Beyoncé, most likely. By Alisha Giampola (Writer/Performer)
I had the pleasure yesterday to participate in a documentary project conceived by an old pal from college/early days of restaurant work here in the city, Samantha Walsh. Her project, titled Womanish, "addresses what it means to be a strong woman". Sam clarifies that what most interests her in the idea of the "strong woman" is this: "why we even have to preface woman with that adjective in order to make that statement clear for the people around us, the society at large. But most importantly, for ourselves."
Sam had reached out to me about this art project and mentioned that pondering those things had gotten her thinking about what made her feel most powerful, and in turn, what made other women feel most powerful. It's an interesting question, and one I was surprised to have some trouble answering. I feel all different kinds of powerful. I feel powerful when I'm done with a tough yoga class, or after mastering something difficult that I was scared to try. I also feel powerful when I've nailed a slightly complicated social interaction or when I'm wearing a particularly flattering shade of lipstick. I don't think that these kinds of disparate ideas about power are unique to women, but I definitely think women are frequently made to feel most guilty if they aren't able to simultaneously encompass all of them. I am reminded of the now much-worn quote from Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, where she lays out in a fantastic rant a desire to render the "cool girl" obsolete: the Cool Girl of course being the girl who spends her energy creating a persona that is what she thinks men want her to be instead of who she actually, really is.
During a summer when the world has watched Simone Biles become one of the most powerful Olympic athletes not just of the current games, but of all time, during a summer when women in general powerfully dominated their fields during the games, we can't forget that these most obviously "powerful" of women are still presented in comparative terminology and reduced to commentary on their marital or parental status, or if they were wearing enough make up. Women have finally been given a place a the table, but have not yet been allowed to forget who is still sitting firmly at the head of it.
So yesterday, Sam was photographing and interviewing me for the Womanish project and as we were walking in my neighborhood, carrying camera equipment and chatting as we headed back towards my apartment, a smiling middle-aged man stopped us in our tracks. "Well look at these two beautiful girls!" He shouted at us. Sam and I exchanged a slightly weary glance at each other and moved on. Then, just a few minutes later, Sam was taking one or two last photos near my building and was in the middle of readjusting her camera as a man walking by hopped right into her shot, posed with me, and said "We're ready! Go ahead and take it!" He walked away as quickly as he had arrived and Sam and I were left in a combination of exasperated and bewildered amusement. "You should write about how middle-aged white guys think they're so funny." Sam joked. And she's right. I bet, with a quick show of hands, we can easily have an entire internet full of ladies who will vouch that Middle Aged White Guys Just Think They're So Funny.
What was so preposterously apt about those interactions was that they occurred one right after the other during a brief time that Sam was literally in the middle of attempting to work on a piece of art that explores the frustrations (and joys, and struggles, and meaning) of being a woman in the world today. And being a woman in the world today is very much about cheerfully and frequently brushing off the blatantly unnecessary interruptions and condescensions of all manner of Middle Aged White Guys Who Think They're So Funny.
I'm so interested to see this piece unfold, because Sam's pursuit to document all sorts of different women, of different ages, from different backgrounds and fields, should provide an interesting window into what women think about themselves and how being a woman shapes that self-examination. You should check it out too (and not just because I'm going to be a part of it, although that's clearly a great reason and you obviously have excellent priorities, carry on).
Most importantly: if you are womanish yourself and would like to participate, you should contact Sam at email@example.com.
(Above outtake photo of me definitely not being a yoga model via: Samantha Fairfield Walsh.)
ALISHA GIAMPOLAis an NYC based actor/teacher/writer who has actually given it some more thought and probably has never felt more powerful than when she was 16 years old and was driving her 1998 Pontiac Sunfire with the windows down and Alanis Morissette cranked up. EMAIL HER | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | OTHER POSTS BY THIS AUTHOR
Combover hair, don't care. By Joanna Syiek (Director/Producer/Blogger)
Nate Silver's 2016 Election Forecast has been my go-to homepage lately, because the this guy who correctly predicted the outcome of the 2012 election in all 50 states knows a bit about what he's doing. As of this morning, the polls-only forecast shows:
You areeee so beautiful to meee. (By the way, have you guys listened to that song lately? That line repeats roughly 200 times. It became a hit by merely beating the listener over the head with its only-have-eyes-for-you-ness.)
Again, as an American abroad, watching the political race with gritted teeth, having some assurance that Mr. Reality TV may in fact be a passing trend makes it a bit easier to breathe. Even if his own staff members can't believe that they are down in the polls.
Or have we just started realizing what that future actually looks like?
This video is most definitely completely unrelated to the above discussion and in no way represents the musings of an attention-crazed egomaniac who had a rough go in his childhood or the nature of said egomaniac's followers. La la la.
Let's Go on a Road Trip with Some of the Greatest Film and Comedic Actors of All Time By Tim Lorge (Playwright/Filmmaker/Photographer)
Stanley Kramer is director-producer from New York who straddled the fence between both indie and studio worlds. Born in Hell’s Kitchen in 1913, he’s known for making some of the best socially conscious films of all time including “Guess Who's Coming to Dinner” and “Judgment at Nuremberg”.
While these two and a number of his other films should definitely be in you viewing list, I’m in a mood to laugh.
Coming in at #40 on the AFI “100 Years...100 Laughs” list is the epic in the truest form of the word … “It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”.
This was the first comedy Kramer directed and man, did he pull out all the stops. Here is the cast list from IMDB:
Cast (in credits order)
Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson
Joe E. Brown
Edward Everett Horton
The Three Stooges
“Smiler” Grogan (Jimmy Durante) is driving erratically along a winding mountain road when he drives off said road and crashes his car. Five Samaritans, Sid Caesar, Jonathan Winters, Mickey Rooney, Buddy Hackett and Milton Berle, stop to help.
Right before Durante literally kicks the bucket, he tells them about $350,000 buried in Santa Rosita State Park near the Mexican border under "The Big W".
Let the wacky road picture begin!
The original cut of the film was 210 minutes which was cut to 192 for the premier and 161 minutes for distribution. When it was restored for The Criterion Collection in 2014, 197 minutes were reconstructed and restored in 4K.
Admittedly, by today’s standards, some of the comedy doesn’t hold up but this is a fun ride nonetheless, pardon the pun.
Or: How the disbanding of a Japanese pop group made me feel old By Jennifer Lin (Music Director)
There's nothing like the disintegration of a 25-year-old boy band to make you feel like your youth is officially over.
That's not a typo, the band itself is 25 years old. SMAP (short for Sports Music Assemble People) and its agency, Johnny and Associates, announced earlier this month that the group would officially be disbanding at the end of 2016, after over a quarter of century spent working together (releasing 26 albums and 55 singles). They had made a live television appearance in January to assuage concerns about their breakup and reassure the public they were actually staying together, but after months of hiatus and failed negotiations, they've set their official end as Dec. 31, 2016.
The members of SMAP. Image via DramaFever
The NYTimes ran an article on SMAP's imminent end titled "An Aging Boy Band Calls It Quits, but Japan Can't Let Go", which puts into perspective the effect their disbanding will have on Japanese pop culture - the 5-member band currently hosts a variety show that has been running for nearly 20 years and is one of the most-watched shows on Japanese television. Each of its members has starred in multiple television dramas, hosted their own weekly radio shows, and been the face of innumerable Japanese products (either alone or together). SMAP ranked No. 1 in a Rakuten Research poll asking which artist should perform the official Tokyo 2020 theme song; their song "Arigato" (Thank You) was used during Rio Olympics coverage by the Japanese station TBS, and they were one of the celebrities already supporting the Paralympics. SMAP even served as unofficial ambassadors to China in 2011 when they gave a concert in Beijing.
Throughout its Golden Age, the great ongoing subject of the Broadway musical was the struggle of the hero to find a way to individuate and yet also be a useful part of the community.
The surface of The Music Man is a romance, something you'd find in an operetta. But Harold Hill isn't a wandering minstrel or a prince traveling incognito, he's a notorious grifter who leaves chaos and consternation in his wake. It's not a romantic comedy, either: what Hill is resisting is not love but domestication, and in the end he is defeated, his will to resist broken, and he "settles," as explicitly tamed as Katherine of Padua.
The title song of Guys and Dolls is explicitly about this exact subject: on the surface desire persuades men to submit to women, but really they are submitting to social norms. (Sky Masterston could support a wife as a gambler, but we know that's a non-starter.)
Gypsy has the trappings of a family drama, but what are Louise and Rose struggling against? Less each other than an uncaring world. Rose refuses to accept her second-rate place in society, but is impotent to do anything about it; resolution comes only when Louise takes a radical leap and defines her own place, regardless of her mother.
Fiddler on the Roof tells us nothing new or important about marrying off one's daughters, but it tells us crucial things about communties struggling to stay unified against pressures of every kind. For an audience of 1963, the ending was the story of the audience's own parents, and the more or less successful transplantation of their old shtetls to Brooklyn and the Lower East Side.
I could go on, and on. Even The Fantasticks is about how young lust is cultivated by the elders with the ultimate goal of producing mature members of society. Do I even need to mention 1776? Fiorello? West Side Story?
It is no coincidence that all of this was an echo of the country as a whole. After the isolationism of the 1930s, the citizenry spent the next thirty years or so asking each other, over and over, what kind of country is this? Who are we, anyway? In 1961, JFK instructed:
Prosperity helped, of course. After the war, our intact manufacturing industry supplied the rebuilding of Europe and Asia, along with an accellerating demand for armaments, for wars both hot and cold.
And right there is why it all fell apart: the disgust with war caused a schism, and the populace literally lost interest in collective definition. The 70s got a nickname that stuck--The 'Me' Decade'. The 80s were far worse: to Reagan and his fellow kleptocrats, JFK's sentiment was anathema, replaced by open plutocracy. (Alas, it's very hard to explain how rapid and shocking this shift was to those who have known nothing else.)
So what happened to musicals? Straight to hell, mostly: with a very, very few exceptions (most wonderfully Sondheim, with a healthy side of Kander and Ebb) the form became moribund for decades.
But why? Why can't musicals just be love stories, or family dramas? The conventional answer is: because the hero needs to be larger than life. Nah, there's nothing gigantic about Company's Bobby, or even My Fair Lady's Eliza. No, it's because the only way to justify getting 1000+ people to breathe in unison for three hours is to make its true subject them and that very social fusion.
Anyway, eventually the country started to get disgusted with literally decades of greed, and we saw the signs of hope: Rent took up the same classic theme. So did Urinetown. And Book of Mormon. (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson tried, but though an inspired attack on Bush it wasn't sharp or savage enough; and once again what was satisfying in a small space felt insubstantial on Broadway.)
Even Fun Home: although presented as a family drama, Alison survives and thrives not because she resolves her conflict with her family (she doesn't) but because she finds a place for herself as a person in society, and her father kills himself because he can't. And of course, Hamilton, which got us cheering (and weeping) for an agent of Capital because its ultimate subject was us, in the Age of Obama, and how lucky we are to be alive right now.
So are we seeing a new golden age? Not yet. In comparison with the classics above, most of what is on the horizon remains all about falling chandeliers and rising helicopters; or personal stories that are great in a 300-seat house but will feel very small from the back of the mezzanine. And of the above examples, only Book of Mormon figured out how to do public spirit in a truly comic mode, and lord knows we need more of that.
And so, fellow writers, I say to you: remember that if you want to write for the Big House, the ultimate subject of your story is not the hero, but the audience, sitting there, wanting to join with everone in the house in a great sympathetic resonance. but feeling frightened, fragmented, and unable to imagine how it could be possible.
And your job is to show them.
In case you're wondering about the title of this post, it's a 1988 song by Billy Bragg. Here it is with a recent fan video:
Today is August 23rd, 2016. It is my father's 68th birthday, and my parents' 46th wedding anniversary. It was always a cause for celebration in my family, for obvious reasons. As I've written before, my father was never one to celebrate birthdays because he always thought their universality made them, by definition, not a special occasion. He was always more concerned with celebrating hard-earned achievements instead of arbitrary dates on which we were born. I'm sure it came as a great relief to him when he could couple his birthday with his anniversary - something he always wanted to celebrate. This year, the second birthday/anniversary he'll have to spend without his wife, he planned a yearly trip our west to live out his City Slicker dreams on a cattle drive. Yes, my father the lawyer is a cowboy. He's been doing this for 20 years.
Dad in his natural habitat...really....
I'll keep this post relatively short, as it's not intended to be another lament of a special day without my Mom - although, I'm sure it's a difficult day for my father. Rather, I wanted to reflect on the meaning of particular dates in our lives and how they become special. When my father talked about planning his wedding, they wanted a time in the summer and that weekend was the best one for everyone, so he offered up his birthday as a sacrifice. When planning my wedding, my husband was dead-set on May in upstate New York, and our venue had exactly one date free in 2016: May 14th. That date is now engraved on the inside of our wedding rings, but it just as easily could have been another date. These dates become days we remember and celebrate. They have meaning in our lives, and yet they are decided for us by the fate.
This is a classic example of burying the lead, but as I posted on Facebook, my Grandfather died last week, on August 17th. There's another post in me on his legacy and influence on my entire family, but that is not this one. He was born on October 8th (a Libra, like me - I was born September 28th). My mother died on May 26th. She was born on June 26th. These dates bookend their lives, and yet they are also arbitrary - decided by no one, remembered forever by those of us who knew them. Millions of people were also born and died on these very days, so millions more will remember them for same reasons I will, and all of those who knew the ones they loved and lost will. I don't want this post to sound nihilistic, but so much of what I'm coming to terms with about death is how random it truly is. Of course, you value life, you keep yourself healthy, you try to be a good person. But ultimately, as Hamilton reminds us, "You have no control who lives, who dies, who tells your story." Nor do you control the day it begins and ends. Best then to just enjoy the ride while it lasts.
I go through cycles with online dating, periods where I am more active and lengths of time when I'd rather be secluded. All of the single women I know - and I suspect this transcends gender and relationship status - know what it means to be confronted with unenlightened sexuality. Unsolicited propositions from men I don't know and the derogatory assumptions they make about me despite the clarity of my intent can be damaging no matter how I may brace myself, rework their words into humor, or dismiss the ignorance in their motives. I do not take my womanhood in stride, and no one should feel she has to. This is an affirmation for all men seeking companionship. by Liz Richards (writer)
Lead with love and perceptivity.
Honor your sex.
Treat your body with love as you honor the joyful sensations it brings to you.
Know that what you take will be given back by will or by natural order, and what you put into the world will determine your experience.
Honor your feminine.
Be soft and allow your intuition to lead you in grace.
Honor your masculine.
Use your power to inspire. Let your energy be present. Listen always.
Honor your loneliness.
Take time to cultivate solitude to affirm the person you are. Do not yield to insecurities and self-doubts, but do acknowledge them. Your psyche knows what you want and what you need. Do listen.
Only take what you can digest, only serve what you can offer. View interaction not as a game, this way you will lose as often as you win. Be prepared instead to take delight in each experience for what it is - a veneration and reverent integration of two selves.
Know that she has also gone through this process. She too has come out the other side of heartbreak and degradation time and again and she too has an equal capacity for cynicism and serenity. She too has known passion as well as she has known complacency, and she too has an intent worthy of respect. How you interact with her will influence the cycle.
Our emotion, our intellect, our communication, and our sexuality are intimately connected. If one is injured, all are weakened. Live from joy.
Do good. Be good. Celebrate the good in every interaction.
*Paintings in this post are by Georgia O'Keeffe. See the source for details and for more artwork.