Monday, April 15, 2013

Playing in the Dark, Fading to Black

James Franco is a scholar.  A poet-philosopher-celebrity-king.  

His California-bred, positive, artisan ethic stands out in Hollywood like a skyscraper.

He told Howard Stern in March 2013 that his character Alien in Harmony Korine's box-office hit Spring Breakers may be his best character yet.


Alien represents alienation, for Korine.  He is the white boy who alienates himself by rejecting everything he knows.  Whiteness is not good enough for him.  He is a gangsta James Dean.

Both Dean and Alien are a challenge to society.  


Dean is still challenging because he unconsciously invites sexual attention from everyone.  His laissez-faire unspoken homosexuality is the secret to our obsession with him.  His downcast eyes and defeatism are his trademark, and they show society's scorn for him.

Alien is the opposite kind of challenge.  For him, life = sex = money = war.  It's him against the world.

He seduces teenage girls with promises of money and lures them into a world of fast money, a "rap world."

Gucci Mane plays the archvillain Big Arch, who already holds the turf newly claimed by Alien, whose followers are like Manson followers: beautiful, young, promiscuous and violent.

Big Arch's thugs kill Alien, and then Alien's young women kill Big Arch and his thugs.

Harmony Korine is playing in the dark.


"Through the simple expedient of demonizing and reifying the range of color on a palette, American Africanism makes it possible to say and not say, to inscribe and erase, to escape and engage, to act out and act on, to historicize and render timeless.  It provides a way of contemplating chaos and civilization, desire and fear, and a mechanism for testing the problems and blessings of freedom."

- Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark (7)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Texan Kids Have African Kickstarter Adventure

I have done a lot of research on the Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe.  I quickly learned that when I google his name another thing comes up, without fail, first: the Mokele-Mbembe, also from Cameroon.

Artist's interpretation
Yes, for some strange reason, the beast has refused thus far to submit itself to camera equipment.  It's an African Loch Ness Monster.

Countless basic cable channels have done specials on it.  One of my former college professors served as a scientist expert to the Discovery channel for an expose on the monster, which did not yield any sightings.

And, also for a strange reason, some young men from Texas raised, through Kickstarter, almost $30,000 cash in order to find the monster:

One person gave them more than $10,000.  

Here's a nice excerpt from their winning pitch: 

Along with my colleagues (who also have a love for Zoology) I'll be launching one of the first expeditions in this century with the goal of categorizing plant and animal species in the vastly unexplored Republic of the Congo. Our hope is to discover a wide variety of new species along the way.

It's worth noting that the language they use remains unchanged from the language used by the Belgians, and their King, who initially declared the Congo "theirs" (and became the very first Europeans, through some of the most idiotic governance ideas, to lose their territory to an independence movement on the Continent).

We're going to discover species!  It'll be an adventure!

Just look how young and spry they are!

Well, it turns out that they forgot a key element of Africa: people live there too.

Also, Africa is not governed by Mokele-Mbembe and a high council of Zebras, Rhinos and Lions.  

You need to establish relationships with people before you travel anywhere with tens of thousands of dollars' worth of film equipment that you just bought.

In a nutshell, their expensive equipment got stolen as soon as they got to Congo, and they had to call it off.

Do their investors want their money back?

I'm looking forward to seeing what they do next!

I feel like sometimes God makes jokes, and maybe there's a message here somewhere.  What do you think it is?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Your handkerchief
at noon in my laundry
makes me feel loved.


"We make ourselves a place apart
  Behind light words that tease and flout
But oh, the agitated heart
  Till someone finds us really out.

Tis pity if the case require
  (or so we say) that in the end
We speak the literal to inspire
  The understanding of a friend.

But so with all, for babes that play
  At hide + seek to God afar
So all who hide too well away
  Must speak and tell us where they are."

Letter to The Editor, Coming Up! March 1986

"I feel such sadness on reading Debbie Mikuteit's response to Randy Turoff's article on transgenderism.  It's clear that Mikuteit is too outraged to hear me, but maybe someone else will.  And her thinking is deep enough to deserve a response.

I am a lesbian psychotherapist who has had the privilege of speaking at length with some transsexuals in both personal and professional contexts.  Some seemed deeply disturbed to me and some did not.  Some seemed like kind, conscientious, trustworthy people and some did not.  What moved me was the profundity of the experience which can make a person take such a radical step.  The people I spoke with were typically no older than three or four years when they had the experience of "I am in the wrong kind of body."  The descriptions they give of these experiences have a unique tone to them: they seem to reflect more than the experience of conflict that any alert child must feel (especially girls) when facing the huge oppression of gender-prescriptive roles.  To the careful ear, they seem possibly to be speaking of an actual somatic experience that is preverbal and deeply, heartbreakingly, difficult to come to terms with.

I know a human being who was born with a penis, who at age 12 began to grow breasts.  This seemed to them to be a confirmation of the childhood conviction that they were, in fact, female.  For years this person wore bulky shirts--pockets on each side filled with pencils--so that the family doctor wouldn't notice again, wouldn't carry out the threatened surgery on the cherished breasts.  I know someone else who went to college--an absolutely unheard-of step in their family--because they figured that would be the only way to afford a transgender operation.    I know someone who was born with ambiguous (malformed) sex organs.  The parents decided on the gender their child should be and set about raising it that way; plastic surgery followed later; later still, in adulthood, this person went through months of agony to admit to themself that deep inside, they found the parents' decision wrong.

These people and others like them faced an isolation that was unremitting in childhood and adolescence.  Their courage to keep living, face the unthinkable, and find a path for themselves deserves validation.

The mysteries of chromosomes, hormones and genetics vs. conditioning is not simple or fully understood.  Is there any force besides patriarchal conditioning that may account for a person turning to transgender surgery?  For example, the hormonal differences that distinguish a male from a female fetus are detectable six weeks after conception.  What if the balance is upset while the child is in the womb?

If self-hatred and patriarchal conditioning were the only source of transgender motivation, surely the stories of transsexuals would show a monotonous, pathetic sameness and shallowness.  They do not.  I doubt the simple sickness-and-perversion theory of transgenderism for the same reason I don't accept it as a theory of homosexuality: it just doesn't fit.

Everything in our patriarchal situation enforces the idea, "There's only two kinds of people, male and female, and that's that."  The people who don't fit into those categories have been invisible and unnameable, like lesbians.  They are unique.  They have something to tell us.  Maybe at times (as in Turoff's article?) their case is presented as simpler than it really is.  Maybe concepts like "self-definition" make it sound too easy.  But if we listen, maybe some doors will open in our minds.  If we follow Mikuteit's advice--slap them in the face and tell them they're sick--then the doors slam shut and we all lose something precious."

Hang loose, go deep

Blessed art thou, source of all healing, wisdom + guidance.  I thank you for the mysterious lessons you send.  I trust they are for my highest good.  Please may I feel your presence, close-Sister in spirit, be here with me.