure. Outside of veteran Eddie Pope, who missed the third game on a red card, the defense in general was as vigorous as light steam, and has to be completely overhauled if the US is to win even one game in South Africa in 2010. The US Soccer Federation also may want to rethink its choice of coach. Bruce Arena had a great run in 2002, but his heart and head didn't seem in it this time. Instead of starting young scorer Eddie Johnson, he stuck with Brian McBride, costing the team at least three halves worth of potential goal-hunting, and his plan in general failed to take into account the different approaches the US was facing. The Czech Republic kept up its attack and walloped the US; Ghana, though missing key players, was also able to pierce the US's center repeatedly; in neither case did Arena take steady advantage of either team's holes or soft points. Only spirited defensive play led to the US's draw with Italy, a shocker, but ties are not good enough to move the US forward. Perhaps the next coach will realize this, and also find a way to get the very best play out of the US team before the match. Scheduling friendly pre-Cup games against Germany, England, Argentina, Brazil, Portugal, France, Ecuador, and Spain, for example, may bruise the US team's ego, but it will also expose them to the best the world has to offer.
Ronaldo and Juninho Pernambucano of Brazil, exulting in Ronaldo's goal, as Alessandro Santos looks frustrated at left (AFP/afp.com)
French footballers Patrick Vieira and Florent Malouda celebrating (Vieira scored a goal against Togo today and set up another, which Thierry Henry scored) (AFP/afp.com)
DaMarcus Beasley going up for a ball against Stephen Appiah (AFP/afp.com)
As for the second round, there are some excellent match-ups, starting tomorrow. Germany meets Sweden (I pick Germany in this one), while Argentina meets Mexico (Argentina is the clear favorite). Upcoming matches pit Italy against Australia (a tough one given how well the Aussies have played, but I pick Italy), Switzerland against Ukraine (???--but Switzerland won its group, so I'll go with the Helvetians), England vs. Ecuador (this will be one of the matches to watch, and I hope Ecuador can pull off an upset), Portugal against the Netherlands (two of the best teams, but I think Portugal will win), Brazil against Ghana (Brazil is in a class of its own, as Ronaldo showed against Japan), and Spain against France (tough, because Spain is playing superbly but France has real stars, though they've struggled so far).
Morehouse College to receive King papers
Just a few weeks ago, I posted about the pending auction at Sotheby's of the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s private papers, which I hoped could be kept together and donated to an institution that would be able to be able to host them properly. According to an article I just came across, Morehouse College, one of the nation's premiere historically Black colleges (and the only all-male one) and Dr. King's undergraduate alma mater, will receive the papers, which were purchased from Sotheby's by a private consortium led by Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin that includes businesses and individuals. The priceless papers were priced at between $15 to $30 million, but Sotheby's prior attempts to place the papers had not firmed up. This is the best possible outcome I could imagine short of the papers being donated to the King Center itself.
Great spoof of Rovism
On the hilarious front, as posted in Wonkette's column today, the St. Petersburg Times has ignited a firestorm by publishing an Andy Borowitz parody, "Rove, Satan, plot GOP fall strategy," which was bylined under "compiled from Times sources." The article begins
At a joint press conference today in Washington, White House adviser Karl Rove said that he would be plotting the Republican Party’s fall election strategy with his longtime comrade-in-arms, Satan.
The Prince of Darkness, wearing his traditional red horns and cape and carrying a smoldering pitchfork, appeared to beam as Mr. Rove, his protege, talked about how much he was looking forward to working with him on the fall campaign.
“Every time Satan and I get together, good things happen,” Rove said, adding, “Or should I say - bad things happen!”
It just snarks on for a dozen or so more paragraphs, and it wasn't in The Onion! Let's have more of this Merry Pranksterism, please.
BTW: One of Germany's finest writers, Alexander Kluge, actually published a remarkable book of stories, Die Lücke, die der Teufel läßt. In Umfeld des Neuen Jahrhunderts (Suhrkamp, 2003), an ample selection of which were issued in translation by New Directions last year under the title The Devil's Blind Spot: Tales from the New Century. The book treats in fictional form a garland of themes related to Satan's (or something approximating Satan-as-a-concept's) ongoing influence in the world, ranging from European antiquity to the moment the current Iraq War begins. Several of the stories directly explore the idea of Satan in the Bush White House. Perhaps Borowitz read it, though I doubt it--but it's also worth checking out.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
The African Picnic
World Cup finals, France v. Brasil.
We gather in Gideon's yard and grill.
The TV sits in the bright sunshine.
We want Brasil but Brasil won't win.
Aden waves a desultory green and yellow flag.
From the East to the West to the West to the East
we scatter and settle and scatter some more.
Through the window, Mama watches from the cool indoors.
Jonah scarfs meat off everybody's plate,
kicks a basketball long and hollers, "goal,"
then roars like the mighty lion he is.
Baby is a pasha surrounded by pillows
and a bevy of Horn of Africa girls
who coo like lovers, pronounce his wonders,
oil and massage him, brush his hair.
My African family is having a picnic, here in the USA.
Who is here and who is not?
When will the phone ring from far away?
Who in few days will say goodbye?
Who will arrive with a package from home?
Who will send presents in other people's luggage
and envelopes of money in other people's pockets?
Other people's children have bcome our children
here at the African picnic.
In a parking lot, in a taxi-cab,
in a winter coat, in an airport queue,
at the INS, on the telephone,
on the crosstown bus, on a South Side street,
in a brand-new car, in a djellaba,
with a cardboard box, with a Samsonite,
with an airmail post, with a bag of spice,
at the African picnic people come and go.
The mailman sees us say goodbye and waves
with us, goodbye, goodbye, as we throw popcorn
ululate, ten or twelve suitcases stuffed in the car.
Goodbye, Mamma, goodbye--
The front door shut. The driveway bare.
Goodbye, Mamma, goodbye.
The jet alights into the night,
a huge, metal machine in flight,
Goodbye, Mamma, goodbye--
At the African picnic, people come and go
and say goodbye.
Copyright © Elizabeth Alexander, 2006.
*Googling "world cup poems" pulls up Football Poets first. The site features "195 World Cup Poems so far!"
Reasons For Winning
Win it for the fans whose happiness will depend on it
Win it for Sven whose career may well end on it
Win it for the nurses and local authorities
Win it for the poor and ethnic minorities
Win it for the girl awaiting the operation
Win it for the firefighters racing back to the station
Win it for the late train and the overcrowded bus
Win it for granny who can't understand the fuss
Win it for prisoners banged up in their cells
Win it for couples in seedy motels
Win it for young mums pushing their buggies
Win it for saddoes, asbos and druggies
Win it for the dads who can't bear to lose
Win it for Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz
Win it for young Rooneys-in-the-playground, learning new tricks
Win it for old heroes at Wembley, the class of sixty-six
Win it for the ex-pats, all the fans overseas
Win it for the viewers at home. Please.
Win it for the ordinary man in the street.
But above all, win it for yourselves
You've got the world at your feet.
Reasons for Winning (No Pressure)
Copyright © Roger McGough, 2006.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Performer Kevin Aviance, who was attacked a week ago, was present at and addressed the post-march rally (see below), which also called attention to other attacks that had happened this past week in Queens, as well as the long history of anti-LGBT attacks that have occurred, both in New York and elsewhere. (According to Andrés on his Blabbeando blog, Aviance did not have health insurance at the time of the attack, so the AVP is asking people to make donations if they can).
At the pre-march staging spot, at 14th St. and 1st Ave.
The march is underway
Walking down 1st Ave. to 13th St. (journalist Andy Humm is wearing the black shirt)
The incomparable Hedda Lettuce, at the head of the marchers
Some of the marchers, including an AVP contingent
Representatives from the Audre Lorde Project
Turning down Seventh Avenue
A vocal supporter (a second is partially hidden at her right)
At the rally, at Sheridan Square, outside Christopher Park
Hedda Lettuce, with Kevin Aviance partially obscured (his hand is holding the red heart aloft)
Some of the people at the post-march rally (gentleman-scholar Larry Lyons, one of the co-founders of the Rashawn Brazell Collective, is on the right)
Emanuel Xavier, reading a moving poem about his attack
Singer and performer Billy Porter, reading a letter from his partner Ari Gold
There are more photos and a thoughtful writeup in Blabbeando's post on the event.
They may have played as if they were zonked out in their first game, but the US soccer team made bid to remain in the World Cup today when they tied Italy 1-1 on an unexpected own goal by Italian defenseman Zaccardo to keep their hopes of advancing alive. They nearly won the game 2-1 when DaMarcus Beasley knocked in a pass, but the referee disallowed it on an offsides call against Brian McBride. Goalkeeper Kasey Keller was as sharp as a stilletto this game, and dispelled concerns that British Premier League goalie Tim Howard should be starting. Still, to hold the powerful Italian team to a tie while short two men the entire second half, after defensemen Pablo Mastroeni and Eddie Popewere ejected on red cards in the first and second halves respectively, was a triumph, and demonstrated that the US team could potentially do as well as their 2002 record in Japan and South Korea had foretold.
ITA : USA, 17 June 2006, Kaiserslautern, Germany, Italy's Luca Toni battles US defender Oguchi Onyewu for the ball, Copyright: AFP / afp.com
ITA : USA, 17 June 2006, Kaiserslautern, Germany, Defenseman Eddie Pope nearly falls over Italy's Alberto Gilardino, Copyright: AFP / afp.com
ITA : USA, 17 June 2006, Kaiserslautern, Germany, The referee is surrounded by US players (l-r) Landon Donovan, Brian McBride and captain Claudio Reyna, Copyright: AFP / afp.com
They were helped by their next opponent, Ghana, whose achieved a stunning 2-0 upset win, the first by an African team at this World Cup, over the Czech Republic, which had mazurka'd all over the US in their opener. The Ghana Black Stars got goals from Gyan and Muntari to topple the second-ranked team in the world, putting the entire group in play. Italy leads with 4 points, Ghana and the Czech Republic have three, and the US has one. A Czech defeat of Italy coupled with a US defeat of Ghana moves the US to the next round, where their likely opponents would be favorite Brazil, which played a mediocre match against Croatia.
The only other game played today involved Portugal, one of the better teams in the tournament, defeating Iran 2-0, to advance to the next round.
CZE : GHA, 17 June 2006, Cologne, Germany, Ghana's Stephen Appiah moves the ball past Czech Pavel Nedved, Copyright AFP/afp.com
CZE : GHA, 17 June 2006, Cologne, Germany, Czech Republic's Tomas Ujfalusi controls the ball as Ghanaian Asamoah Gyan, who scored the winning goal, chases him, Copyright: AFP / afp.com
Friday, June 16, 2006
Today, June 16, is Bloomsday, the day on which James Joyce first met his future wife, Nora Barnacle in 1904 and also the day on which the narrative of his masterpiece Ulysses takes place. Despite the fact that the Irish government and much of Irish society disdained Joyce and his works during his lifetime for their alleged vulgarity and veritable complexity, he and the texts he created have since become an inexhaustible cultural industry. Bloomsday is now a secular holiday in Ireland; in his native Dublin, there's an annual conference, walking tours, a race, and other related events. But Joyceans around the globe also celebrate the day; Symphony Space in New York will again host its 23rd "Bloomsday on Broadway" event, beginning at 12 pm. Other cities across the globe get in on the festivities, including Philadelphia, Chicago, Toronto, Sarasota, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Tokyo, and Santa Maria, Brazil. Joyce devotees may also glance or beginning rereading his other extraordinary works, among them the sublime short story collection Dubliners, the Bildungsroman A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and one of the greatest experimental works ever written, Finnegans Wake.
Campbell Robertson writes about Dublin playwright Sheila Callaghan's "Dead City," a transposition of Ulysses onto New York City, in today's New York Times. The paper lists another Bloomsday event, at the Gotham Book Mart, here.
The current New Yorker features an article, "The Injustice Collector," by critic D. T. Max on the problems Joyce's chief heir, his 74-year-old grandson Stephen James Joyce, has created for scholars and others in the literary and performing arts communities since he gained majority control of the estate several decades ago. From quashing public readings of Joyces's writings and stagings of his plays to withholding access to his papers to sending out spies to report on scholarly proceedings about James Joyce to threatening (and winning) lawsuits against literary critics, Joyce's zealous grandson, who wears Ireland's slights against his grandfather like indelible tattoos, has made the Joyce industry a much more difficult one. Internet expert Lawrence Lessig is currently pressing a suit on behalf of Stanford scholar Carol Shloss, and Mr. S.J. Joyce is, naturally, very unhappy. Max's piece is a cautionary or instructive tale, depending upon your perspective, of what can happen based on who controls an artist's estate....
The other day Reggie H. sent me an email obituary for György Ligeti (1923-2006), the Hungarian composer whose pioneering experimental oeuvre represents one of the pinnacles of the late 20th century post-classical/art music. Ligeti's most influential works, of the 1950s and 1960s, utilized his method of composition using micropolyphony, microtonality, and cloudlike tonal clusters, offering composers another way out of the tonal vs. dodecophanic impasse. He became best known to a wider audience when Stanley Kubrick utilized an excerpt from Ligeti's Lux Aeterna (1966) and Atmosphères (1961) on the top-selling soundtrack of the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
There are informative obituaries on Schott Music's site, Yahoo! News, Bloomberg News, and BBC News. There's also a very basic but fascinating site at Braunarts.com (it requires Shockwave) that offers a few unusual tidbits about Ligeti's life and work, including his systematic study of sub-Saharan African rhythm and his lifelong arachnophobia.
Speaking of less well-known contemporary post-classical composers, I came across a CD yesterday of works by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (1932-2004). I'd heard of but never listened to his music. I'd always made a mental note to look for his work based on the fact that his first name was the last name of Britain's most famous composer of African ancestry, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) (who was no relation, as far as I know, to the great Romantic poet and critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)). Perkinson, it turns out, was an African-American New York native who spent many years teaching and composing in Chicago. In addition to writing several film scores and the themes for TV shows Room 222 and Get Christie Love!, two programs I never missed as a small child, he founded the Symphony of the New World and led it from 1965-1975, composed a wide array of music in the classical idiom while also arranging music for greats such as Marvin Gaye and Harry Belafonte, and, in the years before his death, was Artistic Director, Principal Conductor and Coordinator of Performance Activities at Columbia College Chicago's Center for Black Music Research (CBMR).
The CD I found was the 2005 release Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (1932-2004): A Celebration, Chicago Sinfonietta et al., Paul Freeman, Conductor, put out by Cedille 90000 087). I've enjoyed what I've listened to, and plan to look for the African Heritage Symphonic series, Vol. III: Sinfonietta for Strings No. 2 (Generations) Katinka Kleijn, cello, Chicago Sinfonietta, Paul Freeman, Conductor, also issued by Cedille label (90000 066 (2003)).
On a completely different note, I saw an article about a fire at the John Merlo Branch public library in Chicago's predominantly gay Lakeview (Boystown) neighborhood. According to WBBM 780, around 90 LGBT-related books were set afire earlier this week (the text doesn't give the date, oddly enough, though the podcast is a bit more specific). About 10 books on African-American topics (surprise!) were also damaged or destroyed. LGBT activists are rightly concerned that this might be a hate-related activity, especially given that it's Gay Pride month in Chicago (and across the US).
I received this information in an email, and then saw it again on Larry Lyon's blog:
March and Rally this Saturday
Raise Your Voice Against Anti-LGBT Hate in Our Neighborhoods
When: Saturday, June 17, 2006
Where: Gather at NE Corner of 14th Street and First Avenue at 2PM;
March at 3PM to Christopher Park (Christopher & West 4th Streets)
Why: In the last week a number of hate incidents have impacted our community.
Make your voice heard!!
We will not be targeted even as we celebrate our History, our Pride and our Survival...
Community Partners in this Effort include: the NYC Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, Daniel Dromm, Empire State Pride Agenda, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Gay Men of African Descent, Hedda Lettuce, Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, the Latino Commission on AIDS, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, mano a mano, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, New York State Black Gay Network, NYC Council Member Rosie Mendez, NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, NYS Assembly Member Deborah Glick, NYS Assembly Member Sylvia Friedman, NYS Senator Tom Duane, People of Color in Crisis, Unity Fellowship Church of Christ and the Rashawn Brazell Memorial Fund.
Click here for more information and safety tips.
On yet another tip, I've continued my World Cup-watching, though less so since the first round is now over. So far England advanced by defeating Trinidad and Tobago; Spain blew out Ukraine; Ecuador became the first South American country to proceed to the next round; host Germany also eked out a 1-0 win over Poland to go forward; Argentina put on a soccer clinic this morning and defeated Serbia (and Montenegro) by a 6-0 margin.
Meanwhile, the US team has stirred up controversy, the last thing they need. Striker Eddie Johnson (at right, Sports Network), speaking before US troops at Ramstein Air Base, said that the US team was "here for war," a bit of overstated rhetoric--though quite in keeping with the general tenor of hyperbole that dominates our national discourse--that the next team the US faces, ally Italy, took with considerable equanimity. Perhaps Johnson and his teammates could focus on "soccer" instead of "war"--basic skills, indefatigability, speed, some semblance of defense, and a raft of set plays will be necessary to prevent Italy from turning the match into an open-goal shoot out. I trust the Americans watched and studied Argentina's play this morning. They could and should borrow liberally from that team's approach. Anything less and they'll be on their way home sooner than they hope or wish.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
An Interview with Oséas Santana, President of Quibanda Dudu, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil
For nearly two decades, Oséas Santana has been engaged in activism on behalf of Black lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people in his native Bahia, Brazil. In addition to working with Grupo Gay da Bahia (GGB), the groundbreaking LGBT and human rights organization headquartered in the historic and picturesque Pelourinho district of Bahia's capital city, Salvador, Santana has also been the president of Quibanda Dudu, an organization that works specifically to raise the consciousness, self-esteem, racial and ethnic pride, and solidarity of Bahia's largely African-descended LGBT population. A few months ago, I had the pleasure of conducting an online interview with Oséas, and learned more about the important work he and QD are doing. (Many thanks to Marccelus Bragg, who facilitated the interview, and from whose site I've borrowed the pictures. Also, a slightly different version of the interview, in Portuguese, can be found here. For those interested in GGB, my interview with its president, Marcelo Cerqueira, is available here.)
Q: Where are you from? Please tell me about yourself.
A: I am a black man of humble origins like so many other Bahians. I am from Salvador; I was born on its periphery, and I created myself, at urban feasts of hate and racism against poor blacks and those who've been utterly stripped of power.
Q. You told me that you'd fought for a while against racism and homophobia. Where and when did you begin your work?
A: I've been battling for sixteen years against racism. I find that racial inequality represents a terrible evil. In the beginning I joined with my neighbors, blacks and people without money—claiming a house to live and a spot on a public lot to construct a shack. The battle for a basic dwelling is a constant issue for a large part of the Brazilian population, and from early on, I' ve always been engaged in movements for basic human rights. One day I learned about Grupo Gay da Bahia and I felt complete. It was under the aegis of GGB that I grew as a militant activist. It was there that I learned and I read a lot about black gay consciousness. Then one day I decided with other black homosexuals to found Quibanda Dudu.
Q: What does the name of your organization, Quibanda Dudu (also Quimbanda-Dudu [QD]), mean?
A: QD means: "Quibanda" comes from the Angolan language and means spirit worker or sorcerer, and "Dudu" comes from the Nigerian Keto and means Black; the combination of these two words reflects the positive magic that exists in the condition of being black. It's a golden kind of beauty, of pride, and of pleasure in being black and homosexual. Our patron is Francisco Manicongo, an African slave and Quibanda himself, who was denounced by the Inquisition in 1591 as a "sodomite," for refusing to dress in a man's clothes.
Q: What is the role of ancestors in QD's work?
A: Ancestry is an essential reference in QD's creation. We are for the observation of rites, and for good examples that bequeath the black race to us in all its dimensions. A race which doesn’t understand or hold its past in prestige doesn't have any value in the present, and won't represent much of anything in the future. We are for the preservation of our "ancestral deeds and existence" and we treat this as if it were a mission. The black person has to have pride in his origins and in his secular symbols.
Q: When did you become involved in QD?
A: I began to become active in GGB under the inspiration of the anthropologist Luiz Mott (the founder of GGB). I resolved to create QD because we wanted the particularities of our struggle be heard and addressed within GGB. Then I brought together black people disposed to the struggle and to showing their faces in public, and we went into the streets. I am QD in my soul. And my soul is black because the color black is marvelous, and behind it lies its divinity.
Q: How does QD serve the LGBT communities of Bahia? How does your organization work with other groups (like GGB, for example)?
A: QD is an organization that meets every week and discusses themes related to discrimination and homophobia. We are interacting with other organizations, like the Movimento Negro Unificado (Black United Movement); with GGB, which provides us space in their headquarters in the Pelourinho; and with diverse other organizations who fight for human rights. In political campaigns QD champions and urges that blacks vote and choose other blacks for public offices. Homosexuality is a positive factor, a good thing in the life of blacks who come out, and so getting them to care for their health also is one of QD's thrusts. For this reason also we have meetings to raise consciousness against the spread and transmission of STDs/AIDS and we distribute condoms.
Being black and gay in Bahia with QD is being comfortable and well with yourself.
Q: [Thanks to author Valdeck Almeida de Jesus] I've received some issues of the Quibanda Dudu Bulletin and greatly enjoyed. In them I find a mixture of articles (like one about the famous author Mario de Andrade), news and other kinds of pieces. How do you select the contents for each issue?
A: The choice of contents for the QD Bulletin is a democratic act. Our magazine QDB is a simple publication, appears every three months and is without great editorial merit because we don't have money to gather photos or issue larger printings or print on a better quality of paper. We editors are really just a few black volunteers of QD who operate in kind of a student culture; we are poor and we don't have money to bankroll the costs of the Bulletin. But even still, our message in the magazine is activism. There is always material about racial segregation, about gays who succeed and who are productive (we need to show black gays who've achieved good things), we denounce the killing of black homosexuals, whose crimes go unpunished, etc. We meet and discuss what topics are going to be part of the Bulletin; after the approval of themes, we send it to be written up.
Q: What are the social and cultural effects of QD? How do you believe the organization has changed black LGBT consciousness in Bahia and Brazil?
A: Changing the mentality of the black Third World homosexual is difficult to do in a short period of time. Of course there were centuries of massacre and slavery. But QD has been forced to create self-esteem and self-worth. We are always repeating: Being a black gay person is healthy. Don't let yourself be humiliated and don't be sad about injustices; always respond to them and love yourself. I am certain that QB has helped many poor and marginalized kids to free themselves from feelings of blame about being gay to experience some happiness in living as black and homosexual.
Q: In your opinion, how do Afro-Brazilian cultural and political groups react to Afro-Brazilian gays? Are QD and other groups changing the consciousness of Black people in the state and across the country on the question of Afro-Brazilian gays?
A: We don't have money or opportunities to do much work, but we have the respect of other organizations. At the national level and alongside other organizations in Brazil's gay rights movement, QD was one of the groups of black gays who fought for quotas ensuring the black race's participation in all the social movements. We have an obvious interest in movements pushing for free sexual expression and those that are more on the left side of the political spectrum; our affinity is with those who fight for social justice. QD is an organization of blacks and black homosexuals that is proud of its fights and values each victory.
Q: How do you find LGBT life in Bahia now, and how does it differ for Afro-Bahians?
A: Bahia is beautiful. It's a marvelous place for tourists. For anyone who comes in search of easy sex it's a paradise here. Unfortunately Salvador is an injust and cruel city for its black children. Injustice exists. Black homosexuals are discriminated against. During Carnaval, in the afoxés and in the streets black gay men are beautiful and marvelous; in the rest of the year, they pass by unnoticed. There is a white and powerful Bahia that does not lower itself to deal with the large part of the population that's black. Not everything is happiness and pleasure, then, for the black gay people of Bahia. There is pain and suffering also. Many black gays are assassinated. Many black transvestites are exploited and AIDS is still greater in the Black population.
Q: What do you feel is QD's legacy?
A: The legacy of Quibanda Dudu and the message that we leave people with is self-esteem. The black gay Bahian is polite, lovable, happy, and friendly. But he's suffering also. The majority are poor folks who're only surviving. QD works with homosexuals from the margins, with people at the bottom. We need the help and support of our black foreign brothers. We invite you to visit Brazil, to come to Salvador to see our reality and help us. We need a headquarters, a house to hold our meetings, and condoms and informative materials. So we welcome your visit and support for our work.
If you would like to contact with Quibanda Dudu:
Oséas Santana, Presidente do Quibanda Dudu
Rua Frei Vicente n. 24 _ Pelourinho
Salvador Bahia _ Cep: 40022 260
State of Politics and Activism in the Black LGBT/SGL Community
Tuesday, June 13, 6-8PM (TONIGHT!)
The New York Public Library Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
515 Malcolm X Boulevard, Harlem
The first of two programs co-sponsored by the Schomburg Center's Black Gay and Lesbian Archive will focus on political activity within the black same gender loving community over the past 30 years. Currently, politically active LGBT/SGL activists of African descent are a mix of seasoned and new thinkers, engaging a range of issues including marriage equality, homophobia in the black church, and hate crimes, among other issues. Panelists include Samiya Bashir (The Right to Marry Campaign), Larry D. Lyons, II (Rashawn Brazell Memorial Fund), Kevin McGruder (Gay Men of African Descent), and others.
Black LGBT/SGL Publishers Speak Out
Tuesday, June 27, 6-8PM
The New York Public Library Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
515 Malcolm X Boulevard
The second of two programs co-sponsored by the Schomburg Center's Black Gay and Lesbian Archive will focus on cultural publications produced by non-heterosexual people of African descent in the United States. It is a little known fact that the majority of black LGBT/SGL books and periodicals have been produced by small presses or self-published. This panel will discuss the complicated history of the black LGBT/SGL press, and the challenges independent and self-publishing pose historically and currently. Panelists include Lisa C. Moore (Redbone Press), Charlene Cothran (Venus Magazine), Colin Robinson (Other Countries), and others. Steven G. Fullwood, project director for the Black Gay and Lesbian Archive, will moderate the panel.
On his site, Larry Lyons poses questions around the idea that "activism" might equal "élitism." He also offers updates on the Rashawn Brazell Memorial Fund.
Monday, June 12, 2006
DEBACLE. That's what it was. The United States's 2006 World Cup soccer squad, which had been heavily hyped in the pre-World Cup warmups, took the field today and utterly embarrassed itself. Utterly embarrassed itself. The US squad started flat--okay, let's chalk it up to nerves. But then, throughout the match against the Czech Republic, they were slow; they had trouble controlling the ball; was ineffective at tackling; they took little initiative in directing the game; they often had players walking up the field as the Czechs ran--literally, ran--past; they appeared to have no plan whatsoever, or whatever they did have they couldn't mount with any regularity; and they apparently forgot that unless you have 9 Pelés on the field (which won't even be the case with Brazil), you cannot win a soccer game without defense.
Eddie Pope holding off the persistent Czech Pavel Nedved. (AFP/afp.com)
Oguchi Onyewu taking out Jan Koller (AFP/afp.com)
Jaroslav Plasil watching as teammate Tomas Rosicky's shot flies past Kasey Keller. Something similar occurred three times, unfortunately. (AFP/afp.com)
Eddie Pope, the veteran defenseman, was the best of a sad lot. Oguchi Onyewu, the tall and handsome youngster whom Rod 2.0 called attention to a few days ago, was atrocious at times, especially at the beginning of the first half, gaining more fouls, including a yellow card, than tackles, though he eventually saved a number of forward attacks with timely headers and took out the Czechs' chief threat, Koller, early in the first half, though only after Koller had scored a goal. The other two defenders, especially Eddie Lewis, got beaten repeatedly. The midfielders and wings, especially on the left side, straggled and offered little offense to challenge the Czech backfielders. Brian McBride often seemed out of breath; the vaunted Landon Donovan was invisible; and DeMarcus Beasley turned the ball over too often and wasn't aggressive at all. The only players other than Eddie Pope who even acted like they were at one of the most important game in their professional careers were center Claudio Reyna, and Eddie Johnson, a second-half substitute, who had two brilliant chances, one a shot that went wide, and the second a missed cross. But the missed cross was emblematic of the US's problems; perhaps it was the 4-5-1 formation, but there was rarely any US player lingering near the Czech goal or penalty area to knock in a stray ball, a rebound or a set play.
Instead, the US kept passing the ball backwards--backwards!--to the midfielders and Pope and Onyewu, who often would pass it back to goalkeeper Kasey Keller. This poor thing seemed to be overmatched for the entire 90+ minutes. I know the Czechs are highly rated, but I hardly expected them to run huggermugger over the Americans as they did. Had Onyewu not gotten some timely headers or the Czech player Rosicky, who scored the two second half killers, not kicked a few more shots wide, it could have been a 6-0 disaster. Easily. Perhaps the worst aspect of the whole sorry spectacle was American coach Bruce Arena's dispassionate (heavily tranquilized? bored? soporific?) expression throughout. He barely moved an eyelid, let alone any other facial muscle, for most of the first half. When he finally decided to budge and make some changes in the second half, his substitutions (save for Johnson) didn't make much sense, or help at all.
He has since blasted the team, but he also should shoulder some, or a lot, of the blame. Given how Italy played against a strong Ghanaian squad (which, had the judging gone their way, would have tied the game), it looks very, very bleak for the US. Really, it would take several miracles for the US to beat either of those teams--Italy???--which they must if they're not going to take an early, 1998-style exit. Yes, I know they were placed in the "Group of Death" this year, but no matter what group they were in, if they came out playing as they did today, they'd be lucky to get a win against the weakest team in the tournament, which is now thought to be the coach-less Togo. And yes, miracles are possible, especially under Chicago underpasses or in New Jersey garages. And maybe today was the wakeup call the US team needed. Or maybe not. Germany has lots of great clubs, lots of beer, lots to see and do, I'm told. Maybe Bode Miller is their spiritual advisor.
Aussie player Tim Cahill, who scored two goals in Australia's 3-2 defeat of Japan (FRANCOIS-XAVIER MARIT/AFP/Getty Images)
Japan's goal, Kawaguchi Yoshikatsu, tries to stop one of Australia's goals (FRANCOIS-XAVIER MARIT/AFP/Getty Images)
So far one of the brightest spots has been Mexico, which won its first game against Iran 3-1, and has the talent to defeat Angola and make it to the next round. Somehow or another the US has defeated the Mexican squad in run-ups and qualifying matches, but los Mexicanos came out ready to play yesterday, and could win all three of their matches, especially if Portugal keeps playing without any fizz.
Tomorrow, two of the top teams will be playing: the heavily favored defending-champion Brazilians play Croatia, and France, the 1998 champions, play Switzerland. I predict Brazil and France will win. In the first match of the day, South Korea faces Togo, which lost its coach a few days ago, only to have him come back today. Not the kind of drama you want or need facing a team that has improved dramatically in the last 10 years.
Italian forward Vincenzo Iaquinto races past Ghanaian goalie Richard Kingston on his way to scoring one of Italy's two goals. (FRANCOIS-XAVIER MARIT/AFP/Getty Images)
Italy's Cannavaro and Ghana's Appiah showing what international friendship is all about (FRANCOIS-XAVIER MARIT/AFP/Getty Images)
Product placement in books?
One of the truisms of creative writing classes is that most teachers will urge students, especially beginners, to use brand names sparingly. Use them only when necessary for purposes of characterization or plot or theme (cf. Bret Easton Ellis's irony), or if they've become generic names (Xerox, Dumpster, etc.), or for specific effects (to show contrast, etc.). But often they serve as placeholders, are imprecise, and date poorly. Often the trendiest of brand names can become anachronistic not just a few years, but a few months, after a story or novel appears. That's the argument on behalf of non-underwritten brand-naming. As the New York Times is confirming, corporations continue to extend their reach even deeper into the literary realm, by which I mean into the text itself. Motoko Rich explores this in her article today, "Product Placement Deals Make Leap From Film to Books." In Cathy's Book: If Found Call (650) 266-8233, a young adult novel, the two male 4o-year-old male authors changed a galley reference mentioning Clinique lipstick to one produced by Proctor & Gamble's Cover Girl unit, which has a deal with the book's publisher. As a result, Cover Girl will shill the novel on a website, Beinggirl.com, that markets to adolescent girls.
The level of commodification and marketing, particularly to adolescents, that Rich describes is enough to make many traditionally minded literati, let alone conscientious parents, scream bloody murder. She does point out that adult novels in the chick lit genre already are and have been corporate tools for some time, but specially commissioned works, single-product or corporation-oriented works other than novelizations still are rare, though they might increasingly become so in the near future. Currently, according to the piece, an "air of crassness" may surround the novel under discussion, or similar ones, if the corporate links are highlighted, but as numerous critics from Marx onwards have pointed out, such are the forces of capitalism and its process of normalization and integration that it'll only be a matter of time before no one even blinks an eye--that is, of those few of us left reading books and comics and other related texts on a regular basis....
Here's another take, by the Columbia Journalism Review Daily's Paul McLeary, on Rich's article. McLeary not only cites the book the jeweller Bulgari commissioned from British writer Fay Weldon, The Bulgari Connection (have any Jstheater readers picked up this book?), but goes on to mention Brit chick lit author Carole Matthews's deal with Ford to mention their products in her works. (The first time I read this sentence I thought it might be a joke--Ford???) He goes on to link the situation Rich describes to the increasing trend towards books-by-committee and packaging companies, and notes the brouhaha that attended packaging company Alloy Entertainment's involvement in Kaavya Viswanathan's plagiaristic début, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, which sparked lots of condemnation and Schadenfreude, though something tells me it did little to stall the designs of the editors, publishers or companies like Alloy that see dollars at the end of the (writing) tunnel. (Isn't Alloy's name so perfectly ironic it's poetic?) Lastly, he cites a USA Today article that discusses how more publishers are linking with "retail partners" so that chick lit authors can socialize with potential readers at stores--named or alluded to in the books themselves?--like Ferragamo, Chanel, Frederic Fekkai, and Oscar de la Renta. The chick lit novels in such cases, you might say, are just padded versions of shopping catalogues....
(Link corrected: Thanks, Audiologo!)
Sunday, June 11, 2006
The view on the floor
Poet David Mills in conversation
Some of the journal displays from the balcony
One bit of great news I culled from the CLMP site is that the organization will be joining in a strategic partnership with Small Press Distributors (SPD), the US's only other national non-profit organization "devoted to serving independent literary publishers," to expand their reach and make their publications available to a broader array of potential readers.