Posts in Essays and Reviews
Centering the Black Woman

A common refrain in current activism is “Listen to Black Women”. When the latest traumatic news cycle starts, a chorus of commentators and thinkers invariably chime in, trying to either explain or deny or commodify the moment we find ourselves in. A pervasive response? Listen to black women. This moment is a deep and long overdue reckoning that will take years to unfold - it has of course been building for hundreds of years and is so nuanced so as to require a continual deep engagement etc. But for guidance - what do we listen to? And how?

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Hieroglyphics 3rd Eye Vision Review

Hieroglyphics is an Oakland based hip-hop collective that has always thrive to dismantle music by tackling the social consciousness through their scrupulous wordplay. With their extensive knowledge of hip-hop, Hieroglyphics focused more on the lyrical flow rather than the gangster life and always positioned themselves as the alternative to the mainstream and this is best exemplified with their first studio album, 3rd Eye Vision.

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Finding Modernism in Venice

Canals filled with turquoise water instead of streets bustling with cars and bicycles come to mind when I think of Venice. Joseph Brodsky’s essay Watermark (1993) resonates deeply with the visitor, as does a watery dream conjured by Robert Altman: I was immediately reminded of his film, 3 Women (1977) upon arrival. Brodsky only visited Venice in December for he longed to celebrate the beginning of a new year with “a wave hitting the shore at midnight.” He explained “that, to me, is time coming out of water.”  Brodsky also described the city as being “part damp oxygen, part coffee and prayers” and he described the canal-side structures as “upright lace.” Brodsky, born in Leningrad, was exiled from his homeland due to his “having a worldview damaging to the state, decadence and modernism, failure to finish school, and social parasitism . . . except for the writing of awful poems” (Brodsky went on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1987). He thought of Venice as the closest incarnation of Eden and “the greatest masterpiece our species produced.”

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Nathaniel Kahn’s “The Price of Everything” speaks all too conventionally about art and money

There are many possible ways to make a documentary about art and money. One tack might be to focus on the question of art’s value. Where does this value lie? Is art more valuable than a house? Than liberty? A human life? These are interesting questions, but unfortunately, Nathaniel Kahn’s new documentary, The Price of Everything, barely touches on them. Another approach might be to cast a broader net, and discuss blue chip art as one of many models artists have of making money off their work: regional artists selling to a local market, performance artists living off commission, workaday artists making souvenirs for tourists. These lives are interesting too, but Kahn’s documentary makes no mention of them. One could even make a comparative study of the few activities that receive market attention versus the many that have been practiced and continue to be practiced with no relation to markets at all: hobbies, cave paintings, ritual objects, outsider and underground art, decorative doodles in the margins of notebooks. This would be a fascinating typology, but unfortunately, Kahn’s documentary does not attempt it.

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A Woman’s Life: Sally Field’s In Pieces

Sally Field is a terrific writer, and I can’t say that I’m completely surprised: She’s been giving stunning, emotionally complex performances for nearly fifty years. Released this past September by Grand Central Publishing, In Pieces is a lengthy read — nearly 400 pages — but I could not put it down until I was finished. I loved this book. Field worked on it for seven years and it shows; this is no run-of-the-mill celebrity memoir. It is the story of an emotionally complex woman’s life, warts and all.

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10 Women Who Changed Science Fiction

A well-known maxim that has been said for many generations now says that knowledge is power, and one of the ways to gain knowledge is to spend time reading books. The more books read the more knowledge one acquires. Reading is fantastic. It takes you to different dimensions. Reading builds and shapes the mind. It exposes you to worlds that you can create and to be a better writer, reading is highly necessary. Writing alone is not just an activity, it is an art and a lifestyle. You may start from being just a good essay writer or writing short poems or stories, but the art and passion for it will drive you towards exploring your creativity and imaginations beyond every limitation. These imaginations are known to be the wild and free centre of our brain, and once they are let to explore and break free from every boundary, the unique ideas manifested from within are always true gifts to the world. Writers are known to leave lasting impact and legacies in the world just by their thoughts penned down on paper. With the power of imagination, several women in time pasts have broken the norm and excelled in history as phenomenal science fiction writers.

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The Magic is Still Potent: Whitten’s Retrospective

When I first entered this exhibit, I knew only bits and pieces of Whitten’s work - namely, his use of a “developer”, a handmade canvas-sized squeegee contraption that allowed him to make a painting in a manner of seconds. His developer paintings were on display, as were his homages, and sculpture from throughout his career.

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The Perfect Friday Night in New York: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ nearly-packed show at Barclays Center on Friday, October 26th was electric. It was deafeningly loud and Nick was on fire, as per usual. It was more of an experience than anything else: I gritted my teeth and applauded until my hands tingled. Tall and thin with jet black hair and dressed in a fitted black suit, resembling a debonair villain of the Old West, Cave looks like an icon. Barclays is huge: It seats 19,000, and except for the rafter seats, the venue looked mostly full. These kinds of arena shows are new for Nick Cave in North America; at age 61, his fame and his audience keep growing. There are no gimmicky stage antics, just pure heart and emotion, running the gambit from sweetness to terror. The band played mostly hard rock, but Nick also sang some piano ballads like “The Ship Song” and “Into my Arms.” The emotion of the latter was breathtaking; Nick’s striking blue eyes tearing up as he sang. I was engaged on every level, even though I was seated some distance from the stage: There were two huge screens with exquisite black and white clarity so that even those sitting in the rafter seats were connected on an intimate level.

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THINKING THE UNTHINKABLE WITH AMITAV GHOSH: A Review of Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement: Climate Change and The Unthinkable

In The Great Derangement: Climate Change and The Unthinkable Amitav Ghosh sets out to comprehend our collective failure to deal with climate change. A surpassingly urgent question if the climate-stable Holocene that has cradled our civilized existence is truly at an end - and a turbulent human-driven geologic epoch, the Anthropocene, is now at hand.  Ghosh takes as given that this newly proposed epoch is settled science, and while it remains contested, its markers are already real enough. They include radioactive debris and other forms of human pollution, species invasion and mass extinction, shifting weather patterns and accelerating planetary warming at a rate unlike anything observed in the previous 12,000-year geologic interval.  We would add to this list the human elements that are the stuff of today’s headlines: climate refugees disrupting the world’s political orders, sparing no nation, including the USA, as caravans of the dispossessed head north.

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Towards a historical materialist theatre: Aimé Césaire’s Dramatic Works and the Representation of History

Theater in the English speaking world is not doing well. Our dramas are suffused with hock-Freudian placidity and overwhelmingly proud of their lack of any desire to look beyond the scope of a single family or relationship between individuals. Our comedies are not funny and rarely comical in their lack of humour, while our fantasies (musical or otherwise) are limited to a slightly more functional update of the world as it stands, unsurprising given how many of them function as adaptations of Disney films that functioned, even when originally released, as soporifics. If you are looking for visions of a future world better than this one, stay as far as you can from the theaters of Broadway or the West End.

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A Star Is Born: A Showcase of True Stardom

I have been counting down the days to the opening of A Star is Born, teased by the alluring trailer which so well paints the image of an enticing music-meets-love story. With the trailer flashing scenes of the talented dreamboat Bradley Cooper, fashioned like the dingy, drunken country star I always found secretly charming, and the iconic Lady Gaga flawlessly belting the earworm ‘Shallow’, I knew that this was going to be the movie to look out for. I hyped myself up for a love story full of song and fun; when I hit the theater the weekend A Star Is Born opened, I had no idea that I was headed for a nearly perfect storytelling of love, passion, sacrifice, and disease.

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The Omega Principle, Seafood and the Quest for a Long Life and a Healthier Planet - Review

Paul Greenberg, a New York City writer and journalist, who has written books about fish before, takes the reader on a journey around much of the world to explore the health benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in The Omega Principle. Greenberg focuses on the subject of Omega-3 Fatty Acids and sees where it takes him. Onto many subjects and places in this trip to validate the enthusiasm the compound brings. Omega-3 Fatty Acids, found in fish but also in some nuts, is trumpeted as a medical remedy and cure helping our hearts and our minds. The enthusiasm over the find rivals that of other miracle drugs, but there are those who doubt whether it is a valid medicine. There are many though who swear by it, and Greenberg follows its use even into ancient times. He is a convert here, and fish consumer and promoter, but also an inquiring mind with great prose and refreshing use of phrases and language. Eating Omega-3 Fatty Acids maybe can be a bit of a cure all for some of our present environmental and public health catastrophe, but fish are also on the decline. A Mediterranean Diet with more fish is recommended by Greenberg who sees it also as a remedy for some of the ails of middle age. 

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A City on a Lake, Urban Political Ecology and The Growth of Mexico City - Review

A City on a Lake by UC San Diego History Professor Matthew Vitz tells a pained and difficult history of Mexico City. The book uses academic language and vocabulary, and references many places, things and actors from Mexico, resulting in very thoughtful treatment. The book is a history, presenting a story of the city that we can learn from. It also shows the movements and actions of the past that are still part of the cities political environment. The book recounts mostly an pre World War II history attempting to explore “Urban Political Ecology and The Growth of Mexico City.” Vitz is argument that we can learn from the past presented here.

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Allowing for Context: A Constitution in Dialogue with the Present

Last Sunday evening at New York Theater Workshop, Heidi Schreck, playwright of What the Constitution Means to Me, walked on stage and the house lights dimmed imperceptibly. The confirmation hearing of, now, Justice Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court had taken place only one day prior. But Schreck doesn’t make us forget the outside; in fact, she keeps that door open and thanks us for being there during this time. This play only grows when the context of our reality bleeds into the room, it feeds on the here and now, unflinching from one of the more dire truths we find ourselves facing: the US Constitution is in need of attention and we must decide if we are to stand by it, or to cast it aside.

Photo by: Joan Marcus

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Seeking My Revolutionary Generation

Where are you? Who are you? Which path did you take when you left us here alone? Why did the grass look greener? How could you run when we needed you? These and many more questions are asked by those who stayed the course. Just because you got a job and started to grow up and accept the establishment's values of what life should be didn't mean you had to abandon the moral fiber of who you once were. Assimilation into a society that put blinders on your eyes, denying the movement as though you were never apart of it, surely doesn't let your spirit rest when you remember the cause that you so fervently loved. There was a time when words were louder than actions and peace was our banner that moved like fire across a country. Who fooled you? Who coerced you into thinking you were wrong and they were right? These are questions that I am seeking as I look for the revolutionary generation that still burns in my inner being.

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The Sixth Borough

If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere. And I almost made it in New York. The grand irony being that when I was finally strong enough to live in the city, I decided to leave it. The first half of my thirties were spent annulling the many mistakes of my twenties: the unavailable men, a daily struggle with bulimia, that phase in the fetish scene. By the time 33 rolled around (the exact age in which Jesus had died for our sins, according to my Catholic upbringing), I had learned to keep my meals down and my head up.

 

15 years in the Big Apple had afforded me a wild ride, but I was in danger of becoming rotten all the way through. Despite the perks of living a semi-glamorous life in Manhattan—being a wellness guru to celebrities and scions while living in a centrally located shoebox—40 was a threat, not a promise. I had become so good at distinguishing the married women from their lonely single counterparts on the subway, before ever looking at their fingers, only their faces, whether their eyes possessed a certain softness or not, that I avoided my own reflection in those train windows. I didn’t need to be married, but I was sick of being single.

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A Word on Language Prejudice: A Review of Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue”

If you’ve read any of my other reviews (or any of my work at all, really), you’re probably familiar with my mother: the stunning, savvy, Israeli cosmetologist, whose brilliance surpasses that of her art. Her wisdom is so apparent, her intelligence so easily gleaned through her speech -- the difficulty being that most Americans have a tough time understanding her.

 

My mother’s way of speaking is familiar to me. Her heavy Middle Eastern accent and “incorrect” grammar are components of my second language: I understand her English as easily as I understand that of a native speaker. However, I also recognize the effect that her idiosyncratic English has had on her experience in America -- the prejudice she faces in everyday encounters; the stigma surrounding her foreign speech she’s learned to internalize; the “evidence” she receives that her English is inherently lesser, because she doesn’t speak a standard English. That’s something called language prejudice, and it’s a force that’s ever-present and ever-pervasive in her life.

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