28 January 2010

I want to wear the pants in the family. And the stilettos.

While wandering my apartment trying to get into a rather dry history book outlining women in Asia in just a few hundred pages (for the world's largest continent with incredibly diverse languages, cultures, religions and so on mind you) I tended to get, well distracted.  I need to go in depth, to analyze or synthesize theory based on primary and secondary sources, to see the art.  A very factual primer is not useful to me, although when I finally hit on some topics I was a little more familiar with, as well as interested in (in this case various myths about women, including the story of Sita from the Ramayana) my synapses started firing.

This is difficult.  For me, intellectual excitement is somewhat akin to firing a shotgun.  It's an enormous explosion of force that tends to move outward rapidly and in a number of different directions simultaneously.  I was wondering if I could connect a recent, animated film retelling of the Ramayana, the fabulous and incomparable "Sita Sings the Blues," to various ancient iterations of the story.  I was wondering how I could expand or contract my thesis, depending on the amount of primary sources and scholarly research available, to compare the telling and retelling religious and/or secular stories with women as central characters and how they changed over time both with and against society's shifting interpretation of women's roles; additionally it might be possible parallel this with the worship of various incarnations of Maha Davi (the feminine Divine) in Hindu culture.  I suppose comparative analysis across other religions on the Indian subcontinent could be done, although frankly Buddhism, Islam and Jainism neither speak to me or interest me in quiet the same way as Hindu (with the exception of art and architecture in the Islam Mogul dynasty) and I only have 10-12 pages, not a damn book, so I should keep this narrow and deep rather than broad and cursory.

Anyway, it was around the time that I was walking in circles, reading further in my text and reading it with an East Tennessee accent, by the way, to continually hone that for my acting class, that I came up with another idea (hence the shotgun theory of my neural pathways).  Just to paint the picture, I'd just finished a litre of black tea (hellloooooo over caffeinated), was boiling water for another litre of green, was wearing my rugby jersey, track pants and some secondhand high heel shoes from Philly AIDS Thrift and eating a banana.  Then it came in a flash: between Tony award winning shows and time I spent with my family, I'd be writing an analysis on queering family in the 21st century.  It will be entitled "I want to wear the pants in this family.  And the stilettos.  Queering community, child rearing and gender roles in an non-traditionally constructed modern family."

Tah-dah, that's my brain on caffeine.  That's a peek into my thesis for this semester, and if you have resources, by all means, please direct me to them.  And that's a peek at my life, I think/hope, in 2025.

Love ya, mean it!
xoxo Pistol

25 January 2010

Where I Am

This is my life right now: as most of you I was (joyfully) fired from my job at the University of Pennsylvania Health System in November.  I had applied to return to The College of New Jersey, which I had originally attended from 2002-2006 without attaining a degree, less than a week before I was fired.  There is something to be said about a responsive Universe that meets us where we are when we act with intention because within a matter of weeks I had the best of all possible scenarios - I had been readmitted to TCNJ and have been able to collect unemployment so, at least thus far, my only loans have been for class and not for living expenses.

Maybe because I loved the gender studies classes I took there more than almost any other, maybe because it's a degree that I can complete in two semesters, and maybe because I'm just trying to induce my parents to transient ischemic attacks, I am a women's and gender studies major.  Compound that with the rest of my activities right now - a third course in Meisner Technique for acting and a two-day-a-week internship at First Person Arts, a non-profit arts organization dedicated to memoir and documentary, and they don't see me doing anything that is potentially fiscally sound.  Mind you, they just cosigned my college loan application, but this is a conversation we've been having for far longer than that (and won't be addressed here at this time).

Without considering any additional reading I'll have to do for multiple research papers, my semester started with the purchase of 19 books and the download of over 50 additional resources, mostly scholarly articles.  I have been reading at nights, on Thursdays before class (my only week day off of other activities before 5 PM), after class (and soon to be rehearsal as well) on Saturdays, and all day Sundays.  I read walking the threeish miles from the train station to campus, because I take peak hour trains and can't bring my bike.  In fact, I read out loud in an East Tennessee accent becuase that it one of the things I'm currently working on in my Meisner training.

In short, I have never taken on this much at once in my entire life; nor have I ever had higher expectations of myself to accomplish all that I set out to do at the highest echelons of achievement.  For once, this isn't just a new kick like most people's New Year's resolutions that are unreasonable and are thus doomed to speedy failure.  Instead, as a result of over a year of intellectual, emotional, and spiritual preparation, sometimes slow and sometimes lurching forward in spurts, and always unbelievably supported by friends, my flatmate, my fellow actors & instructor, a - I dunno what to call him, let's say loyal companion - all of whom, often without knowing it, have been teaching me to be an emotionally mature and present adult who refuses to settle for less than what he is capable of achieving or receiving.

I've learned how to prioritize, breaking readings assigned over several weeks into reasonable chunks with deadlines.  I've learned how to let a man cook me a meal and then serve it to me, by candlelight, with flowers in the room, without thinking that it's corny or insincere.  I've learned how to listen, take things personally and respond truthfully - it might have been training for the stage and screen, but it's made an immeasurable difference in my life.

Have I mentioned that this is the longest in my adult life that I have been without a major depressive episode, or even a hint at moving in the direction of one?  I have never been so happy in my life, and still this is just the beginning.  This year will see opportunities to get my work published, act in as groundbreaking stage productions with actors and a director who I admire immensely, and obtain my college degree.  I should also mention that I've probably never been this stressed, and yet the unbelievably hectic schedule has forced me into such consideration for my time that I've never used it better or felt so productive.  It is the positive kind of stress that makes one stronger and more resilient.

11 January 2010

Cynthia Nixon on Gay Adoption

Here is Father Tony interviewing Cynthia Nixon at the ACLU's launch of a campaign to overturn the ban on adoption by same sex couples in Florida.   I find her very well spoken and I appreciate that she addresses  the heteronormativity that pervades our society and can make it difficult to talk about our queer families. 

On a personal and somewhat random note, I met Father Tony as an extra on the set of Bear City, an indie film that I worked on in August and that should be playing in film festivals this coming summer.  His life story - from gay priest in the Vatican to partnered blogger splitting his time between New York and Florida - was totally fascinating and it was a great pleasure to spend time with him, and to continue to follow his writing online.  Without futher ado, the interview:

09 January 2010

Inspiration via Koreanish

Alexander Chee is a novelist that I follow on Twitter, and who I recently got to meet when he was in Philly for  work.  When I made my Christmas wish list of books by queer authors for my Mom to buy me from Giovanni's Room, his debut novel Edinburgh was on the list, and is next on my "to read" list. (It was really exciting to support queer artists who I knew or that were recommended by PhinLi Bookings, who I love.)  I also follow Alex's blog Koreanish and really enjoyed  today's post.

What struck me was his discussion on the research that one must undertake to create authentic art, in his case a historical novel, a largely autobiographical novel, and a potential screen play.  Even the autobiographical novel required research because, as he writes, "You may think you know your home town, Annie Dillard used to say in class. But chances are you don’t. What is the main industry? When was it founded? The population? What are the plants, throughout the seasons? She was speaking of the importance of researching even memoir."  I felt like I was getting an artist to artist lesson here, and a reminder that our mentors need not be in the same room or even state as us, be speaking to us directly, or even know us.

This was particularly resonant with me because of the acting training which I just resumed with the start of a new class at the Ward Stduio.  The level of excellence and dedication expected of us is incomparable to anything I have experienced in life, and I am extremely grateful for it.  In our current class, Meisner Technique III, we are learning physical adjustments along with other text work.  These include everything from dialects, speech impediments and physical disability to realistically acting pain, drunkenness, or anything else that would require adjustment to our physicality in order to be truthfully expressed on film or on stage.  The expectation of our accent/dialect work is that we will unfailingly use primary source materials (or I'm sure immersion would be ideal if it were possible) in order to study and take on the accent, and that we will then use it 24/7 until we have mastered it.  At the bank, at work, talking to Grandmom on the phone, giving driving directions to strangers and while fucking.  All of the time. You do your research and you do your footwork and then (and only then) will you be the best artist you can be, writer, actor or otherwise.  I appreciate Alex's blog as one more reminder of the hard work constantly required to master one's craft.

08 January 2010

New Jersey's Failed Marriage Equality Vote

The first order of business, the posting of the yays, the nays, those abstaining and those absent. 

YES (14)

Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic) (609) 383-1388
Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex) (732) 752-0770
Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) (732) 205-1372
Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak (D-Union), co-sponsor (908) 624-0880
Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex) (973) 731-6770
Sen. Teresa M. Ruiz (D-Essex) (973) 484-1000
Sen. Sandra B. Cunningham (D-Hudson) (201) 451-5100
Sen. Brian P. Stack (D-Hudson) (201) 861-5091 & (201) 558-7926
Sen. Nia H. Gill (D-Essex) (973) 509-0388
Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), co-sponsor (201) 928-0100
Sen. Robert M. Gordon (D-Bergen) (201) 703-9779
Sen. Nicholas P. Scutari (D-Union) (908) 587-0404
Sen. Joseph F.Vitale (D-Middlesex) (732) 855-7441
Sen. Bill Baroni (R-Mercer) (609) 631-9988
NO (20)
Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May) (609) 465-0700 & (856) 765-0891 & (856) 696-7109 &               (609) 926-3779
Sen. Ronald L. Rice (D- Essex)  (973) 371-5665
Sen. John A. Girgenti (D-Passaic (973) 427-1229
Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-Hudson) (201) 295-0200
Sen. Fred H. Madden (D-Gloucester) (856) 232-6700 & (856) 401-3073
Sen. Shirley K. Turner (D-Mercer)  (609) 530-3277
Sen. Robert W. Singer (R-Ocean) (732) 901-0702
Sen. Joseph Pennacchio (R-Morris) (973) 227-4012
Sen. Christopher Bateman, (R-Somerset) (908) 526-3600
Sen. Tom Kean Jr. (R -Union) (908) 232-3673 & (908) 918-0414 & (908) 232-2073
Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth ) (732) 933-1591
Sen. Joseph M. Kyrillos (R-Monmouth)  (732) 671-3206
Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen)  (201) 567-2324
Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Hunterdon) (908) 835-0552
Sen. Kevin J. O’Toole (R-Essex) (973) 237-1360
Sen. Philip E. Haines (R-Burlington)   (609) 654-1498
Sen. Christopher J. Connors (R-Ocean) (609) 693-6700
Sen. Anthony R. Bucco (R-Morris) (973) 627-9700                                                                            Sen. Steven V. Oroho (R-Sussex) (973) 300-0200 & (973) 584-4670
Sen. Sean T. Kean (R-Monmouth) (732) 974-0400
Sen. Paul A. Sarlo (D-Bergen) (201) 804-8118
Sen. Stephen M. Sweeney (D-Gloucester) (856) 251-9801 & (856) 455-1011 & (856) 339-0808
Sen. James Beach (D-Camden) (856) 489-3442
Sen. Diane B. Allen (R-Burlington) (609) 239-2800
Sen. Andrew Ciesla (R-Ocean) (732) 840-9028

First of all, I must thank David Badash for this list, posted at his blog The New Civil Rights Movement, to which I have added phone numbers.  David did a phenomenal job yesterday covering the marriage equality debate and has several posts up, including audio of individual Senators' speeches and excellent critiques of the.

Check out David's responses to Senator Kean, who represents the more LGBT citizens than any other Senator but voted no anyway, and Senator Cardinale who somehow argued against the bill from a procedural standpoint, stating that it "disenfranchised"NJ voters.  I'd suggest he look up disenfranchise.   He is an elected representative of his constituents and his vote on laws that affect them is in fact a direct extension of their vote.  But I digress.

Unlike New York, where every single Republican Senator voted against marriage equality, in New Jersey we can thank  Republican Senator Bill Baroni for his bravery in breaking the status quo of the GOP and delivering this excellent speech, asserting that “unequal treatment by government is always wrong.”

My parents are represented by Republican Senator Philip E. Haines of Burlington County, where I lived for a decade of my life.  Ironically, I have to call his office to ask for his assistance in understanding NJ health insurance law.  After that conversation, we'll be having one about marriage equality, and the fact that he will not get my parents' votes, nor the votes of anyone that I or my parents lobby. 

It's time, today, this very moment, to call NJ Senators who feel that we are not equal citizens and let them know it's time to get on the equality train, or be ready to clean out their offices.

06 January 2010

Elders in the Tribe - Essentials Traits & Responsibilities

This is a continuation in my blog series about tribes as youth, adults, elders and ancestors.

The essential traits of elders in the tribe are:
  • Before transitioning to elder status in the tribe, they were adults who were community leaders and cornerstones, and who actively participated in helping youth in the tribe transition to adulthood.
  • They care deeply about the whole community, and provide vision and guidance to the youth and adults.
  • They are wise and patient and can apply and/or communicate their wisdom and experience effectively.
  • Their guidance is based on supporting the long term growth, nurturing and protection of the tribe for the next seven generations.
The essential responsibilities of the elder to the tribe are:
  • The elders take care of the tribe, but in a less immediate and material sense than adults.  While adults of the tribe generate capital and take care of societal functions from farming to civic leadership, elders take a longer, seven generation view of the needs of the tribe and advise the adults based on this vision.
  • Elders mentor and transition adults who are capable and willing into elder status.
  • Elders maintain the tribes history and customs, and pass these on to the next generations.
The responsibilities of the tribe to the elders are:
  • The elders are to be respected.  (This doesn't mean that everyone will agree with them all of the time - far from it.  Indeed, one of the responsibilities of the youth is to shake things up and have new ideas.)
  • The youth and especially the adults of the tribe will help the elders transition to ancestors.  This responsibility involves some combination of physical, material and spiritual care before death, as well as honoring their memory after death.  The elder may continue to advise the tribe in writings and legacies left behind and, in the spiritual practices of some tribes, communication may continue to him/her/hir.  

05 January 2010

NJ Marriage Equality Vote

As NYC blogger Joe Jervis writes, "At least, as in New York, we'll learn where to aim our efforts for the 2010 election."  I couldn't agree more.  A failure to pass marriage equality at the 11th hour of Governor Corzine's lame duck period would be a disappointment, we must prepare for that possibility now.  Maine and New York have demonstrated that there are just enough Democrats who are either spineless poll watchers or simply think that they are better than their queer constituents and can not be relied upon to pass marriage equality.  When I attended the NYC marriage equality rally only two days after the NY Senate voted down the rights of the people who helped to elect them, there were already speech makers throwing their hat in the ring for Senate races.  If marriage equality dies in the Senate at midnight on Thursday, organizing begins at 12:01, not eight in the morning on Friday.  In every city and state of this nation, we must make it clear that when our leaders fail us, they will be swiftly replaced.

Read the full story at Joe. My. God.