desk lunch – 2015-11-05

A short desk lunch because things are busy, between my day job and my month-long NaNoWriMo project (not a novel, but just a time when I write and complete something every day for 30 days). Fun times! Is it Thanksgiving yet!


From Vaudeville To Hamilton: Racial Minorities In Musicals

The runaway success of Hamilton has shown that this sort of “race-blind” casting can become an astounding success—and also how far we’ve come from the musicals of the 1940s.

Two things: ONE: I appreciate this piece because it makes the point that the days of Old Hollywood were lose-lose in their portrayals of POC and how they utilized non-white actors once they had them. Roles for minorities offered either deeply uncomfortable stereotypical portrayals, or POCs (and the roles they played) were whitewashed, such as my honorary grandmother Rita Moreno. I didn’t realize she was Zelda in Singin’ in the Rain until I had seen the movie roughly 16,000 times because she looked nooooooothiiiiiing like the way she’s looked the rest of her life. TWO: Hamilton is NOT a RACE-BLIND or COLOR-BLIND musical, and people need to stop calling it that. Race/color-blind implies (“implies”)* that the performers were chosen without considering their ethnic backgrounds, and this is not the case w/r/t Hamilton, where casting POC in every role (except King George) was an active priority because, in the writer’s words: “This is a story about America then, told by America now, and we want to eliminate any distance — our story should look the way our country looks.” The word you’re looking for (actively casting POCs in historically/traditionally white roles to create a double conscious performance) might be racebending, but to the best of my knowledge, there’s no theater-specific term for this sort of thing. However: the term is NOT “race-blind” or “color-blind.”

*Ironic quotation marks because I doubt anyone, literally anyone’s ability to conduct truly “blind” evaluations of any work. For more on this issue (but from a different field) see this piece from Apogee Journal about blind submissions at literary magazines. Readers, especially, often think that “the work” will speak for itself in a pure and objective manner, and that taking the name off a submission will also rid their own brains of implicit bias, and that’s absolutely not the case, ever.

Oh, MAN, do I love anything more than giant compilations of primary sources? NO, I DON’T. I got this book used for about $10 and so far it’s WONDERFUL. It works from the compelling, strangely radical thesis: maybe people have always been people, and maybe same-sex attraction/romance/intimacy/sexuality isn’t an invention of the past 10 minutes, and here are 400 pages of historical documents that can be viewed in that light! Maybe we, the inheritors of this legacy, can take people of the past at their word when they wrote things like: “I have certainly never loved [a] man as I love you—and never shall” and “If I could have lived along side of you all the days of my life, I should have been happier.” (full excerpt) It’s a better solution than superimposing a century of institutionalized homophobia on legitimate emotional relationships that don’t suit an “idealized” concept of the past. (Ironic quotations ABOUND today—no regrets!)

Have you ever heard of the Omura whale? ….There’s a pretty simple explanation for why you probably haven’t; they didn’t technically exist until 2003. You see, until then they were not thought to be a distinct spacies of whale, merely a dwarf version of another species. But in 2003, after a team of Japanese researchers spent a good deal of time studying their DNA and bodily chracteristics decided they were distinct enough to be their own species, and named them after the deceased cetologist Hideo Omura.

THERE’S A NEW WHALE? THERE’S A NEW WHALE!


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desk lunch – 2015-06-25

Brought to you this week by a brain so scattered I’m reviewing twitter and my calendar to recall what exactly consumed another week of my life. Work? Panic? Naps? Work again? Discussions about homoeroticism in The Silmarillion like I’m 16 and living on livejournal again? Reading the juiciest parts of DID MY BOYFRIEND JUST GET MARRIED? (Girl. He did. He got married.) Yes, it was all these things, and probably more, but take this non sequitur: if you need a Comedy Central show in the background, start easing yourself over to Larry Wilmore and the Nightly Show, ok??


Carvell: Right. Well, when your entire history in this country has been about literally dying to be considered human, you have to develop a Christianity that enables you to fight while also “forgiving them” who hurt you. We have to forgive the sinner because the accumulated resentment could destroy us, but that will never mean that we don’t fight tooth and nail against the sin.
Mallory: So it has more to do with self-protection than it does with absolution, it sounds like.
Carvell: Absolutely. It’s nothing to do with the offender and it’s not about granting a pass to anyone.

Judging by the comments on this interview with Carvel Wallace at The Toast, I’m definitely not the only one who needed explained in great detail how the concept of forgiveness differs between white and black communities in America. And to be honest, this concept of forgiveness (making peace with something and also continuing to fight the offense and how it hurt you) makes a lot more sense than Catholicism’s sacrament of a third party wiping the slate clean for you and declaring it All Good. Which- nope! That’s not how my intricate resentment irrigation system works!

The Civil War was easy to misunderstand at the time, because there had never been anything like it. It was a total mobilization of society, the kind Europe wouldn’t see until World War I. The Civil War was fought not just with cannons and bayonets, but with railroads and factories and an income tax.
If the Napoleonic Wars were your model, then it was obvious that the Confederacy lost in 1865: Its capital fell, its commander surrendered, its president was jailed, and its territories were occupied by the opposing army. If that’s not defeat, what is?
But now we have a better model than Napoleon: Iraq.

This essay (originally posted in August 2014) is a fascinating longread that examines the lasting culture of the Confederacy. Essentially, the idea goes that we’ve only just developed the correct language and framework for talking about the Civil War, now that modern warfare has moved from a “clear” capture/conquer model to sustained insurgencies. The Confederacy, says the piece, is just such an insurgency that managed to weave itself literally into the fabric of our national culture. HILARIOUS.



POEM REC! (excerpt)

You can’t see beneath the exoskeleton,
this stylized mockery of female form:
smooth cyberskin, DD breasts,
perfectly calculated 0.7 waist-to-hip ratio.
By your standards, it is perfect.

I see the overlap—cars, guns, violence, danger, chasing and escaping, a relationship that seems more than brotherly but not quite romantic—but I think Crush and Supernatural are products of a cultural moment, not products of each other.

HAHAHA, RICHARD SIKEN. I’m not joking when I say this interview covers topics that I’ve wanted to write about and explore for years. This isn’t just about Siken and Supernatural– more interesting is this longer pull quote that I scrambled to submit to The Rumpus’s blog with embarrassing speed.

Siken gets why fandoms and slash writers have latched on to his work; he gets it better than any other writer I’ve seen try to address fanworks and the give/take relationship with the original work.

Fanwork artists don’t borrow another creator’s fictional world, but expand its boundaries. In this case, fan artists use Crush and slash to push the dialogue between the show and its themes in directions the shows refuse to incorporate seriously. It’s especially important for shows like Supernatural and Sherlock, whose writers and showrunners build deep emotional attachments between men with one hand and deny every shade of serious homoeroticism/romanticism (queerbaiting!) with the other. Fandom and its fanworks imagine storylines without a virulent undercurrent of gay panic, stories that allow genuine intimacy to exist between characters without rushing to reinforce traditional masculinity. Frankly, that’s kind of the point: to undermine “traditional” masculinity in favor of characters who can experience the full range of human emotion! IMAGINE THAT.