Thursday, May 31, 2007
Aside from our anniversary issue, we seldom solicit work surrounding a single theme, although happy accidents do arise. The pieces in this issue employ alienation, either at the formal or topical level to expose a greater personal truth.
*There is something unsettling about Johhny's assertion, "You're a whore" in Nancy Lynn Weber's flash Sugar Cone, and something true about the narrator's obsession with the dirty body.
*In Jon Stone's poems, violence is juxtaposed with ordinary past time, exposing the savagery of our culture, and the queer way in which this violence satisfies.
* Laurah Norton Raines' short story, Twenty-Seven, has a protagonist who is psychically uncomfortable with her new status as housewife, a role which is both too-familiar to her and incongruous with her conception of herself.
*In Invisible War, Lea Povozhaev negotiates the cultural and political differences between her own middle-class American upbringing, and her husband's childhood in iron-curtain Russia, and the implications these differences will have for their son, Viktor.
* Nancy Bauer's piece The N-Word explains the ways in which we are alienated from language, and how Don Imus' insensitive comments have exposed a cultural climate of intolerance that we must, willingly or unwillingly, participate in.
* Peter Schwartz's art nicely compliments this issue, with black and white representations of shock and morbid interest.
Please enjoy this issue, and feel free to post reactions to it in the comments below.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Perhaps the best trip I took was to Ireland, with a close friend who was also abroad on the same program. We spent a few days in Dublin, then headed to Kilkenny to spend a night. It was near Christmas, so there weren't too many other tourists about, but in our hostel we chanced across an Australian several years older than us, who had been traveling through Europe for several months and had rented a car.
Because he exuded kindness and gentleness, the two of us decided to hitch a ride with him, just to the next city. Five days, four towns, and one Irish breakfast later, we were friends.
The Aussie and I have continued corresponding over the following years -- he's been through Europe several times, worked for the Australian government, and now is doing charitable work in Cambodia (he keeps a wonderful blog about his experiences). Although we haven't seen each other in person, I feel like I know him, and am glad I followed my heart and got in that car.
Also in today's news, why we need more women on the Supreme Court...
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Now, imagine that one of those friends has invited Michelle from American Pie to join you.
I'm not going to whine and complain about how my long-awaited trip to Spain was turned into a circus by a 15 year-old in a 23 year-old's body...Instead, I am going to use it as an opportunity to share some insight on travelling abroad. I share this with an open heart to any and all who have never left their hometown or country, and just aren't aware.
1) Americans, thanks to Mr. Bush, are really not terribly loved anywhere outside of the US these days.
2) Even if you are not American, if you sound like one we get the blame for any idiocies you commit (likewise, you get our stereotypes, so be prepared).
3) Though it is terribly exciting to travel outside of your comfort zone, drawing attention to yourself in a foreign country--aside from being humiliating--is a safety hazard (this means that wearing big flags on your backpack or having your friend video-tape you dancing on sacred grounds is a no-no).
4) If you do not speak the language of the country you are in, eat whatever the waiter puts in front of you--because chances are, you're the one who got it wrong.
5) When promotional people call to you on the street ("Chicas, chicas, gratis cervesas..."), don't insult them by yelling at them, accusing them of trying to pick you up, or saying "I don't drink beer!" They really could care less whether you do or not. Simply, they want some pretty girls to sit in the taberna so that paying men will come on in.
6) Finally, understand that you are not on home ground anymore. The rules have changed--your tea might have milk in it if you don't specify otherwise, vegetarianism might be a rare occurrence, and not everything is going to have an English translation under it.
I know that it's hard sometimes, we live in our own little worlds and get our culture from the boob tube...but if we want to lose the stereotypes of being loud, arrogant, and assumptive, we Americans need to step up. The accusations come from decades of documented poor behaviour, and it's our duty not to perpetuate it. After all, really, are you going to a foreign country to eat pizza and burgers? To speak your native tongue? Why bother? Immerse yourself in the culture and see it as a learning opportunity. Lean into your discomforts.
(Oh, and Canadians--if you're dead set on making an ass out of yourself abroad, please make sure you have a nice big maple leaf on yourself so that some of the blame is deflected.)
Sunday, May 27, 2007
I'd never read Allende before, and was pleased to discover that this book interesting in form, style, and content. The novel follows several generations of the Trueba family, who live in an unnamed country in South America. There are three different types of narration:
-an omniscient third person, that details thoughts, habits, and actions of various family members
- a first person account by the family's patriarch, Esteban Trueba
- a mystery first person narrator whose identity is not revealed until late in the novel.
The various narrations occur in intermittent sections that had no pattern to them that I could see. Although the POV switches took a minute to get used to, they provide a richly complex picture of the Trueba family and of the political landscape of the unnamed country, which bears a certain resemblance to Chile (Isabel's uncle, Salvador Allende, was the first socialist president elected there). The book moves through capitalism, socialism, and fascism, representing advantages and disadvantages to each form of government, and Allende doesn't shy away from violence when it is necessary to the story.
I think Allende is truly a Fringey writer -- the political and the experimental come together organically in her work, and in this interview on her website, in which she explains that she likes being mainstream and considers herself a strong feminist!
Isabel Allende, The House of the Spirits: highly recommended summer reading!
Thursday, May 24, 2007
About six weeks ago I returned home from a long day of thesis work to find Stacey Richter's Twin Study in my mailbox. It was my very first review copy, and its receipt made me feel like I am a real publisher, a feeling I don't have often due to the surreality of printing work on the web. You can look for a review of Twin Study in a future issue of Fringe.
I am only four stories into the collection, and savoring every quirky phrase. But one phrase gave me pause, and it wasn't Richter's. Time's blurb on the back reads:
"Richter brings a wacky imagination to the gender wars...one of the more outlandishly imaginative minds in contemporary fiction."
Gender wars? It seems to me that Richter is capturing a certain reality of the world women live in, and I think that "gender wars" belittles her theme. It reminds me of one of the Guerilla Girls' action posters, Advantages of Being a Woman Artist, "Being reassured that whatever art you make it will be labeled feminine." But perhaps I'm being unfair. I'm sure Time has commended Cormac McCarthy and John Updike for contributing to the gender wars as well.
So far this is an excellent book, and those who haven't checked out Richter's website, where she hilariously fields questions from the peanuts, are missing out.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Well in my case, it's not so easy. This wedding has two brides, and I just wasn't sure how to work it. Does my sister get her own bachelorette party? After all, this is the one day where the bride can be a little bit naughty with the blessing of her future spouse, so wouldn't it ruin the mood for me to invite my sister's future spouse to her bachelorette? But then again, doesn't my future sister-in-law deserve to be a little naughty, too?
Since I was stumped, I went to the number one authority on gay weddings and commitment ceremonies, TwoBrides.com, and to the TwoBrides' sister site GayWeddings.com. I checked the Family and Friends area and even located an area where I could submit my own question.
Just a few hours after I hit send, I got an email from Kathryn Hamm, whose straight mom founded the TwoBrides and TwoGrooms sites in 2000 to provide "mother-approved shopping sites for same sex weddings." Kathryn sent me a long, enthusiastic message, but the moral of the story was this:
"Get a little crazy with both brides in tow!"
So that's what I'm going to do. I'll have to give you all the details later, since this is a big surprise for my sister (who reads this blog sometimes), but keep your eyes peeled for an update.
Today, I am thanking my lucky stars for sites like TwoBrides.com, TwoGrooms.com and GayWeddings.com. Without them, people planning gay and lesbian weddings would be forced to muddle through with hetero-centered wedding sites and planning ideas. Kathryn and Gretchen Hamm have made it their mission to "provid[e] resources to same-sex couples who seek to affirm their life-long partnerships." And their recent partnership with K.C. David's GayWeddings.com has added a focus on "informing gay and lesbian couples of the best ways to help protect their relationships."
That's my kind of place. If you have a question about something as silly as the bachelorette party or something as serious as how to participate in a gay wedding when you feel uncomfortable with the idea, these sites (and their passionate founders) can help.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Last night Fringe, Quick Fiction, Redivider, and Black Ocean held a reading in Boston at Grub Street. The reading, hosted by Redivider, was the second in a series of seasonal readings put on by the Boston-based journals and presses.
The reading's theme was "Spring Fever" and all four readers delivered. Elisa Gabbert went first, reading some fine love poetry on behalf of Redivider -- her "Poem to KR" was a particular favorite. Next came Sarah Sweeney (work forthcoming in the August Fringe), who read several poems about Carolina, including a hilarious quadruple sonnet about lotto tickets and peach schnapps. After a short break, Megan Bedford read her short short out of the new issue of Quick Fiction, followed up by a nonfiction piece on teenagers mating in spring. Peter Jay Shippy, whose work is forthcoming in the first issue of Black Ocean's new journal Handsome, closed out the evening with a particularly hilarious pastiche of poetry, CSI, Jackson Pollock, and country town-meeting.
Each reader was also forced to read a Shakespeare sonnet that had been Mad-libbed by the audience.
Beer, wine, soda, and those delightful marinated olives that Adam Pieroni of Quick Fiction makes were consumed, and we all went home sated with culture.
Stay tuned for the summer reading in July, hosted by Black Ocean!
Saturday, May 19, 2007
A conservative party member, Sarkozy defeated Socialist female Segolene Royal, who was blasted for her moralizing by french feminists according to this Free Republic article.
So why am I dubbing her male competitor feminist of the month? Sarkozy has risen above tokenism by choosing seven women to be among the members of his cabinet. For that alone he deserves the title.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
My take on this is that yes, American feminists often do have blinders on when it comes to international feminism, but also that engaging in international feminism is more ideologically complicated than it seems for two reasons:
1. Many non-American cultures feel (justly) threatened by globalization. Feminism is often equated with western/white culture. Therefore, adopting feminism can be perceived as abandoning one's own culture. Many women chose to cling to the old (and often misogynist) ways because it is more important to them to preserve their culture than to gain freedom.
2. Given the above situation, what is a western feminist to do? Let's say I want to free a community of women from the burka. Let's say that they do not want to be freed from the burka. I can either a) insult their intelligence (certainly not the goal of feminism) by telling them that they don't know what they're doing, or b) accept and validate their choice, which then doesn't effect any change.
I think there are ways around this seeming impasse:
- One way is to include men in the feminist movement. Check out Women for Women's awesome report on how they are involving men in feminist struggles. Including men in the discussion helps move along a feminist agenda the same way we did it in the west -- by explaining to men why it is to their advantage to educate and allow their women more freedom.
-Another way to get around this impasse is to try to separate misogyny from other aspects of a culture so that cultural concerns do not seem to be competing with feminist ones. In the Weekly Standard article, Sommers quotes Katha Politt:
"The word "terrorism" invokes images of furtive organizations. . . . But there is a different kind of terrorism, one that so pervades our culture that we have learned to live with it as though it were the natural order of things. Its target is females--of all ages, races, and classes. It is the common characteristic of rape, wife battery, incest, pornography, harassment. . . . I call it "sexual terrorism."
While this parallel is taken too far, I think Politt is attempting to get around the cultural-trumps-feminist dilemma by endeavoring to build up the sisterhood of women. Are there better ways to do this? Oh yes. But that's another blog
-Finally, we do have the option of calling it like we see it -- a culture that oppresses women is no kind of culture. But this seems to be a good way to alienate the folks we are hoping to convince. On the other hand, it may be that multi-perspective feminism has become too inclusive and in doing so has lost the will to aggressively act for change.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
As an American living abroad, I expect to become the effigy at times of all things evil. Bush has managed in the last six years to not only reduce the value of our dollar, but to create a stereotype of Americans that is deeply disturbing. And, to be honest, the anti-Americanism I’ve experienced thus far living in Scotland has not been too bad. They’re subtle things, like the gentleman that heard me speaking to a friend the other day and pointed, courteously enough, saying: “You—back home.” What I don’t expect is to see it in academia. Academia is supposed to be advanced. We’re supposed to be more aware, more socially conscious than the layman; more respectful of other cultures, especially if we are working in the humanities. (The very root of the word suggests cultural openness.) But what I’ve discovered here is the exact opposite. Race is suppressed, pushed to the margins and ignored.
“Is there really such a thing as a month for black people?” one Scottish lad asked me. He thought Philip Roth was taking creative liberties in The Human Stain. “Why are American’s always whining about race?” another one complained, as if all American’s were constantly lying on the couch moaning over their childhood. “Surely, colour is not the first thing someone uses to assess a person,” a nice girl from Essex commented. I have to admit, the knuckles were white and the face red when I listened to these people, whom to this point I had considered friends, rant about the inferiority of Americans. Though I had my say, including pointing out the fact that the only “people of colour” in Glasgow are either Indians or highlanders and so race is simply not an issue that anyone has to address, it was a sad reality that diversity is rather poor here. And as a consequence, any discussions on race are easily pushed to the side and trivialized as belly-aching. In the wake of the Don Imus comments, I have to give the US some props. Though it is a tension, though it is still atrociously an issue in our culture, at least, once in a while, we let it sneak out of the closet and address it. The fact that people reacted to Imus’ idiotic remarks is a positive sign in the wake of immigration changes and Big Brother’s constant hovering.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Not familiar with Eurovision? Oh-ho-ho...well. Each year, all members of the European Union have an opportunity to submit one song, sung by the group of their choosing, into the Eurovision challenge. The groups perform live and are voted on by country. Last night, Finland (last year's winner) hosted the contest from lovely Helsinki. Replete with a live Princess Barbie doll hostess who was more interested in being in the center of the camera than interviewing her guests, and a back-scratching voting system that rivals US Congress, I have to honestly say that this was one of the most entertaining events I have been privy to watch in a dog's age.
Some of the more amusing and original acts included:
...Ukraine's Boy-Scouts-in-tinfoil-by-way-of-Sun-Ra performance;
...the blatant advertising of British Airways by the UK (come on--dancing flight attendants?!? No, I don't want to come fly with you. Please, stop asking me.);
...Turkey's pop and belly dancers--watch out Justin Timberlake, Turkey's got your number;
...1980's Marilyn Manson clones from Sweden (which, frankly, I found very, very scary. I'm canceling my trip to Stockholm.);
...and, last but clearly not least, France's Scissor Sisters on crack. I'm still dizzy from watching the lead singer run round and round and round that stage like a gerbil.
It was all quite impressive, to say the least. Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing next year's presentation, live from Belgrade. With a good couple pints of Guiness and a bag of spicy chili crisps, I'll settle in for another evening of spine-tingling entertainment, watching as for one night, all of Europe puts their disagreements aside and unites in the name of bad music. Sorry America, maybe you can catch it on YouTube?
Saturday, May 12, 2007
For the last two years or so, I have been watching Xena: Warrior Princess with my fellow Fringe-editor Sarah. It all started for me when I had my first detached retina in August 2005. I was low on energy and had a dilated pupil for almost three weeks, so it felt good to watch the comforting first season in the dim light of my apartment. After that, I was hooked, scoring the remaining seasons off eBay.
When I learned that Sarah also loved Xena, it was a revelation. I am a geek for Xena, and it's rare to encounter others who share the mania. We love Xena for its strong women characters, positive portrayal of lesbians (there's a fun drinking game where you quaff for lesbian innuendo), and most of all for its feminist pastiche of myths and screwball plots. Did you know that Xena...
... invented CPR? And inspired Hippocrates to write the famous oath?
...tempted Lucifer from heaven?
...has returned from the dead three times?
...was besties with Cleopatra and Helen of Troy?
...was a Valkyrie? made Grendel and Grendel's mother?
...was responsible for David's victory over Goliath?
...helped an enfeebled Ulysses draw his bow?
...has three doppelgangers?
...can perform a field tracheotomy in about one minute?
The list goes on and on...
One year ago Monday, Sarah and I made it up to the very final double-episode of Xena -- A Friend in Need. But we couldn't bring ourselves to watch it. The thought of no-more-Xena was too terrible to bear. So we went back to the beginning and re-watched our favorite episodes from the series, and now we're up to the FINAL episode. On Tuesday, we're taking off work, steeling ourselves, and making a multi-course Asian style meal (reflecting the episode's Japanese setting) to celebrate. Since we have to part ways, we're sending Xena off with an Ay-yi-yi-yi!
Isn't it just common courtesy to offer your seat on public transportation to a pregnant woman who has just stepped on? I recently started taking the T to work again (for those of you who aren't from Boston, that's the subway), and boy did it make me angry when not one, but two pregnant women had to stand, attempt to hold on to the bar, juggle a briefcase, and try to protect their precious bellies from the jostling of the busy rush hour T traffic. I was standing, too, or I would have gladly given up my seat for them. But it amazes and disgusts me that so many commuters "pretend" not to notice (nose in a book, furiously texting on their PDA, or sitting with their eyes closed) when a pregnant woman gets on.
I swear I almost ripped a man's head off this morning when he didn't offer an obviously pregnant woman his spot. I gave him the evil eye and shook my head disdainfully at him, but he didn't seem to notice that, either.
Is this view anti-feminist? Some men would say so. Afterall, why should they give up their spot for a woman? Isn't it first come, first served on the T? I suppose that the woman doesn't have a right to the spot, and she should not be treated as ill or weak just because she's pregnant, but hell, why can't people be a little bit nicer? It isn't about being a woman in this case, its about being a person who is carrying a heavy load, whose feet might hurt, or who might be feeling nauseous or exhausted. I'd give up my seat for her.
Boston needs to tune in to Tokyo. I read on Feministing that last summer, Tokyo rail companies began handing out badges to pregnant women who take public transportation.
Pretty brilliant if you ask me. Sounds like a good way to shame all of those serial ignorers into paying attention and doing the right thing. And even without the badges, don't let me ever catch YOU reading or daydreaming so hard that you don't notice someone who is right in front of you, or your ass is grass.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Betty's a flight attendant who puts together a fabulous little podcast about flying the friendly skies. She's upbeat and frank, and great at capturing the strange, irresistible, sometimes gross details of the job (like the mysterious "water" that dripped on a couple of passengers for an entire flight. Only after they'd landed did the flight attendants realize that someone had put their two pet ferrets in the overhead bin.).
The background music is occasionally a tiny bit repetitive--but other than that, the show is well-made and entertaining, and it gives you that satisfying feeling of having just heard a good bit of gossip.
For those of you who like it analog, this new book by Kathleen Barry talks about the history of the profession from its ambiguous beginnings to the present. For more info on Femininity in Flight
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Some folks say we'll soon live in an online-only literary world, but we all know they are wrong. We need the dual forces of print and online. They're like Superwoman and Supergirl. Like Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. Like ketchup and mustard, whiskey and ginger ale, peas and honey.
I need both the leisurely, tactile pleasure of print journals and the quick fix of online journals that can deliver a hot new poem any time I want one. And I don't think I'm alone on this one.
So what's a gal or guy to do? Well, first, you might scrape together your spare change and renew a print journal subscription or two. Who knows--your puny little subscription could be the difference between life and death for a journal. Or you might sit down on your lunch break and write a letter. Perhaps if the P.O. got a bit more business, it would be less tempted to sell its soul to corporate America. And most importantly, sign on to the petition at Free Press, and let our friends at the P.O. know how you feel. The window for public comment was ridiculously small, but maybe it's not too late to raise a ruckus.
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
For about five months, I would go to the site and attempt to get a subscription, and every time I was too late. Even so, I loved the Sampler in theory. Finally, last fall, I hovered over my keyboard the minute subscriptions went on sale, and I got myself one. Every month for the past three months, a package of surprises--some great and some so-so--has arrived in my mailbox. Hooray! The good things have included: fabulous fabric swatches from Repro Depot; vintage button earrings from tomate d'epingles (I wear em all the time!); random new music. Not so hot: a preponderance of one-inch buttons. I mean, how many of those can one girl use (unless they're Fringe pins, of course!)? But overall, I love the Sampler.
The best way to get one, I think, is to barter. Get crafty and send them some samples (check their submission guidelines first!). It's like trading friendship bracelets in grade school, except the stuff you can make now is probably a lot hotter, and you get to trade with all kinds of folks. You get a one-month subscription when you send in a certain amount of stuff, and it's good incentive to pull out the sequins/ribbon/wood scraps/whatever.
I’ve been flying long enough to see the changes in security measures. I didn’t take of my shoes seven years ago – now I do. I used to always carry my own water bottle – no more. And I certainly always carried my $10 facial lotion, and that’s what caused me trouble this time.
“Too big,” the security agent told me of my 4 oz. bottle. “That’s a liquid?” I replied. Of course it is. She added I could go back out to the ticketing line and check my bag, then go back through the security line. I admit, I was a little angry. Okay, I threw a fit, and told her to just throw it out, and thanked her for making all the passengers on my plane more secure by getting rid of the offensive stuff.
I realize people go through this every day, and many have already made adjustments – they always check bags, risking luggage loss rather than deal with the rules, or they don’t bring any toiletries and buy them upon arrival. Many people feel the hoop jumping is justified if it makes us safer. But it’s the implicit accusation that I’m doing something wrong that annoys me. I’ve brought this lotion aboard many planes, and suddenly I’m plotting a bomb attack with it? At the airport, we’re all guilty until we successfully make it to the gate.
Maybe if the new security measures actually worked, I’d feel better about it. But since my boyfriend got through with the box-cutter he’d accidentally carried with him from work, I have a hard time believing any of the new measures are more than bureaucratic nonsense. We are still at the mercy of those who wish us harm, and airport security is practically helpless. The sooner we accept that and find other ways to change our world, the better.
Monday, May 7, 2007
I like violence in movies. Specifically, I like cartoonishly bloody violence perpetrated by attractive women with good reasons.
The Japanese movie Lady Snowblood (1973) meets all these criteria. The title character, who also goes by Yuki, is born to a woman in prison. As we later find out, four criminals brutally murdered the rest of Yuki's family -- her mother's husband and her brother. In prison, Yuki's mother aggressively slept with prison guards to beget a child who could carry out revenge.
Yuki spends her early years learning to fight, in a training sequence so kick-ass that I won't describe it here. Later, she mild-manneredly hunts down the criminals in her pretty kimono, with her sword hidden inside a parasol.
Folks in the US may know this movie as a source for Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, but it deserves a bloody vengeful screening of its own.
Thursday, May 3, 2007
The other explanations they have ruled out include use of oral contraceptives, personality, strength of relationships, and how often they had sex.
According to the study, which appeared in Archives of Sexual Behavior, women who had sex with condoms scored lower on the Beck Depression Inventory than those who didn't. "The team also found that depressive symptoms and suicide attempts were more common among women who used condoms regularly compared with those who didn't."
The claim is that semen contains mood-altering hormones, including testosterone, estrogen, follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinising hormone, prolactin and several different prostaglandins, which are absorbed through the vagina.
In my humble opinion, those other explanations the team has "ruled out" have a lot more to do with overall happiness than how much semen in being absorbed.
Not to mention the fact that they didn't consider homosexual sex of any kind in the study.
This study sounds like just another attempt to have women believing that they owe everything -- even their happiness -- to men.
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Disclosure: I was raised by the technologically averse. Mom and Dad didn’t get an answering machine until I went to college in ’96, which is when I got my first computer. Cable wasn’t even available at my parents’ house until after 2000. The blogosphere? What?
I can’t help but share some of the aversion – I’m afraid to chat online, because I don’t like the idea of conversing with strangers I can’t see or hear. In a blog post, your words are naked, and your naked words are your intellect on display. No hand motions to get your meaning across, no inflections. Naked. In front of the world. AND people can make comments to your “face.”
Can you blame me for being nervous?
Despite this, blogging intrigues me because of its dependence on the written word. Although methods of communication change, written words remain central to the way we express ourselves. The blog allows us not only to express, but to connect our words with others, to link to each other in a virtually tangible way – the words are like webs themselves. The addition of music, pictures, and video to our lines is like modern illumination. Genius, really.
As a writer and editor, my highest aspiration is to add to the long, sacred tradition of written art, no matter the medium. I hope to contribute to that tradition with my blogs, and to encourage other first-timers to get started - the blogosphere is wide open territory, and we should all grab a piece.
Whew – I made it. That wasn’t so bad. I’ll work on linking next time.