2 art itches, 2 activism spasms, 1 scientist fight, 8 articles, 3 books, 1 thriller, 1 sweet Star Wars victory
I wrote about three gallery shows for Aeqai, and I think the title sums it up: Trans rights, melting glaciers, evil-thwarting shields: just another Houston gallery-hop, just another January in America
Experimental Action, the first performance art festival of its name in Houston (although similar events occurred in recent years), held a panel on the 25th that was billed as something to help people understand performance art. I’m not sure if I have trouble “understanding” performance art, but I sure don’t know how to review it. How do you review an ephemeral experience that no one can pay thousands of dollars for to keep in their homes? (I resisted actually asking the panel about the commodification of performance art, as I’m sure we crafty capitalists can find a way. Related: Shia LaBoeuf didn’t turn up, despite the hashtag.)
Professor Alison Starr gave a good retrospective of performance art starting with the futurists (weirdly, I had just re-read their proto-fascist manifesto), and six artists who had traveled to Houston from around the world to perform. Just as I was starting to wonder if anyone has ever created a performance based on a never-ending, painful audience question (they would just keep asking and asking, as the other audience members get more and more uncomfortable, and then after the question lasting at least 30 minutes, a bucket of blood drops… I’m new at this), Dallas-based artist Christian Cruz offered this phrase: “The medium is the duration.” I love that. That statement alone makes me feel prepared to write a performance art review.
I marched to the Super Bowl. Best sign:
A friend recommended the Citizens Climate Lobby as a good activist group to get involved with. On a whim, I traveled to Austin for their annual Texas meeting. Their whole thing is to champion a carbon fee and dividend solution, and to lobby conservative politicians to make the difference in votes. I learned a lot, everyone was super nice and it was a valuable experience, but the thought of pandering to Republican lawmakers is physically painful to me right now. I mean, when George W. Bush starts to look like a stand-up guy (I know he’s just marketing a book, but still), you know something’s wrong. Better writers than I have written great “I’m still bitter and that’s okay” pieces; I’ll figure out something else.
I love the UH Energy Symposium series. This month was Going Nuclear: Risk, Odds and Potential. I learned a lot (although there was an unsettling dearth of talk about where nuclear waste actually goes) and discussion was pretty lively. First, an audience member stood up and shouted “WHY ARE YOU LYING TO US?” multiple times while Mark Jacobson, a scientist and academic advocating for 100% sustainable energy (and no nuclear at all) from Berkeley, gave his opening presentation. He carried on and she was quieted by a staff member.
But the real Jerry Springer moments came between Jacobson and Jessica Lovering, Director of Energy at the Breakthrough Institute. Lovering is a nuclear advocate and had a perpetual pitying head-shake going every time Jacobson spoke. Verbal exchanges brought retorts like “that’s just not true” and “I’m a very accomplished scientist, I actually studied this” from him. At one point the moderator had to say, consolingly, “It’s okay, you’re both very accomplished.”
Great snacks, too.
Grab bag of good articles:
The Enduring Wisdom—and Subversion—of Bathroom Graffiti by my awesome grad school classmate, Katie Vagnino
Blood in the Ice Cream: A Deeper Look At the Cornetto Trilogy – I rewatched “Hot Fuzz” immediately after reading this, no regrets.
Harry Potter and the Lost Generation – perfect Harry Potter/Hemingway parody.
“The Sellout” by Paul Beatty
2015, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
I love putting in-demand books on my library request list and getting surprise notifications when they’re available. “The Sellout” is discomfiting, razor-sharp and uproarious. It’s about a black man who farms watermelon and weed, ends up keeping another black man (who was one of the original “Little Rascals”) as a slave, and tries to reinstate segregation in his California community. Complicated? Yes. Read slowly to absorb the subtext and jokes. Suggested accompaniment: Beatty’s interview with Rolling Stone.
“100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write” by Sarah Ruhl
2014, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
I’m glad I bought this one: micro-essays by a great playwright that cover philosophy, plays and parenting (and So Much More!). Morsels are another good medium for her.
My favorite essay was #71, “The Age of Commentary.” She describes being at the Tony Awards: “There were many breaks in the show, and I was struck by what the live audience did while the television audience was watching the commercials. You might think that such a lively teeming mass of gifted performers and producers might be laughing, gossiping, dancing in the aisles, looking over their fans at one another’s decolletage. What were these rarefied creatures doing? They were texting. And I thought, The age of experience is truly over; we are entering the age of commentary.” This is a much more Romantic way of describing our collective obsession with cell phones.
“Get Out,” 2017
Written and directed by Jordan Peele
I can count on one hand the number of horror films I’ve seen in a theater (one was by accident—ugh, “Woman in Black”), but luckily this is more of a thriller. It’s getting rave reviews, so I will save you the spoilers and just tell you to go see it, even if you’re squeamish about the “horror” label. It manages (easily, too recognizably) to be horrifying without torture porn, shaky camerawork and excessive jump scares.
One of the world’s great babies, Lil’ Sebastian, turned one, and was thrown the most epic Star Wars-themed birthday I have ever attended. And because I knew that the Millennium Falcon made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, I won a jellybean dispenser! I mean, LOOK at this cake: