Quote of the day: POWER

February 22, 2018


I learned that I’m powerful because I don’t have to say much to be heard.

–Mary J. Blige

Photo diary: honeymoon in Hawaii, part 1

February 21, 2018

After a brief overnight stopover in unseasonably balmy San Francisco, Andy and I arrived in Kauai for our belated honeymoon. We spent the first two nights at a lovely Airbnb in Kapaa hosted by a couple of yoga teachers and healing practitioners (one of whom lived in the same Upper West Side apartment as me in 1993).

That gave us a perch from which to explore the north shore. We sought out Secret Beach, the secluded stretch of sand and rocks favored by clothing optional beach fans, which was so secret and secluded that we had it all to ourselves.

We stopped for a macaroon and tea at the Kilauea Bakery and then drove all the way to the end of the road, past the lush fields and gorgeous beaches made famous in the movies (South Pacific, Jurassic Park, King Kong). Then we doubled back to the schmancy St. Regis Hotel in Princeville for the obligatory sunset photos over cocktails on the balcony.

Quote of the day: ALLIES

February 19, 2018


Privileged people often ask me what they can do, and I think the idea of accompaniment is greatly underestimated: maybe I can’t help, but I can just be with this person while she sells papers. Recently Hyatt Hotel housekeepers in Boston asked people to show up to their protest for higher wages and better working conditions. If someone from an advantaged background walks in a picket, it might spark a moment of connection with those workers. And if the police come along and treat the protestors like dirt, this advantaged person will have his or her eyes opened.

Over the years I’ve participated in eviction blockades. When the police arrive to put a renter out on the street, some of us stand on the steps of the house and risk arrest, while others are just there to witness. I’ll invite people I know to come along for this experience. I want them to see it. If they ask what good it will do, I’ll say, Just come along. Sometimes our presence is enough to stop the eviction. Sometimes it goes through anyway, but we witness it, and this deepens our understanding and our empathy.

Q: How can people go further than just accompanying and become an ally?

Being an ally means actually leveraging your privilege to intervene in a situation or dismantle structural inequality. If you’re not sure how to do this, ask the people you’re trying to help. Let them tell you, Here’s what it means to be an ally in this situation. Here’s the code of conduct. That’s very important.

For example, in Montana a group of women, galvanized by a picture of a dead Syrian-refugee child, got a resettlement agency to come to their state, which has historically been unfriendly to refugees. Now they have a nonprofit in Missoula called Soft Landing, which provides services like driver’s education and English-language classes to refugee families. It also educates the Missoula community about the refugee crisis and how to extend welcome to all. This organization, which has more than six hundred volunteers, was started by a woman who had no background in activism or politics.

–Chuck Collins, interviewed by Megan Wildhood in The Sun,  February 2018 (“Separate and Unequal: Chuck Collins on How Wealth Divides Us”)

In this week’s New Yorker

January 26, 2018

Some fascinating stuff in this issue. The article by Adam Entous and Evan Osnos about China’s suspect courtship of Jared Kushner makes its point pretty early and then goes on longer than I had patience for it. But three other stories had me from start to finish.

Nick Paumgarten’s “Getting a Shot” tells about the amazing experience director Madeleine Sackler had making her prison film “O.G.” at a maxium-security state prison in Indiana, employing guards (correctional officers) and inmates (offenders) as actors, including Theothus Carter (pictured above with Sackler, photo by Krisanne Johnson), a twentysomething guy serving a 65-year sentence, who plays one of two leads opposite Jeffrey Wright.

In “Remainders,” Kathryn Schulz tells how a chance purchase in a junk shop of an inscribed volume of Langston Hughes’s poetry led her to discover a fascinating black writer neither she nor I had ever heard of, William Melvin Kelley, who spent his life mostly writing about white people thinking about black people. (In the course of the piece Schulz also casually outs herself as having a female partner, information I’m always delighted to learn.)

And the great Calvin Tomkins profiles Danh Vo, a 42-year-old Vietnamese-born artist (above, photographed by José Luis Cuevas) who grew up in Copenhagen and now lives in Berlin and Mexico City. Vo, who has a survey show opening at the Guggenheim February 9, is himself surprised to be one of those artists whose work can sell for a million bucks apiece. My favorite passage of the article (and the issue):

The demand for what he does led a Dutch collector to sue him for not producing a promised work. A Dutch court ruled against Vo, saying he must deliver a large new work in the style of his recent pieces; Vo offered the collector a text piece that would read, in large letters, “Shove it up your ass, you faggot!,” which happens to be the title of one of his sculptural collages. In the end, that wasn’t necessary, because his legal team managed to reach a settlement, and the collector dropped the suit.

Culture Vulture: Best of 2017

December 18, 2017

 Top Theater of 2017

The Band’s Visit – David Yazbek’s sublime musical score, impeccably direction by David Cromer, wonderful ensemble headed by Tony Shalhoub and Katrina Lenk (above).

Poor People’s TV Room – this haunting multimedia performance by electrifying dancer-creator Okwui Okpokwasili at NYLiveArts, with terrific cast directed by Peter Born, Okwui’s partner (their previous collaboration, Bronx Gothic, inspired a documentary film that was also a highlight of the year).

A Pink Chair (in Place of a Fake Antique)
– the Wooster Group outdid themselves with this almost unbearably beautiful homage to Polish theater legend Tadeusz Cantor at Bard College’s Summerscape with ambitious music overseen by Gareth Hobbs.

The Glass Menagerie
– Sam Gold’s iconoclastic Broadway staging of Tennessee Williams’ classic (above), with Sally Field, Joe Mantello, wheelchair-bound Madison Ferris as Laura, and a stark set by Andrew Lieberman, wasn’t to everybody’s taste but it was to mine.

The Town Hall Affair
– the busy Wooster Group continued to expand and refine their restaging of a 1971 forum on women’s liberation with Kate Valk’s standout evocation of Jill Johnston.

The Antipodes
– Annie Baker’s very strange and surprising play at Signature Theater beautifully staged by Lila Neugebauer (whose crazy-good production of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s wild Everybody, also at Signature, was another favorite).

Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train
– Mark Brokaw’s brutal revival of Stephen Adly Guirgis’s play.

People, Places, & Things
– an excellent cast headed by Denise Gough (superbly directed by Jeremy Herrin) and Bunny Christie’s astonishing set lit up a tough play about addiction written by Duncan Macmillan (who also wrote and directed, with Robert Icke, the terrific adaptation of Orwell’s 1984 on Broadway).

Also: Phyllida Lloyd’s The Tempest set in a women’s prison with original score by Joan Armatrading; Manual Cinema’s gorgeous Mementos Mori with music by Kyle Vegter; Laurie Metcalf and Condola Rashad in Lucas Hnath’s A Doll’s House Part 2; Rebecca Taichman’s inventive staging on Broadway of Paula Vogel’s Indecent; Jo Bonney’s impressive revival of Suzan-Lori Parks’s F**king A; KPOP, the witty, immersive piece about a Korean popstar factory at Ars Nova; David Greenspan’s miraculous solo performance of Eugene O’Neill’s nine-act Strange Interlude, directed by the Transport Group’s Jack Cummings III; Keegan-Michael Key’s lively Horatio in Sam Gold’s impenetrable staging of Hamlet at the Public; Ramsey Nsar in Ivo van Hove’s spectacular if unsatisfying staging of The Fountainhead at BAM (above); Taylor Mac’s holiday extravaganza at Town Hall; and David Zinn’s  extravagantly fun sets and costumes for SpongeBob SquarePants (below).  

Movies That Meant a Lot to Me: I Am Not Your Negro, Julieta, Get Out, Icaros: A Vision, Marjorie Prime, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, Call Me By Your Name, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Lady Bird, The Ornithologist, Bird on a Wire (Tony Palmer’s Leonard Cohen documentary), Long Strange Trip (Amazon documentary about the Grateful Dead).

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