Posts in Literature
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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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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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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Pontchartrain Park - How a new subdivision built in New Orleans in the mid 1950’s during the height of segregation brought momentous changes to the life of a black family

In 1955, during this era of segregation, a subdivision for middle class and affluent African Americans was built in New Orleans. It was the only one of its kind built in the city and one of the first in the nation.

This subdivision, Pontchartrain Park, consisted of a horse shaped 83 acre golf course and Park surrounded by modern single family ranch style homes. The impact on this development gave blacks the realization that they too could also have a place in the sun.

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Erotic Masters: A Photographic Exploration of the Provocative Works of Rodin, Schiele and Picasso

What is the difference between erotic art and pornography; and why is it that the change of medium changes perspective?


These are questions Los Angeles based photographer Rowan Metzner is presenting in her latest photography book collection, Erotic Masters:A Photographic Exploration of the Provocative Works of Rodin, Schiele and Picasso, a collection of photographic representations of erotic works by modern masters Rodin, Schiele and Picasso. Each scene is photographed as if the original artists had done so themselves, inviting the viewer to contemplate the ultimate question: is photographed erotic art viewed as pornography?

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Just Like That By Barbara Henning Review

Barbara Henning’s new novel Just Like That charts with profound depth and sophistication the course of an interracial love affair, that of a white Bohemian poet and college instructor, Sara, who is the narrator of the tale, and a black Afro-centric acupuncturist, Jabari, who complicates the mix by having a young son, product of a brief relationship with a woman from whom he is now estranged. But that’s hardly the only complication. They both have older children, who tend to interfere; have weathered marriages or long-term partnerships, which shape their present apprehensions; had difficult childhoods and are undergoing health problems.

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Adrian Piper has done it all - what now?

“Adrian Piper: A Synthesis of Intuitions, 1965-2016,” which was first shown at the Museum of Modern Art from March-July 2018, is an expansive and exhaustive retrospective of the artist and philosopher’s prolific body of work. Piper, who now lives in Berlin, was the first tenured African American woman professor in philosophy, and an intense attention to detail and masterful analysis is reflected in her work. The exhibition is mounted chronologically, and as such, you see Piper interrogate a variety of subjects over the course of her life: psychedelia and minimalism, time and space, meditations on philosophy, race, gender and abject embodiment, of social perceptions, of the death of both systems and people. Equally impressive is Piper’s command of media. Her works range from drawings and paintings, to sculpture, to photographs and essays, to performance. What unites her vast and masterful body of work is her attention to detail and a rigorous approach to the concepts she interrogates - and best of all, she has a sense of humor.

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Review: Conjugating Hindi

Conjugating Hindi, Ishmael Reed’s latest novel, is an unapologetically bold satire that tells the story of Boa, a teacher at Woodrow Wilson College in California. In the 2017 of the novel the politics are such that Blacks have been driven out of Oakland and Berkley except for those who “belonged to a class of Black professionals”. It is a setup that leads us to the narrative foundation of the novel: a series of debates that asks “Was Slavery All That Bad?” organised by the Columbia Speakers Bureau.

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How I Came to Bodysex

The woman to my left could not stop coming. She exclaimed something like Oh, God! in Spanish under heavy breath: her Ruby-Woo-painted lips pursed and perfect and quivering with pleasure. This is typical of one of Betty Dodson’s Bodysex workshops. I was in attendance one weekend in mid-July of this year for my first workshop. Betty is a sexologist, visual artist, author of books such as Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving and Orgasms for Two: The Joy of Partnersex and the mother of Bodysex. The meeting is a group of women, all nude, in a circle, who are willing to share their thoughts about their bodies and their orgasms. Over the course of two afternoons we participated in three important Bodysex rituals: Genital Show and Tell, Erotic Recess and Group Massage. The main goals of the workshop are to overcome body shame and pleasure anxiety. I found out about Bodysex through Dodson and Ross’s online video series on YouTube. All of the videos are informative and hilarious. Whenever I watch them I feel like I am in a room chatting with my girlfriends. I wanted to attend the workshop because I was scared as well as completely fascinated by it at the same time. I knew that I would be taking an emotional risk and I couldn’t wait.

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Painting Beyond Black and White: Vincent Valdez’s The City (Review and Q&A)

Vincent Valdez’s recently debuted painting The City I is tucked away on the second floor of the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin, perhaps to shield certain visitors from its controversial nature, but also to make a metaphoric point: racism doesn’t need to be front and center for it to be alive and well. In the case of Valdez’s artwork, a large format four-panel painting depicting 14 fully garbed Klansmen—including a baby cradled in the arms of its hooded mother—his piece dominates the space in a semi-hidden room, away from the main art exhibit taking place on the ground floor. If you’re willing to turn a few corners, you will be met with the defiant stares of larger-than-life hatred glaring back at you, which could also be said for our country’s ever-present racial tension and discord. On the one-year anniversary of Charlottesville’s Unite the Right rally, how far have we come as a democracy, a nation of immigrants, a post-slavery society, and where exactly are we going, especially if we choose not to admit that there is an enemy among us, and possibly within us? 

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Thinking Its Presence: Form, Race, and Subjectivity in Contemporary Asian American Poetry by Dorothy Wang

Every now and then, an Asian-American student asks me, “Should I write about race? It’s important to me and I want to, but I’m afraid I’ll be pigeonholed.”

I always think it through on the spot, to make sure I still agree with myself. Among my answers: “Poetry is such an obscure genre, it’s not worth doing anything but what means the most to you.” Or: “Robert Frost said a poem begins as a lump in the throat. Without that, your poems will lack urgency, so write about what’s eating at you.” Or: “Look at what’s happening politically, all over the Western world. Open racism is back. Your story needs to be told.”

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On Some of my Favorite Photographers

Since having written this in graduate school several years ago, I have been lucky enough to see some quite extraordinary photography exhibitions in my new home, New York City. I went to see the Speed of Life retrospective honoring Peter Hujar’s work at the Morgan Library and Museum recently along with William Eggleston’s Los Alamos series at the Met. Before that I was amazed by Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photographs of India at the Rubin Museum. I have also been incredibly impressed by Emma Elizabeth Tillman’s work and, most notably, her recently published collection of photographs entitled Disco Ball Soul. All of these photographers have inspired me to take a look back at this piece I wrote where I discuss some of the artists who made an impact on me as a college student.

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Long-awaited Nas album, Nasir, falters under great expectations.

After a six-year hiatus, the much-anticipated release of Nas’s album, Nasir, left fans and critics with mixed reactions. The album arrived as part of the “Wyoming Sessions,” a series of albums executively produced by Kanye West as part of a grand experiment of rapid-fire studio production. The other albums include Pusha T’s Daytona, West’s collaboration with Kid Cudi eponymously entitled Kids See Ghosts, Teyana Taylor’s K.T.S.E. (Keep That Same Energy), and West’s own album, Ye. Each album is limited to seven tracks, and West has hinted at a loose thematic relationship to the seven deadly sins.

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“David Grossman’s A Horse Walks Into A Bar: a Stand-Up Transcription of Humanity”

Most of us have experienced that nauseating awkwardness - the physically agonizing discomfort - of sitting through a comedy show that’s just not going right. That shifting in the seat when a joke falls flat. That cacophonous cough when a pun doesn’t receive the laughing track that was anticipated. Nobody characterizes that experience better than David Grossman in his most recent novel, A Horse Walks Into A Bar. Translated from Hebrew, this novel recounts the sometimes-magical-sometimes-excruciatingly-unsuccessful final standup of Dov Greenstein, an Israeli comic at a dive bar in Netanya, north of Tel Aviv. Over the course of his two-hour act, sprinkled with Holocaust jokes and ‘humorous’ stabs at the audience, Dov relates the battered tale of his life — what’s led him to his disturbed state, as a comedian today.

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Take to the Stage: A Review of the Ridgewood Coffee Company Open Mic

I remember, vividly, my first performance at the Ridgewood Coffee Company Open Mic. A summer evening, about six or seven years ago. I remember pacing outside, along the faded, orange brick of the cafe’s exterior; fingers tingling with the nerves of a performer on deck; replaying the track of Billy Gillman’s “Oklahoma” I was prepping myself to cover. The music from my IPhone mingled in the air with the humming and guitar-strumming from musicians around me, sounds native to a coffee shop like this: pulsating with artistic energy.

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Review of, Welcome Distractions: Accessible Poems for Time-Strapped Humans (Autonomedia, 2018)

Let's be perfectly clear. Carol Wierzbicki's Welcome Distractions: Accessible Poems for Time-Strapped Humans is a terrific book of poems of/for our time. A book, dare I say it, of terrific female-take poems of and for our time, that will last, that should be required reading for all. And fun. And you will gasp: Yes! she nailed it.

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