Thursday, October 28, 2010

Paris is Burning

I must ask for your forgiveness, world at large! I am presenting my reviews out of order. Fie and for shame!

Paris is Burning is a documentary I encountered through my English 227 class. Directed by Jennie Livingston and released in 1990, it chronicles the lives of New York's underclass of the late 1980s, namely the attendees of 'Balls' - events some of us might argue could be called Drag Shows. The film has received twelve very well-deserved awards, and is considered one of Miramax Films' earliest successes.

I think my favorite part of this documentary is that it presents the viewer with vocabulary - words like House, Reading, Shade, Voguing, and Mopping - and educates the viewer not only through explanations offered by the Ball-goers, but through demonstration. My second favorite part is that it represents so totally and unabashedly a slice of life which is so often swept under the carpet, and not just in the sense that it deals with people who have sexual, gender, or image identities which are counter to what is considered socially "normative." It also has a lot of statements to make about oppression based on other forms of identity, especially race. The quote that honestly stuck with me the most throughout the whole film speaks to all of the above. The shot, I recall, was of a young man standing on the sidewalk in the pseudo-night of New York city, and he said: "I remember my dad - he'd say you have three strikes against you in this world. Every black man has two - that they are black and they are male. But you're a black and you're a male and you're gay.... If you're gonna do this, you're gonna have to be stronger than you ever imagined." Something in those words, for me, epitomized the struggles prevalent in the whole film. Not even in the specifics of it, just in that simple phrase, "You're gonna have to be stronger than you ever imagined."

It's a wonderful piece of work. I would love to own it, to see it again, to talk to scores of people about it and get their thoughts. It made me want to go to New York and see what I can, two decades later, and sort through the city for traces of that culture.

Interested? Check it out!

Crush, by Richard Siken

And so, dear readers, I once again arrive at the place in my life wherein I can review things which I read for school!

I read Richard Siken's Crush for my English 227 class, which focuses on GLBT literary works. We started off the quarter with theory, reading essays by Gayle S. Rubin, Audre Lorde, Kobena Mercer, and Judith Butler. Crush was a breath of fresh air.

Although it was refreshing, it was by no means an easy read. And to say it is not an easy read does not mean it is not a quick read: indeed, I could hardly put it down. But I've begun in the middle. Let's go back to the beginning.

Crush has won multiple awards, including the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men's Poetry in 2005. However, perhaps most notably, Crush was selected as the 2004 winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize, which speaks volumes in more than one way. Firstly, the contestant cannot have been published previously, and the contestant must also be under the age of 40. Secondly, the winners of this award are usually what my Professor dubbed "conservative" in their work - read structured, straightforward, classical, metered - and Crush is the antithesis of all that word stands for in our language today. It speaks for the strength of the manuscript in and of itself, a strength I cannot and will never doubt. Siken's work is compared to Silvia Plath's - Crush to Ariel - and I can believe it.

In the foreword of the book, Louise Gl├╝ck (one of the judges of the aforementioned contest, I believe) asserts "This is a book about panic." I think this much is true, but I think it is also so much more than that. Siken's masterful use of imagery and surrealism immersed me as a reader in the universe of Crush and in it I saw much more than panic: grief, loss, denial, resignation, anger, desperation, desire, lust, and hopelessness. Some of these may be synonymous and I might be responding with vague and nebulous ramblings (as I am wont to produce) that are snatching at the coattails of insight, but really I can have little other response. Crush captured me. Not only in its brilliant use of imagery but in blurring the lines between literal and figurative and its use of the surreal and the sudden. It whisked me along and even though I tried to take it slow to see what I could see, it will take many, many more readings to formulate a more coherent response to it than the one you, reader, just slogged through.

For the slogging, I apologize.

I hope, however, that you find a copy of Crush to read, and read it carefully. Honestly I think that anyone who considers themselves a poet, ever dreamed of being a poet, or likes to profess that they are a poet should be required to read this book. It is infinitely powerful and I know it has changed how I look at poetry. I think it could open a lot of doors.

And even if you do not consider yourself a poet, I would recommend this to you. There is something so simply, so intrinsically human within each and every piece that each is a gem, and yet one cannot be plucked out from amongst all the rest. They are one and whole and heartbreaking.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Catherinette Rings - Steampunk Jewelry Wizard!


One of my favorite jewelery artists of all time, forever known to me as CatherinetteRings, is holding a giveaway! His work is absolutely exquisite. I admire his attention to detail most of all, and I honestly feel that his creativity shines through bright and clear in every single one of his creations. If any of you - Steampunk'r or no - want to enter his contest, all you have to do is pay a visit to his blog and leave a comment! Your name will be included in a drawing to win a whopping $215 worth of his work and there will be FOUR NAMES DRAWN!

Get 'em while they're hot, people. Seriously. Don't miss this.

Visit this page for more information, and don't forget to check his work out on etsy!