Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Art in the Oven

Ever since I got sick in Ecuador and almost died in Colombia, I've been taking it a little easy.  As my health improved, I got the bug to get back to creating.  Mostly that resulted in lots of sewing and many handmade Christmas gifts.  Some of the items that made me very happy to make for my loved ones: a stuffed owl, a chic diaper bag, artsy note cards, spicy cocoa mix, infused vodkas, a cloth CD case, a framed collage, and almond-cherry-chocolate-chunk biscotti.  Oh, how wish I took photos of everything before wrapping them!

Of course, I'm still sewing up cute handbags for my slowly but surely growing Etsy shop.  But my current mania is cooking.  I have always loved cooking.  I rarely follow a recipe strictly.  I usually tailor it to suit my own taste or to use whatever I have on hand.  Hubby and I have been wanting to eat healthier, and we are also trying to be more frugal, so I've been buying lots of fresh produce and cooking up scrumptious (mostly vegetarian) dishes.  I feel like I'm fueling my artistic spirit with my culinary exploits.  Here's a list of what I've cooked recently:

Garlic Stracciatella Soup with Carrots & Spinach ("Little Rag Soup")
Sweet Potato Oven Fries
Cauliflower & Potato Gratin
Shiitake Mushroom Lettuce Wraps
Pan Fried Tofu with Aunt Joan's Hot Pepper Jelly
Spinach & Tomato Quiche
Caesar-esque Salad w/Homemade Dressing
Quinoa with Almonds, Cherries, & Shallots
Polenta with Cherry Tomatoes & Onions
Baked Tofu with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Because I was thinking about cooking, which led me to thinking about frying, which led me to thinking about frying pans, I'll leave you with my favorite version of the song that frying pans always make me think of:

Better Than Ezra - Conjunction Junction (couldn't embed it, but you can watch it here):

Intentions of a Message of Tolerance, But Your Privilege Is Still Showing

I'm finally inspired to get writing again, so it's a busy day for posts.

One of hubby's co-workers posted a blog arguing that anyone who sees racism in Avatar is just looking for it.  This led to a flurry of IMs between us discussing the issue.  Here are some of my thoughts about the movie.

I think it’s hard for a filmmaker to show homage to an indigenous culture without it feeling presumptuously othering when the culture is seen and presented through the eyes of the foreigner, rather than the Na’vi being able to define themselves. But much of this potential problem is mitigated by the use of a Na’vi character teaching what’s-his-name about the culture.  There are other questions you could ask to get at the nature of why people see racism here.  Why is it the foreigner who leads the battle, rather than one of the Navi leaders/warriors? That's the big one.

Though the film intends to criticize our history of imperialism and colonialization, it still reveals a need common in the narratives of white American storytellers for the white guy who ‘gets it’ to be forgiven and then accepted by the minority group (and then lead them??!). This need comes from a place of privilege – the white guy still needs to be the center of the story, the star. He thinks EVERY story is about him.

And, yet I do understand that the average white American is a huge part of the target audience. AND, if you want those white Americans to feel the implications of our treatment of other cultures, then it makes sense to make the white Marine (really, our current real-life equivilent of a hero) the character through which we see the world of the movie. AND, if THIS guy can have a change of heart and learn to respect other cultures, then we have an example through which we might see the potential of our whole country learning to be more respectful.

So, I think there is a strong argument against the INTENTIONS of the filmmaker being racist. And even an argument that there are good justifications for his choices. But I also understand why some people ask why everytime there is a movie about another culture (and in this case it’s a fictional culture, but a clear stand in for some other real world peoples), the story is always told from the perspective of the white character, and the members of the other culture are just that: the others.

A Possible Stint as a Goverment Worker?

So, I'm applying for one of these census jobs.  It's not exactly artistic work, but I have a strange inclination to civic-minded activities.  Also on the agenda, though not necessarily by choice, is jury duty.  I'm only on call, but I kind of hope I get to serve on a jury.  I'm not one of those people whose sole goal is to get out of it.  I think it would be a very interesting experience.  And it would let me see first hand a glimpse of our legal system.  I can compare it to the many depictions I've watched in my beloved evening crime dramas! 

But back to the census work.  It's a temporary project, so it's not like I'm launching into a career working for the government. And it pays very well for temp work.  But I think it appeals to me in a similar way some aspects of theatre do.  For a period of time, I'll get to learn a new field, inhabit a world different than my usual, and learn skills specific to a particular area of work.  When I'm directing a play, it's the research and emersion into the world of the play that thrills me.  I loved spending a few weeks trying to think like a Shaker while I was directing As it Is in Heaven.  Relishing the sewing and handicrafts, bonding with a group of girls trying to think like a community.  Or listening to interviews with released political prisoners while rehearsing Two Rooms.  Or chatting up artists and gallery owners during the process for Abstract Expression.  This is work that appeals to my desire to learn a little about EVERYTHING.