Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Marriage Day

Gay marriage has never been a top priority to me. In addition to the fact that I'm perpetually single, I also happen to believe that the LGBT community should be working to assure that men and women are treated equally under the law regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, or perceived gender identity. Marriage could then follow logically, but never seemed to me a necessary first step. But today, I must admit, I'm very proud to be queer in California and to feel that for the first time, the State Supreme Court declared me equal under the law and realized that this was an issue of equal protection and nothing less. That is a beautiful thing.

Even more beautiful are the lives that changed today. I've been reading stories and looking at pictures and I can't help but cry to see all of the gay and lesbian couples, with their parents and siblings and children watching, who have cemented their relationships with the full sanction of the state today. The images in the LA Times and the San Francisco Chronicle are truly inspiring.

I must say, I wish I saw more women in tuxes, or any men in dresses. At least in these two major media outlets, the images are mostly of good looking matched couples in suits or white wedding dresses. I do love these guys' outfits. The relatively palatable imagery is a deliberate campaign to avoid providing fodder for the hatred of the other side, as reported here in the LA Times. Of course, this just makes the conventional imagery even more odious to me. I'd much rather see people also getting married in plaid jackets or punk rock gear or leather and drag queens in bridal gown glory and everything else that makes the queer community beautiful and diverse and distinct. In the months between now and November (and hopefully long after) I hope people will get the chance to have all the beautiful, outrageous, queer weddings that they want. And for now, matching suits or bridal gowns are pretty beautiful, too.

Oh, and in closing, one of the many things that made me cry today was this lovely blog post by (heterosexual) sci-fi writer John Scalzi, who happens to share his anniversary with this historic day. This is truly how to be a friend and ally.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Time to Play

Finding myself with some free time for the first time in a very long time, I'm feeling a strange compulsion to play games. Now, I am by no stretch of the imagination a gamer. I don't play many video games (although I do have a Nintendo DS), computer games, or board games, but many of my closest friends do all of these things. I have friends who are huge fans of Settlers of Catan. When Bioshock and Portal came out, I heard everything about them even though I've never played either. I even have friends who play a regular D&D game, but I'm not one of them. I've lost many friends to World of Warcraft. I'm a big fan of Apples to Apples at parties, but in general I am at best a casual gamer who will occasionally play a game of Babble or other solitary games.

However, gaming has come up in my life a lot recently. Not just because my brilliant best friend studies and designs games, although that doesn't hurt. He'll be running around New York as part of the Come Out and Play festival this weekend. I also, completely randomly, found myself playing dice with friends outside of a coffeehouse yesterday.

Finding myself craving some gaming recently, I downloaded the new Penny Arcade game, On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode One. I found the whole thing highly amusing, though overpriced for its length. The situations are hilarious and I found the aesthetic entertaining. The turn-based action was a bit annoying, but overall the game itself was fun and made me laugh. I enjoyed it quite a bit, except that it was over too quickly. I will probably play the next episode, but I hope it's cheaper.

I've said for a year and a half that once I finished my dissertation I could get a Wii, and now that I've filed, I'm hoping that my parents will give it to me as a graduation gift, but considering that there still aren't any on store shelves, I'm not particularly optimistic that my parents will come through.

In other gaming news, I watched Jane McGonigal's talk, "Saving the World Through Game Design" from the 2008 New Yorker Conference on their website. It's a fairly familiar but quite interesting and simple explanation of what's going on in gaming and how it helps us see and deal with our lives differently. Prophboy sent me this link about how GTA IV changes the way players experience New York City. And at GigaOm, Nabeel Hyatt of Conduit Labs tries to define social gaming by distinguishing between synchronous and asynchronus games.

None of these things, however, has satisfied my craving for gaming. So I ask the internet, what games should I be playing? What am I missing out on? Should I try to organize a game night with my friends to play board and card games? Invest in a console? Try to convince my Wii and XBox-owning friends to invite me over to play? Or just read some more gaming news and theory?

Stealing the Spotlight

Spotlight Stealerz. Highways Performance Space. 5/31/08.

D'Lo, Adelina Anthony, and Alison M. De La Cruz teamed up for this hilarious show at Highways, and while each (well, I can attest to D'Lo and Adelina) are amazing solo performers, they also make a wonderful team. The evening was a collection of sketches and skits, and while some scenes missed the mark or were overly serious for an evening of comedy, altogether they put on a great show.

I was amazed by each artist's work developing characters; they ranged from butch to femme to male to female to young to old to skunk and each character was clearly established through costume and mannerism as well as script. Each artist was brave in exploring both their own established identity positions and crossing the boundaries to perform outside their own identities. While Adelina as a 20-year-old boy was impressive, D'Lo in drag as a femme bank cashier was truly astonishing both because of how well it was done and how unexpected it was.

The throughline of the piece, which I found quite compelling, featured De La Cruz as a baby butch (recently converted from femme) exploring butch identity through conversation with an elderly butch/femme couple in a nursing home. Several of the other characters fit into this storyline, though that only became clear in retrospect. The establishment of this plot was extremely cleverly arranged, but I would have liked to see even more of these characters, and perhaps have seen them established earlier. I would have loved to see what the butch character (Frankie) was like as a femme (rather than being told several times) and what Frankie was like on dates. Perhaps we even could have seen the elderly couple when they were young. Several of the issues discussed between these three characters were fascinating and could have been fleshed out more, but this is only a minor consideration.

Overall, the evening was hilarious and showcased some very talented artists who have great chemistry together. I hope I get to see these three work together again soon. In the meantime, I've marked my calendar to see D'Lo in Ramble-Ations: A One D'Lo Show at Highways June 27-28.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

How do you choose internet talent?

Another super geeky post. At least it's not ranting about the failures of MLA citation formats. Because I could go on for quite a while about that right now.

So there's this video podcast called Mahalo Daily. It used to be hosted by Veronica Belmont, and she was fabulous. She was so fabulous, that I watched even though the vast majority of the episodes were about things I didn't care about. They do 5 minute daily segments about businesses and events and activities, mostly based here in LA, and while I was totally amused when she visited a cupcake shop or flew a plane, they weren't things I would normally have chosen to watch if they didn't involve such an interesting, smart, cool host. The best episodes were when her geekier side came out, like when she visited the Star Trek set. But Veronica left to host Tekzilla instead. I think it's super awesome that she wanted a geekier, more tech-heavy show, but what will Mahalo be without her?

I would have automatically stopped watching, since the subject doesn't particularly interest me, except for the fact that the one already announced cohost is Lon Harris. He's smart and funny and I know this from personal experience because I went to high school with him (he was a couple of years ahead of me, but still, I feel like if someone I know and more or less liked is doing something cool, I should watch it).

Now, they are trying to replace Veronica, and the way they are doing that I find fascinating. They chose Lon from inside their ranks - he was apparently already working at Mahalo, they asked him to do a couple of episodes while Veronica was still there, he did them well, so he gets more airtime. This makes sense. But they don't want Lon to host alone. They may want more variety, or it may be because they think a pretty girl will drive more internet traffic, or they may just be trying to recreate the fabulousness that is Veronica's on camera personality. So they're doing a reality-TV-style competition to choose Lon's cohost.

They're down to 6 finalists, and you should totally watch their videos and vote here.

There are some great choices and I'm sure any of them would be excellent hosts. Lon does a great rundown of each contestant's strengths on his blog. And for another female voice (besides mine, not Lon's), TheFemGeek offers her opinions.

Personally, I think both Sarah and Leah had a great blend of professionalism and quirky/geeky feel. Personally, I voted for Leah, but Sarah really has the tech cred. Her blog is @w00d's nerdtainment, which is fabulously geeky.

Andrea is really cute, but doesn't strike me as geeky as I'd like her to be. I felt like she was flirting more than hosting.

Part of me really would like to see Kristina win because of her fabulous hair and the geekiness of choosing a sound guy for her interview, but something felt awkward about her segment. She has the least experience, and it's possible that with a little practice she could be great.

Michelle has an edge of toughness that I really like (plus actual web design experience!), but in the end she didn't stand out for me.

Nadine looked great, but I don't think I learned anything or cared much about her segment. I may not be the right audience for cage fighting. She's very natural on camera, though.

So that's my opinion on the contestants, but I also want to weigh in on the overall format of this selection process. The reality TV parody bits are great, but I really want to know more about the contestants. I need to know their geek street cred. I want to know how smart they really are, not just whether they look good on camera. I want to get more of a sense of them as people. I want to see them interact with Lon more.

Especially in the first round, it felt like the judges were selecting contestants entirely based on looks and I'm really not OK with that. And why couldn't they have a female judge? I seriously hated the judges. I understand why looks are a factor (although I'm not saying that's ok), but please, ask them some questions about themselves and consider some qualifications other than looking pretty.

The best demonstations of contestants' personalities are the post-audition interviews, but one of the finalists doesn't have one, one doesn't have sound, and one of them is much longer and with Lon whereas the other three are shorter and with a different guy, so it's not exactly a balanced representation.

So, what I've learned from this process is that on the internet, men have all the power and are probably the target audience as well. And men can succeed based on talent and skill and a great sense of humor, but women have to have looks in addition to skills (though humor isn't as essential). Life lessons in a microcosm.

Monday, May 19, 2008

I'm a sucker for booklists

From Thinking By Writing:

The top 100 or so books most often marked as “unread” by LibraryThing’s users. Bold the books you have read, underline the ones you read for school, italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - hard to carry around, but hopefully once the diss is done!
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales - I actually dropped a college class because I couldn't handle The Canturbury Tales at 8am
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
Angels & Demons
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being - I definitely read this in high school, but I can't quite remember whether or not it was required. It wasn't in an English class.
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield

According to this list, I haven't read anything pre-20th century that wasn't written by Jane Austen, which is a little worrisome. Clearly, I'm a sci-fi fan, and yet there are some major sci-fi books on this list that I haven't managed to read. Cryptonomicon, Doctor Strange and Mr. Norrell, and Anansi Boys are all on my bookshelf taunting me.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

How I Geek

I just joined Twitter. I'm not sure how I feel about this yet, but I did it in order to play the game prophboy is working on. This social networking/messaging site has been uberpopular for the last year in geeky/tech-savvy/silicon valley social circles. Which clearly does not include me.

I am not an early adopter. It takes a lot to convince me to let a new technology into my life. I seriously consider if there's a good reason why I absolutely need a new gadget or if it will just be a distraction. I always doubt that there's really any advantage to joining a particular social network. It is only when information that I can't get any other way seems useful, advantageous, or indispensible to my life that I turn to technology to augment my existence. Even then, I am reluctant to spend money on new devices (I'm a grad student, I'm broke!). My TiVo and my Nintendo DS are both hand-me-downs and I only got an iPod when I convinced my parents to give me one for Christmas this year.

Of course, once I finally accept a new technology, I love it and become easily addicted/dependent (less so with social networking software). I'm seriously in love with podcasts on my iPod. I've basically used the iPod to program my own radio station, which I play in the background when I'm driving or walking somewhere or waiting in lines or other times that would otherwise be mental downtime. I mostly listen to NPR and several tech podcasts (Buzz Out Loud from CNet is my favorite). I love the fact that I can be more intellectually engaged and listen to social and cultural commentary at times that would otherwise be wasted. My original assessment that this doesn't exactly change my life holds true, but I love and appreciate it nonetheless.

The fact that I have chosen to listen to several technology and scifi podcasts reflects my really strange relationship to technology. I don't have or even necessarily understand most of the technology discussed in some of these podcasts, but I like that I know little details of technology culture and I always want to learn more. I find myself reading and watching a lot of science fiction when I have the downtime to read for fun (rare these days as I frantically work on my dissertation). I'm fascinated by the intersection of technology and gender/identity theory and I frequently complain when tech commentators are all guys. I tend to listen mostly to the fabulous women out there talking about tech and I'd love to know more. I pay attention to Annalee Newitz, Veronica Belmont, Molly Wood, and violet blue and I check in on Xeni Jardin when I can. I read most of what Charlie Anders posts on io9. Who else am I missing?

Part of me wishes I had tended more this way academically - I like talking to the people I know who study performance and technology, but only some of the work out there about it speaks to me. I think there tend to be people who know things about performance, people who know things about gender/sexuality, and people who know things about technology and they aren't really talking to each other very well.

So, basically, I have no geek street cred. I can't design or program anything and I'm not in any way obsessed with gadgets or code. I whine about the relative scarcity of women and feminism in geek culture, but I don't know enough to help remedy it. But there's something in me that leans that way and wants to follow the conversations about science and technology culture even if I'm not exactly a participant.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Sci Fi Theater

I've queried the lack of Science Fiction in theater before, but this Guardian blog post bemoaning the lack of SciFi theater was picked up by sci-fi blog io9, leading to two dramatically different conversations about the place of science fiction in theater.

The Guardian post inspired several theater fans to list some of their favorite and most notable science fiction theater pieces. The commenters are of course right that the term "robot" was actually coined in a theater piece and there are notable ways that theater does do science fiction. While there have been theatrical adaptations of several good scifi/fantasy books (The Lord of the Rings, His Dark Materials; I remember seeing a clunky performance of Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles when I was in high school) You see science fiction done more often in small theaters and in small ways. Theater does well when it exploits campy and b-movie aspects of science fiction, such as Little Shop of Horrors or Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens or when it offers a visions of potential futures, such as Sarah Kane's Cleansed. Of course, there are other exceptions, like Heddatron, and I must say that the Siti Company's War of the Worlds is one of the most impressive things I have seen in a long time.

On io9, the sci-fi fans for the most part accept the premise that sci-fi and theater aren't necessarily suited for each other. Some commenters seem to think that theater itself is dated and not a viable medium for talking about the future. Some ponder the technical constraints of the live theatrical event. It's true that the aesthetics and relationship to technology are inherently different in theater than they are in film or books or comics. But that can be as productive and inspiring as it can be challenging, especially when done well. The suspension of disbelief in theater is different than in other media and the engagement of the imagination is done differently when you are confronted with live bodies in front of you. Theater can make use of those challenges, but we have a strong tradition of "realism" in the theater - of trying to talk about the way things are rather than what could or should happen. That can be a good thing or a bad thing, but it tends to lead to expressions other than those that would be classified as science fiction.

So, after reading these two different sets of responses to the relationship between theater and science fiction, I'm actually much more encouraged and enthusiastic about science fiction theater. There's some good stuff out there, and there's a lot of potential for more good science fiction theater. I'll just have to keep my eyes open and go to these shows when I have the opportunity. I'd love to see more cyberpunk and steampunk aesthetics onstage. So, have you seen any good science fiction theater? What scifi lends itself to the stage and what doesn't? Or if it doesn't work, why is that?

Friday, March 21, 2008

The future and the academy

This article is fascinating. Prophboy send me the link, and I'm intriegued and terrified. There are, of course, some inherent flaws to the article, but its argument about the possible impending doom of the entire educational system due to technology may or may not be accurate.

It's interesting to think about academia, which still feels quite often like a holdover from the 13th century actually being challenged and changing due to technology. I'm not talking about technology in the classroom (ie powerpoint), per se, but rather the ways technology changes the way people's minds work. I just finished TAing for a lecture class in which the Professor gave lectures, containing tons of names and dates and titles, from his head every day. The students were expected to take notes, and then had open-note quizzes and a closed-note final exam based on how well they recorded and recalled all of this data. There were papers, too, and as the TA I graded those based mostly on critical thinking and building an argument. But the fact that large portions of students' grades were determined entirely by how well they memorized facts is almost a foreign concept to me. This is the argument that prophboy, if not entirely Cringely, was making: that evaluating people based on their knowlege, as opposed to their ability to find and process knowledge, is more or less a thing of the past and is made completely outdated by the presence of the internet at our fingertips.

The other issue about this that Cringely raises is: what is the value of presence in educational process? If we follow Auslander, we don't necessarily believe in the unmediated performance. But do we believe that there's a value in sitting in a classroom and learning from a teacher? How is that different from an online course in which we're sitting in a chatroom learning from a teacher? Especially if the students in the classroom are texting or instant messaging instead of listening anyway? As I've been applying for jobs, there have been several (mostly community colleges) that have asked me about my experience teaching online courses. My standard response is that, while this isn't something I've done before, I'm sure I could do it, I'm generally proficient with computers, am familiar with educational software, etc. But honestly, I'm scared of the concept if not the technology. Sure, students can read instead of listening to a lecture or write blog post/comment responses instead of discussing in class, but isn't something of the experience of education lost in that process? And if so, what? Would I want to be a teacher in that kind of system?

And now, my major concern about the Cringely article is that it seems to think it's discussing the whole range of education from k-12 through MIT in one article and one concept, and that doesn't work at all. First of all, what you learn in kindergarten is how to talk to people and play with blocks as much as anything else - it's very tactile and I don't think technology will change that any time soon. Similarly with most of elementary school, being in the classroom and learning to socialize is a relevant (if often unpleasant) part of the education. And most of the things that are taught are basic skills (reading, spelling, arithmatic) that I think that people do need to learn, no matter what comes next. Also, it seems that in elementary school, teachers do have enough authority and a managable student-teacher ratio (although my mom is at 34:1 which seems fairly absurd) that they can prevent the students from texting in class or otherwise using technology as a distraction instead of a tool. They also use technology enough (typing, word processing, occasional computer games) that I think that it's not likely to get away from them.

When it comes to high school, this may be the crux of where things need to adapt and focus more on critical thinking and less on memorizing. The technology can be embraced more. But what technology? There was one teacher in my high school that notoriously insisted on everyone doing group powerpoint presentations. It forced them to confront and learn about the technology, but I'm not sure it made their presentations any better. Texting? How does one incorporate that into the classroom? Is there any way to accept that if you let your students use laptops in class, they will inherently use them to look at gossip sites on the internet and IM their friends rather than listening or participating? Is it possible for teachers to adapt to that?

What we do need to teach, and what seeems obvious to me but seems to elude my students, is how to do research on the internet beyond google and wikipedia. Someone needs to teach them that any online encyclopedia is not a valid academic source for a research paper. There are many great online resources that they can and should use, but they need to see that a private website from some guy is not the same kind of source as an academic journal. This kind of critical thinking in relation to technology should be inherent, but somehow it isn't, and it seems like high school might be the place to teach it. So perhaps they don't need to learn the data itself, but they do need to know where to find it, and how to evaluate it and its source once they have found it.

Personally, I think that the educational system is adaptive enough to integrate technology in productive ways, but there will always be battles about keeping some uses of technology out of the classroom (I heard someone the other day say that before IMing, there were always students reading books or doodling in the back of class, and that is, of course, perfectly true). The issues of presence and what is the value of a college education is a larger question, and one that will continue to haunt us, though I certainly hope it won't bring down the educational system as Cringely suggests it might.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Academia and the Suburbs

A week or two ago, I listened to Karen Tongson from USC give a presentation ("listening party") on music and the suburbs. Last night, I attended a talk in which Alan Hess discussed the architecture of suburban Southern California. As a child of the suburbs and a student of 1950s culture, I found both talks fascinating.

The suburbs, like the 1950s in which they flourished, seem to be traditionally discussed with a mixture of derision and nostalgia. When you think about the suburbs, you think about white, middle-class, nuclear families living uniform lives in straight little rows. Of course, the minute you begin to look critically, that image dissolves, but it generally persists in the myths we tell ourselves anyway. This is perhaps what makes the discussion of suburban culture, particularly Southern Californian suburban culture, interesting. Art and design are a fascinating set of discussions because they have been so invisible. One assumes there is no design in the suburbs, that the houses all look the same. While there is an element of truth to this, Hess effectively argued for the virtuosity and variety of those planning the surburbs and their ranch houses in Southern California in the '50s. The Googie coffee shops and Cliff May ranch houses were precisely designed to fit a lifestyle and a mindset that were new and exciting in the 1950s, and not so different than what a lot of people still wish for today.

Tongson's work on race in the suburbs is particularly interesting, because I know I grew up with the image of the suburbs as depicted in A Raisin in the Sun: all white with the whole neighborhood getting disrupted by (gasp!) black people moving in. By the time I grew up in the suburbs, Southern California was pretty racially diverse and I grew up with friends who were Chinese and Taiwanese (I knew the difference!) and Japanese and Korean and Filipino and Indian. Nearby suburbs had large Chicano, Latino, and Middle-Eastern populations. While I haven't done any historical research to back this up, I rather suspect that even in the 1950s, Southern California had a very racially diverse population, and while I'm sure there was a great deal of neighborhood segregation, I wonder if the suburbs were ever as lily-white as we like to imagine them.

Tongson's talk on music in the suburbs was primarily focused on the late '80s and early '90s. She talked a lot about pop music, but it's also easy to imagine pop, punk, grunge, and other movements as the response of disaffected teenagers to the confines of growing up somewhere "safe" with nothing to do and nowhere to go in the evenings. But what were the suburbs like musically in the 1950s? We imagine teenagers listening to Elvis and other early Rock 'n' Roll and forming bands to play at high school dances a la Back to the Future, but how much of this image of accurate and how much of it is created by nostalgia? I know that my dad growing up was listening to The Beach Boys and my mom was listening to Mitch Miller and her parents' music from the '40s and '30s much like I grew up on music from the 1950s and '60s.

My mind, of course, turns to the theater. I can know exactly what people were watching on TV and in the movie theaters in the 1950s in Southern California, but were they seeing live performance? Was there theater to see? They were presumably buying the cast albums of Broadway musicals and seeing the stars appear on the Ed Sullivan show and doing shows in high schools. Were there even theaters for live shows in LA in the '50s? I know that the LA Music Center opened in 1964 and Gordon Davidson began working at the Taper in 1967. What comes before that? The Shrine Auditorium opened in 1926. Did it ever host anything besides awards shows and USC basketball? The Pantages Theater was opened in 1930 and originally hosted Vaudeville acts and movie screenings, but didn't do live theater until 1977. Did people from the suburbs come into LA to see shows? Did mid-level Hollywood stars appear in stage shows in LA as they occasionally do today? What is the theater of the suburbs? Is it Death of a Salesman and Our Town? National tours of Broadway musicals? Community theater?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

March Performance Art Madness

Looking at my schedule, there are all sorts of great performances and events coming up in March!

March 1 Transgiving. It's their annual Valentine-ish/Love show (ok, last year it was a sex show, but it rocked!) I have no idea who's performing, but it should be worth checking out. This one seems to involve friends/loved ones/allies performing - I hope it's good.

March 4 Karen Tongson will be hosting a Listening Party at LACE (curated by Josh Kun)

March 5 Holly Hughes performs a "Sapphic Sampler Platter" at the REDCAT

March 6: EASTSIDE STORIES: Queer Latino/a Art and Activism in East L.A..The Butchlalis, Luis Alfaro, and Hector Silva in conversation at USC. Sadly, I won't be able to make this one because I teach Thurs. 'til 6 and the event starts at 6:30.

March 8 and 9 Nao Bustamante will be one of the artists presenting at the REDCAT Open Studio

March 13 Adelina Anthony will be performing Mastering Sex and Tortillas at USC. I've seen this show or parts of it 3 times now, and yet I'm seriously considering going again.

March 15 Katastrophe and Jenna Riot as the Ice Cream Socialites performing in Long Beach.

Oh, and Sweeney Todd at the Ahmanson and Culture Clash's Culture Clash in AmeriCCa at South Coast Rep.

And I've marked my calendar for the butchlalis' The Barber of East LA April 11 and 12

Random discovery

You know what I learned today? Harry Dodge is surprisingly cute in person. Not that ze isn't great and charming in By Hook or By Crook, but ze is delightfully handsome in real life.

Friday, February 01, 2008

What's a girl to do?

What do you do when a friend writes to say that there's a fabulous queer femme performance artist you don't know about who wants to perform in LA?

It's so frustrating to me that after 4 years in LA, I have no way to make a performance happen when the opportunity arises. While I don't want to spend my life as an event planner (I can't handle the stress), I want to have the time and access to be able to point cool queer performance artists to cool queer venues to do their thing. I want there to be theaters (or bars, or coffee houses) that will open their doors on off hours or off days to random performance artists. And I just don't know who or where these things are. I don't know who to talk to to make a show happen.

It seems like it's been a while since I've been to a night of queer femme performance. Certainly LA must be due for such a thing. But the who and the when and the where are so hard to make happen. I know perfectly well that if I wait for someone else to organize the events I want to see, they'll never happen, but I'm far too far behind on my school work to take on anything else. Who out there is doing this kind of work? It's so frustrating that I can think of events and locations and organizations appropriate to this kind of thing in San Francisco, and yet in LA, I'm drawing a blank.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sex Worker's Art Show?

I just received random notification that the Sex Worker's Art Show is in town today! It's my birthday, so I have other plans, but if you don't you should totally go. It's always a fabulous, delightfully queer, sexy show. This venue seems to be a change from planned performances that got cancelled (or censored?). I'm sorry I wasn't on top of this ahead of time.

Wednesday, January 23rd
Mountain Bar
Chinatown, Los Angeles
8pm $10

The show is a combo of over the top drag, spoken word, performance art, burlesque and shenanigans
Annie Oakley
World Famous *Bob*
Dirty Martini
Kirk Read
Krylon Superstar
Erin Markey
Mistress Keva
Loralie Lee
Chris Kraus

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Industry town

Los Angeles is a strange place. We are, decidedly, a town that lives and dies by film, television, and automobiles. It's a decidedly entertainment industry town. I've lived other places (5 years in the Bay Area, brief stints in New York and Oxford) and never felt compelled to own a TV. But here in Southern California (including my suburban hometown), I couldn't imagine life without cable. As a result, I am fascinated by the writer's strike. I'm following it avidly. I've started reading the LA Times "Showtracker" blog for official news and I love Wired Magazine's Underwire blog which, among all the other things it covers, includes strike updates with writers' propaganda videos attached to the end of strike-related posts. And I must say, I've enjoyed several of the strike videos very much.

When the Daily Show and the Colbert Report came back on the air without their writers, I was profoundly disappointed that John Stewart and Stephen Colbert would cross picket lines, even though I was desperately craving their election coverage. I understand their predicament and that they might not have had much of a choice, and it was very clear that Stewart would have much preferred to make a deal with the writers giving them all their demands. I'm still very torn, but I'm watching both shows, and I have to say that I don't think they're doing too badly. The initial reviews were pretty scathing, but I must say that there's something charming about watching John Stewart trying his best and trying to have fun up there. He's a fascinating, smart interviewer and I very much enjoy him talking to authors and intellectuals - I don't miss the stars at all.

Now that the director's guild has settled, there's obviously a lot of pressure on the writers to make a deal before the Oscars, but there's a part of me that wants this strike to keep going. I want the strike to continue mostly because I think the writers are completely right, that the internet is clearly the future of television, and that the producers are trying to screw everyone else out of a fair share of the profits from the new medium. But part of me also wants to see what happens if the strike continues. Because I think there's a lot of hope out there for striking writers to change the face of the industry by working around and without the producers. There have been all sorts of rumors about writers starting their own projects, perhaps for internet distribution and it would be fascinating to see if it would be possible for some big name writers to transfer their TV and filmwriting talent to writing a high quality scripted internet content. How would it look different than TV or film content? Would it be shorter? Lower production values? What are the advantages of these formats?

I'm also fascinated by the other questions the strike raises. When the only new content on TV is reality programming, will people stop watching? Will people be cancelling cable subscriptions? Will the networks and/or the cable companies suffer? Moving Showtime content to network TV (Dexter will air on CBS in February) is a fascinating step. What else will the networks bring out of the vaults? Will we see old movies and premium cable programing in primetime? Will there be innovation, or just more of the same old reality shows? It will be a year or more until we feel the effects of the strike on films, but television will be suffering for quite a while, since already there are no pilots for next year's programming.

Of course, since this is an industry town, I know several screenwriters and aspiring screenwriters who are striking, and whose lives are profoundly interrupted as a result. For their sake, I hope business resumes soon so that they can pay their bills and so the local economy doesn't suffer more than it already has. But the strike makes very visible how the industry is changing, and I find that important and exciting.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Wacky pop culture intellectualism

Am I back? I don't know. Is this thing on? Does it matter?

I've been MIA for quite a while, from both my blog and my life. Working 3 jobs in academia last quarter led right into family holidays, a chosen family wedding (maybe thoughts on that later), and then the inevitable exhaustion and illness that comes from too much work and not enough sleep. I was in New York when the Butchlalis performed Dickwhipped at Highways, so I was sad to miss the show and even sadder that I was too sick to be doing fun fabulous queer and/or theater things in NYC while I was there. I am perhaps not yet hardy enough to live in New York - the cold weather and my flu-like symptoms made me want to sleep and watch movies and play Wii and never leave Brooklyn, so I did.

Looking forward, there are some pretty exciting public intellectualism kinds of events going on in the near future here in LA and in blogworld.

As you may or may not know, I've spent a bit of time in the last five years hanging out with musicologists, who are suprisingly fabulous and interesting people. A few pretty cool musicologist friends of mine are keeping a group blog called Musicology/Matters which, so far, is a fascinatingly idiosyncratic collection of ruminations on music-related issues ranging from what's up with this week's column in the New Yorker? to the tension between academic interest and guilty pleasures. They're smart folks, and I'm interested to see what they have to say to each other and the world.

Speaking of group music/culture blogs, apparently the fabulous Karen Tongson of USC is collaborating with some other smart folks (Christine Bacareza Balance and Alexandra Vazquez) across the country to blog about pop music, culture, and taste, and whatever else comes to mind at Oh! Industry. For their mission statement, start here. Though the blog seems to be well underway and going strong, they're throwing a launch party here in LA on January 17.

And if you're looking for some good live discussion of popular music, head to the REDCAT on January 22 for Listen Again in which a bunch of scholars and journalists get together and talk pop. The LA academic community is well-represented by Alice Echols, Bob Fink, Josh Kun, Judith Halberstam, and Karen Tongson, several of whom aren't strictly music scholars, so there will be a particularly fun, approachable, interdisciplinary vibe to the event. I can't speak for the many journalists who will also be participating in the event, but the scholars are smart and cool and interesting to hear talk. Plus, it's only $8 ($4 for students), so it's finally an event at the REDCAT I can afford!

Speaking of events at the REDCAT that I can't afford, The Wooster Group will be performing their Hamlet there at the end of the month. This will sell out. It will be weird and brilliant and deconstructed. Kate Valk will be playing both Ophelia and Gertrude. I need to see it. Anyone care to join me?