“Trouble in the Heartland,” in which I come clean about my love affair with Bruce Springsteen.
My next book project got announced yesterday on the Publisher’s Marketplace newsletter:
Edited and with an introduction by Evelyn McDonnell’s WOMEN WHO ROCK, an illustrated history featuring essays on key female artists in hip-hop, pop, soul, and rock by leading women writers and musicians, with illustrations by female artists, to Becky Koh at Black Dog & Leventhal, by Sarah Lazin at Sarah Lazin Books (World).
I am really excited about this book, which I think is going to be smart and inspirational. I’m looking forward to assembling a talented crew of writers and helping locate illustrators. Narrowing down our list of female musicians to celebrate will be hard, and I’m sure I’ll spend the rest of my life defending omissions. But more than ever right now, we need to honor and gather the work of women. Thanks to my agent Sarah Lazin and editor Becky Koh for making this happen.
Last night was a queer punk rock feminist dream come true, hanging with and hearing some key gender game-changers, past and present. First, Allison Wolfe and I went to the Ace Hotel, where Nadya Tolokno of Pussy Riot was holding court. It was the first time the original Riot Grrrl had met the original Pussy Riot girl, so that was a bit of a moment. We also ran into Mukta Mohan and Gabrielle Costa of the very cool Honey Power female DJ collective. Lots of girl power on that rooftop last night. Tolokno showed her three new videos, in which Putin’s least favorite punk raps and grooves. The former art student is pursuing a more Madonna/Peaches/PJ Harvey groove than the band’s former anarcho thrash. The videos are very sexualized, and bloody. Allison will be on a panel with Maria from Pussy Riot Monday night at the Regent, so she is on the full PR tour this week.
Afterwards, the Sex Stains goddess and I trucked up to USC, where we caught the second half of the Trans/Gender Tipping Point event organized by Jack Halberstam and Karen Tongson, two scholars whose work is not just analyzing but leading the discourse on gender variance. Four members of the Transparent artistic team talked about that show’s, er, transformative effect on trans visibility, television, and their own lives. Director Silas Howard, producers Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst, and actor Trace Lysette also discussed how the show could go even further, including having feature characters who have fully transitioned. Howard, for one, is optimistic the show will continue to break ground, saying of Jill Soloway’s Transparent team, “Whenever they’re most afraid, they most bravely go forward.” Stay tuned.
Some students asked me recently what the best part of being a journalist is, and I would say it’s being a witness to the making of history. Being in a room with Howard and Wolfe again, a couple decades after we were all first connected to Revolution Girl Style, or watching Allison and Nadya talk, or being dazzled by Lysette’s simultaneous poise and vulnerability — it felt like another of those nights. That’s my blessing as a journalist; my job is to tell you about it, which I just did.
It’s becoming a running theme: Someone I wrote about 15, 20, 25 years ago finally gets their day in the sun, and I get to reconnect. Call it Early Adopter Syndrome, or, as poet Mike Tyler says, the Turtle Generation finally crossing the finish line. In today’s edition, it’s a his and a her: that old queer punk Hedwig. Eighteen years ago I interviewed John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask, the creators of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, for The Village Voice. I was such a tireless Hedwig advocate back then that Carrie Brownstein — yeah, I was onto her a long time ago too — used to tease me about my obsession. Cue forward to 2014, and the old “slip of a girlie” is finally on Broadway, and, er, snatching Tonys. I caught up with John and Stephen recently for the LA Weekly. They are both rabid music fans, and it’s always great fun to talk about punk and politics with them. The revival of Hedwig launches at the Pantages tonight, with Darren Criss in the title role and Tony-winner Lena Hall as Yitzhak and, on Sunday nights, Hedwig — more gender warping from this vanguard show.
In honor of America’s first Man Booker Prize winner, I’m reposting my 1990 Village Voice feature on Paul Beatty, back when he was still a poet.
Big news for San Pedro: The next production of The Industry, the site-specific, tech-savvy, game-changing Los Angeles opera company, will take place at Cabrillo Beach in 2017. The Industry is pretty much the coolest theater company in Southern California, if not the world. Their production of Invisible Cities, based on the Italo Calvino novel, was staged at Union Station, with protagonists Marco Polo and Kublai Khan mingling with real travelers in real time. Last year, their “mobile opera” Hopscotch moved from various spots in Downtown LA. Both drew tremendous acclaim and press attention.
The company debuted a gorgeous film of Invisible Cities at Pedro’s Warner Grand Theatre this evening. They opened the event by announcing Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo as their next production. The show will take place around a bonfire on Cabrillo — aka my front yard. (After the party, there will be the after-party.) Artistic Director Yuval Sharon said the Industry chose San Pedro because of our town’s (see what I did there? “Our Town?”) “long rich history of labor equality, their union history, and their connection to the port.” Galileo depicts the battle between reason and authority — a timely issue, as Sharon noted. The Industry will be working in collaboration with Tim Robbins’ politically conscious The Actors’ Gang (whom I saw stage a production of Our Town, coincidentally, several years ago), with art by locally based sculptor Liz Glynn. Even more encouragingly, Sharon said the company is eager to work with homegrown businesses and talent. Representatives of locals-only arts organizations San Pedro Ballet and Grand Vision were in the house.
As a denizen of the beach, I’m not so crazy about Sharon’s request for a helicopter; we get enough of those around here, thank you very much. But otherwise, as we say around these parts, STOKED.) Galileo will take place September 16, 17, 23, and 24.
Ironically, right before the announcement and screening, the San Pedro International Film Festival wrapped with a panel discussion about establishing a creative corridor in town. The conversation was interesting but lacking in context and depth, conflating technology with arts and never addressing how gentrification is another word for displacement. The whole conversation was largely rendered moot with the Industry’s announcement next door, though the panelists seemed oblivious of the pending tremblor. In the words of Angela Romero, “that’s so Pedro.”
I’m honored to have again served as a judge for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, an award that honors not just good writing but writing for a good cause. Ruben Martinez and I were handed six strong finalists, but ultimately, Susan Southard’s powerful Nagasaki blew us away with its meticulous reporting and devastating narrative. It’s a powerful book that is timely not just because the 50-year anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs just passed, but because it provides compelling evidence of how horrible humankind can be to itself — and why we can’t let power get into the wrong hands.
I was also happy to see my former Village Voice colleague James Hannaham was the runner-up for the fiction award. (I only judged the non-fiction category.)
Below is the press release for the winners and finalists. Continue reading