Archive for March, 2009

Postscript to a Monologue

I attended Kenyon College’s production of The Vagina Monologues on Friday, and had an excellent time. When I came home, I wrote the following:

I can’t praise Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, enough. She has written one of the most culturally necessary performances in our society today. She renewed a sense of activism for a generation that is, on the whole, apathetic to the point of atrophy. And, she has a great haircut.

On the whole, I think Eve got it right. Feminism is still very relevant in the United States, not because women are treated as inferior citizens (though it would be unwise to believe that those issues have been resolved), but because we’ve largely abandoned the dialogue regarding the ways that gender plays out on a daily basis. In other words: It’s not that the United States hates vaginas; it’s that the we don’t want to talk about them. A friend of mine left the performance halfway through because he was bored– he had “expected it to be more outrageous.” It is precisely because female sexuality is so suppressed and controlled that the idea of merely talking about it seems “outrageous” to us. Referencing one’s cock, on the other hand, is fairly acceptable in the media and in most casual conversation.

So, in general, I’m pleased to support the cause by attending The Vagina Monologues. I get to spend two hours watching women in little black dresses confess, declare, rant, and have multiple orgasms on stage. I get to watch women talk about things that don’t get talked about. Hell, that’s worth two dollars.

I’ve seen The Vagina Monologues three times now, twice at Kenyon and once at Hollins University. And yet every time, I can’t help feeling that something is off when the latter half of the performance begins to turn primarily to issues of global violence against women. Performers throw out random facts and statistics about “female genital mutilation” (FGM)* and systematic rape in various parts of the world– areas that we often label “third world,” “undeveloped” or “developing” (as though these nations are awkwardly trying on their training bra for the first time).  It is precisely the practices and events that the Vagina Monologues denounces that we “first world” activists often use as evidence for the inferiority of those nations. Ensler’s script calls for action, yes, but it feels awfully like a white woman’s burden to me.

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* I prefer the term Female Genital Cutting (FGC) because labeling this practice “mutilation” assigns a judgment without acknowledging any cultural autonomy. I do believe that FGC is an issue that needs to be addressed, and I do believe that it is representative of systemized practices worldwide designed to control the female body (both in sub-Saharan Africa and the United States). If the script had only used the term “cutting” instead of “mutilation,” or if it had made note of the complexities involved in judging another cultural practice, I would have felt more comfortable.

Continue reading ‘Postscript to a Monologue’

To Know, To Utter, To Argue

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“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.”

– John Milton, 1644

 

School has been keeping me busy, but I promise I have updates planned for the weekend!

Margaret Atwood

A word after a word
after a word is power.

Sisterpoet & The Act of Creativity

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My little sister and I write poems together, one word at a time. Her word choices, silly and brilliant, free me up in my own poetry. I am reminded of the fun in writing: “baking poisonous toadstools into ovens..”. Sometimes we compose the most inspired phrases, and I make sure to remember them for the future: “doughy birdcalls” and “rise into the loaf of a moment.”

In the modern world, few people know how to collaborate creatively. Plagiarism rules and intellectual property laws discourage us from working with other creative minds; the creative act becomes solitary, secretive, and high-pressure. 

No fun at all.

Exacompta Sketchbook

I posted about my new journal the other day, and have been trying to find some free time to post some pictures. Technically, I purchased the Exacompta sketchbook, not the matching journal, but I prefer to write on a blank unlined page.

In the past I’ve discussed my distaste for both the Moleskine corporation and the moleskine “culture,” and my transition toward making my own books. I’m still binding books for friends and for myself, but I wanted to experiment with a store-bought book that was:

  • of superior quality to moleskine (particularly the paper quality)
  • not overpriced
  • not over-marketed (i.e. no “legendary” claims)
  • produced by a fairly ethical company
  • classy, customizable, and unique.

Of course I know that no store-bought book is going to be unique, and it’s silly to make that claim about any mass-produced product. By “unique,” I really mean basic enough for me to fill, alter, and abuse it to the point where it becomes mine.

img_0734Enter the Exacompta sketchbook. By now I’ve spent a few weeks with this delicious book and I can say that it’s hands down my favorite store-bought basic black book (BBB).

The sketchbook (5.5″x8.5″) is cloth bound, and sewn, so the pages open completely flat. A lot of small and medium sized books have trouble opening flat so this has been a total blessing for a carpal-tunnel-stricken scriptophile like me. I thought that I wouldn’t like the embossed “sketchbook” logo on the cover, but I’ve found that I don’t mind it too much. I added a label with my name to the front, and I’ve been holding the book closed with a plain rubber band.

The book is filled with gorgeous off-white laid paper. It’s lighter than moleskine-yellow, which means that my colors show up brighter. The laid lines result from the pattern of the screen against the paper pulp during the paper-making process. I really love the texture that these lines create because it reminds me that paper doesn’t just appear out of nowhere– it goes through a process of creation, beginning with harvested trees. I’m not enough of a treehugger to stop using paper journals (and besides, computer laptops have a larger carbon footprint than a Hummer, so paper journaling is not my greatest sin), but it’s good to be reminded that the products we use everyday don’t come from the store; they originate from nature somewhere.

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gilded edges

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The paper takes well to my fountain pen, and also surprisingly to watercolor. I used my sister’s cheap watercolor set to play around a little while I was home over break. I had forgotten how neon those basic elementary school watercolor sets are! I’m looking forward to painting some more with my own set when I have the time.

Regarding my desire for a book “produced by a fairly ethical company,” I haven’t yet found any evidence one way or the other for Clairefontaine/Exacompta. I found a company profile, but there doesn’t seem to be much underground networking regarding their history. Nevertheless, I do know that their production has remained in France (not shipped over to China, a la Moleskine).

After searching a bit online, it turns out that a few others have discovered the beauty of this book before me: both Inkophile and Spiritual Evolution of the Bean raved about this sketchbook as well.

Comfort Food

The last half of my spring break was spent job searching– always a stressful task in this economy, especially as a person in the arts. To comfort myself, and to thank my parents for letting me stay at their place, I baked bread and made some macaroni and cheese with cauliflower for a family dinner. I decided to bake a wheat loaf, which uses yeast and was much easier than the sourdough I tried in this entry. For the macaroni and cheese, I used this recipe from the latest issue of Real Simple magazine (don’t judge! it’s guilty pleasure). 

The Process

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The (Delicious) Results

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Mmm. Comforting.

New Journal

Opened a new journal today, an intended sketchbook that I had to gnaw on with my thoughts instead because of the smooth smooth paper– sturdy, no-bleed, with gloriously tactile laid lines. I use my Lamy Safari to write even if it is cliche, because it’s the only fountain pen I can afford right now. 

I keep hoping someone will take pity on me and mail me some delicious art or writing supplies, for me to caress and abuse in the name of the creative spirit. But really, all artists should be poor because it breeds resourcefulness– digging through the recycling bin for paper to bind together into a new sketchbook, squeezing out every last drop of Mod Podge and then using the jar to hold your brushes…


Art adventures, literary hangovers, rural politics and other songs worth sharing.

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