Saturday, 12 January 2019

A tour de force of story-telling

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
(Serpent's Tail)
Pp. 417

This is a picaresque novel full of adventures and multiple locations: from the slave plantation in Barbados to the frozen wastelands of the Canadian Arctic; from the structured canals of Amsterdam to the wild coasts of Nova Scotia; from the scientific calm of the London Aquarium to the wind-swept deserts of Morocco. It is peopled by explorers, adventurers, scientists and exploiters. Everyone is seeking something: discovery; freedom; equality or survival, and it can all be realised as Washington Black says to his mentor who warns him something is impossible, “Nothing is possible, sir, until it is made so.”

Washington Black is rescued from his brother’s slave plantation by adventurer and inventor Christopher ‘Titch’ Wilde, who says he wants a young boy to help him carry his instruments and take scientific measurements. Titch is trying to sail in a cloud cutter – a craft propelled by both a hot air balloon and more prosaic oars. He encourages Washington’s prodigious gift of drawing and removes him from the daily cruelty of life he has previously experienced. Is he really benevolent, however, or simply using him for his own means?

After an incredibly unfortunate incident, Titch knows that he and Washington must flee and so they affect a wonderfully improbable escape to the Canadian Arctic. Here Washington is introduced to a new world, culture and relationships. When Titch disappears from Washington’s life, he is presumed dead, and Washington must attempt to forge his own way in the world that has hitherto denied him freedom.

Edugyan never flinches from the violence and barbarism of slavery and its consequences, but nor does she dwell upon it. Washington knows his mother was abused and raped, and he writes baldly of the horrors of the slave ships: “The stench of the holds, all of them rolling naked and ill in the dark stomach of the barquentine. The urine and excrement and vomit, men clawing their own throats open with ragged fingernails, bloodied women leaping the deck rails into waters sharp with the fins of sharks. I saw the dozens who had died on the way to Barbados, and I saw those who died once ashore.”

In striving for his freedom, Washington severs his ties with his previous existence and the people he once knew and cared for – it seems that he can only care for himself in order to survive. The novel questions the meaning of belonging. We understand that we do not belong to a person, but can we belong to a place, and how important are family connections? When Washington suspects that Titch may be alive, he begins to search for him, but why? Was he abandoned?

As well as being a sweeping saga of derring-do and outrageous plots, this novel also examines the conundrum of colonialism, survivor’s guilt, and the impossibility of altruism in a pointed and poignant manner. The language is clear and precise as Washington attempts to describe unimagined circumstances, and the fantasy and realism elements blend well in a tour-de-force of storytelling.

Friday, 4 January 2019

Friday Five: Favourite Films of 2018

Once again the 'rules': I have to have seen the film; It has to have been released in 2018 in the country in which I was living; the films are listed in alphabetical order; I can have more than five if I want to; there will be honourable mentions.

7 Favourite Films of 2018:
  1. The Death of Stalin – What a brilliant concept to have all the lead players in a drama about the death of Stalin talk with their natural regional accents. Armando Iannucci is arguably the greatest writer and director of black comedy, and this is a highlight among many of his career. With a plethora of character actors, he turns fear into farce with one of the most sophisticated screenplays likely to grace the screen this year.
  2. The Favourite – Acting; direction (Yorgos Lanthimos); screenplay; storytelling; plot; dialogue; cinematography; musical score; costumes; hair & make-up; locations – all superb. The juxtaposition of courtly early-18th-century speech with more modern vernacular creates moments of great humour, also applicable to manners and that ballroom dance, which is just sublime. The cinematography and camera angles enhance the feeling of disorientation, as does the score which, while a bit unsettling in his previous The Lobster and completely irritating in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, is entirely appropriate here as it ratchets up the tension and highlights the drama. Too often directors patronise audiences, but Lanthimos credits us with enough intelligence not to have to provide tedious backstory or exposition. Everything we need to know about these characters is self-contained within the film, and what characters they are! Olivia Coleman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone are all excellent, and how refreshing it is to see a film where women for once are front and centre and the men, no matter how good they are (and they are good), are peripheral to the action. My only quibble is that the font used for the end credits is very difficult to read.
  3. I, Tonya This is a gripping ‘based-on-the-true-story’ tale of the famous ice-skating stoush between Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) and Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver). But in director Craig Gillespie’s vision it becomes more of a story of adversity of class and parentage with the forceful character of Tonya’s mother (Allison Janney) pushing her down as much as she hauls her up. There are multiple versions of the same ‘incident’, which makes this more interesting than a straightforward biopic, but also creates a few tonal inconsistencies (domestic violence is never a laughing matter).
  4. Lady Bird  – This is a wonderful film directed by Greta Gerwig about a young woman (Saoirse Ronan), wanting to escape the metaphorical maternal straitjacket enforced upon her by mother (Laurie Metcalf). After watching the characters develop individually and into a respectful understanding of how to handle the world around them through art and adventure, relationships and romance, I was saddened to hear comments that this was a woman’s film, with the director only Oscar-nominated due to gender inclusion and that it would not appeal to men at all. And that is why we need more films like this. 
  5. Leave No Trace – Moments of tenderness nestle alongside no-nonsense survival techniques in this examination of what it means to care for someone else when you’re struggling to care for yourself. Director Debra Granik mines every nuance from the formidable setting of the forests of Portland, Oregon and the performances of the father (Ben Foster as Will) and daughter (Thomasin McKenzie) duo. Post-traumatic stress disorder has rarely been handled so sensitively.
  6. Peterloo I've wanted to see this film since I first heard about it. Mike Leigh directs a stellar cast of Northerners (including Rory Kinnear and Maxine Peake) in the lead-up to and consequences of this Manchester massacre, saying only they could feel it in their soul. Films like this make me miss Pete Postlethwaite more than ever. It's epic in a good way with well-placed silences and heartfelt speeches. From a time when the desire for universal suffrage seemed radical, the ruling class treated the workers as scum, and rights to habeas corpus were removed at will... haven't we come a long way?
  7. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri – I saw this film on New Year’s Day 2018 (release date in Australia) and joked that it was the best film I had seen all year. On New Year’s Eve, it still is. Witty script and dialogue combine with the black humour and subtle acerbic tone we’ve come to expect from Martin McDonagh. Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Caleb Landry Jones, and Samara Weaving are excellent (in fact only Abbie Cornish stands out as a weak link). The switches from laugh out loud to bleak tragedy are whip-smart and heart-wrenching. Nothing is expected; nothing is resolved in this superb example of letting an audience make up their own mind without being spoonfed a solution.

Honourable Mentions:

The Happy Prince Well, I liked it! I found the performances powerful (Rupert Everett as Oscar Wilde, Colin Morgan as Lord Alfred, Edwin Thomas as Robbie Ross, and Emily Watson as Constance), the direction astute (also Rupert Everett), and the writing sensitive and poignant (once again, our Rupert). My companions found it 'dull', 'annoying' and 'full of people eating food in expensive restaurants and whining about not having any money'. I guess it takes all sorts.

Madame Hyde – If you wanted to make a film about the mind-altering, personality-changing effects of menopause complete with hot flushes and flashes of uncontrollable rage, you could do worse than apply the fantasy elements of the Jekyll and Hyde narrative in a low budget film about a chemistry teacher. Especially if you’re French (director: Serge Bozon) and Isabelle Huppert is your titular character.

Molly's Game – Jessica Chastain can do anything. Here she does gambling for increasingly higher stakes (with clients including actors, sports stars, business tycoons and mobsters) until she is arrested by the FBI. As Molly Bloom, an ex-Olympic skier whose career was cut short in a freakishly bad wipe-out, she relishes competition and she understands risk. Her performance is thoughtful and compelling, no matter what your attitude toward the moralities of betting. She narrates her story in all its flashback detail to her defence lawyer played with similar lack of hyperbole by Idris Elba. It also contains some great dialogue, as one would expect from a film written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, including this: ‘This courthouse is located within spitting distance of Wall Street. I know this from my personal experience trying to spit at it. The men and women who work there will commit more serious crimes by lunchtime today than the defendant has committed in this indictment.’

Phantom Thread – Daniel Day Lewis is never anything less than completely imposing. His OCD tailor with control issues, Reynolds Woodcock, is forceful, but so is his imperious sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville). When he invites fresh-faced young model Alma (Vicky Krieps) into their house to become his muse and lover, it appears as though she doesn’t stand a chance. She is, however, able to give as good as she gets, as all the characters prove to be contemptible but compelling. Paul Thomas Anderson directs a silence beautifully – the breakfast table becomes a battlefield – and the break-out from the obedient woman-as-dummy role attests that one size does not fit all.

A Quiet Place Despite the number of problematic elements (If you know that noise is going to kill you; why would you get pregnant?), this was an enjoyable thriller/ horror, mainly down to the characterisation – the audience gets to care about the individuals (even the children!) – and the acting. Emily Blunt is always exceptional and her on-screen (and real life) husband, John Krasinski also directed and co-wrote the film. Finding moments of tenderness in the midst of tension is difficult but dramatized well here.

Friday, 14 December 2018

Friday Five: Top Theatre Picks of 2018

P.J. Williams as Poprishchin in Diary of a Madman
I saw 23 works of theatre this year across four cities. I saw a lot of comedy too, but I'm not including that in my reviews (apart from the one that was performed at the Comedy Festival and is, therefore, a cross-over). Obviously, we all know that a review is one person's opinion so my favourites may well be different from others' - that doesn't mean that anyone is right or wrong; just that we are different. For the record, my top five productions this year are (in alphabetical order):
  1. Diary of a Madman (produced by The Street at Street 2)With an excellent set, technical design (Imogen Keen), controlled direction (Caroline Stacey) and superb acting (P.J. Williams and Lily Constantine), this brilliant piece of theatre is both claustrophobic and expansive. The two actors occupy the entire space and their own minuscule territory, while the issues raised are both intimate and universal. Nikolai Gogol's bleak commentary on the madness within bureaucracy is sharply tuned by David Holman's stage adaptation. As an exploration of the way we mentally process mundanity and turn the monotonous into the momentous, this is scintillating drama. It deserves to be seen and discussed at length.
  2. Exclusion (produced by David Atfield at The Street Theatre)Imagine Closer meets Macbeth drenched in politics and The Pet Shop Boys, and you'll be somewhere near an appreciation of this play. It's a privilege to see new, local work of this calibre on stage. Well-written and sharply executed (David Atfield is the writer and director), it focuses on the big issues of honesty, ambition, integrity, sexuality, self-awareness and motivation; whether in the personal or public sphere, being true to oneself is often the hardest thing to face. And if these sound like weighty issues, don't worry; the cast carries them with passion and empathy. With searingly honest performances from Craig Alexander, Tracy Bourne, Ethan Gibson, Fiona Victoria Hopkins and Michael Sparks, we are in safe hands.
  3. Proof (produced by FREEFALL Productions at The Q, Queanbeyan) - Ylaria Rogers excels as Catherine, exhibiting all the vulnerability of a young woman with a brilliant mathematical mind whose father, Robert, has just died after she has cared for him in his latter years. Julia Christensen portrays the other daughter, Claire, as the one who got away, returning now to sell the family home and try and force Catherine to move on, even if she doesn't want to. Alexander Brown as one of Robert's students deftly walks the line between social awkwardness and competitive manipulation, and Gerard Carroll as Robert puts in a controlled and controlling performance. Bluntly addressing the nature of genius, academia, sexism, sibling rivalry, grief and insanity, this production manages to be amazing, moving, and overwhelming: I loved it.
  4. Shit-Faced Shakespeare: Romeo & Juliet (produced by A-List Entertainment, UK at The Street Theatre) - This was presented as part of the Canberra Comedy Festival, so it was always going to be a riot or a write-off. Fortunately, it is very much in the former camp. The troupe consists of six classically-trained actors who perform the Shakespearean play, one of whom is plied with alcohol before the show - it is a different actor each night who interrupts the performance of the others by missing lines, skipping ahead, changing the plot, tripping over and basically behaving as an inebriated person does. On stage. One cast member acts the stage manager/ MC to manage the risk, and has to ensure that the actor does no harm to himself or anyone else. It could be completely irresponsible, but it is instead clever and very funny i'faith. These guys know their shit as inspired improvisation leads to excellent entertainment. 'So raise your glass and have a drink/ Cos it's much better shitfaced, don't you think?'
  5. Wild (produced by Melbourne Theatre Company at The Southbank Theatre, Melbourne) - Described as a psychological thriller for the digital age, this is a brilliant piece of theatre. Mike Bartlett's dark and comic twist on the Edward Snowden story literally turns the world upside down. A whistle-blower, Andrew (Nicholas Denton) hides out in a hotel room, terrified of the consequences of his actions, while believing in his convictions. He is teased and taunted by a characters known only as Woman (Anna Lise Phillips) and Man (Toby Schmitz) until he is no longer sure of the truth and the nature of reality. The acting and direction (Dean Bryant) are totally solid, while the set is artfully deconstructed as the blinds are drawn and walls removed in more than just metaphorical ways. It is creatively stunning and a mind-blowing exercise in bringing the truth to light.
Anna Lise Phillips as Woman in Wild
Honourable mentions for:
  • The Aspirations of Daisie Morrow (produced by Brink Productions at The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre) - Four actors (Paul Blackwell, Lucy Lehman, Genevieve Picot and James Smith) play a number of characters and narrate events in this adaptation of a Patrick White story. The physical shifts and slight changes of costume, props and vocals, make it beautiful, moving and touching in its simplicity. With an innovative setting, fantastic design elements, consummate acting and a gorgeous musical accompaniment, this is a spectacularly engaging production.
  • Henry V (produced by Oregon Shakespeare Festival at Thomas Theatre, Oregon, USA) - in which director Rosa Joshi incorporates innovative costume and set design to keep the pace moving briskly and precisely. The lead performance from Daniel Jose Molina is supremely confident (verging on psychotic) and the American accent and modern delivery ruins the rhythm but it sharpens the humour and militancy.
  • Venus in Fur (produced by The Street at The Street Theatre) - I've read the book; bought the single; now I've seen the play. Perhaps I should get the T-shirt: mink or sable? Faux, obviously. The post-modern play by David Ives explores the sexual politics of the original novel by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch as a director, Thomas Novachek (Craig Alexander), has adapted it to the stage. As he attempts to cast the part of Wanda von Dunajew, he auditions a young actress, Vanda (Joanna Richards), in a disturbingly contemporary power play. His dominance is questioned by the performance of Vanda who subverts his expectations by presenting a variety of versions of the play within a play within a play. It's challenging and immediate, and director Caroline Stacey is always in control of the audience and the text. 
Daniel Jose Molina as the titular role in Henry V at The Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Friday, 16 November 2018

Friday Five: Films Seen at British Film Festival

Yes, thank you, I can count. But I saw seven films at the festival and so they have all snuck into the Friday Five.
  1. The Happy PrinceWell, I liked it. I found the performances powerful (Rupert Everett as Oscar Wilde, Colin Morgan as Lord Alfred, Edwin Thomas as Robbie Ross, and Emily Watson as Constance), the direction astute (also Rupert Everett), and the writing sensitive and poignant (once again, our Rupert). My companions found it 'dull', 'annoying' and 'full of people eating food in expensive restaurants and whining about not having any money'. I guess it takes all sorts.
  2. Interlude in Prague - John Stephenson directs and co-wrote this sumptuously-costumed period drama in which the wolfish Mozart (Aneurin Barnard) is brought to Prague to conduct the final performance of The Marriage of Figaro. All the women adore him; all the men are suspicious of him; and the innocent soprano Zuzanna (Morfydd Clark) falls in love with him. Unfortunately she is the object of desire of the violently cruel Baron Saloka (James Purefoy). It’s a lavish spectacle with sensational music (as you would expect) and a disturbing dark side, but if you’ve seen Amadeus, you’ve seen it all done better before.
  3. PeterlooI've wanted to see this film since I first heard about it. Mike Leigh directs a stellar cast of Northerners (including Rory Kinnear and Maxine Peake) in the lead-up to and consequences of this Manchester massacre, saying only they could feel it in their soul. Films like this make me miss Pete Postlethwaite more than ever. It's epic in a good way with well-placed silences and heartfelt speeches. From a time when the desire for universal suffrage seemed radical, the ruling class treated the workers as scum, and rights to habeas corpus were removed at will... haven't we come a long way?
  4. Red JoanAn extraordinary story told in a very straightforward manner. When questioning loyalties, are we citizens of a country or members of a race, and how far would you go to protect either? And if you have lived through two world wars, what would you risk to ensure peace? Director Trevor Nunn draws out powerful performances from his cast and, despite the momentous nature of the subject, never gives in to histrionics or hyperbole. Judi Dench is brilliant as ever, as she looks back on her younger self (played strikingly by Sophie Cookson) On a personal note, I still find a floppy fringe and a passion for politics devastatingly attractive.
  5. Sometimes Always NeverFocussing on the absent can serve to bring the present more clearly into focus. I've never liked Scrabble either, because it's true: it's not about the words; it's all about the numbers. This is a beautiful film (written by Frank Cottrell Boyce and directed by Carl Hunter) shot in exquisite detail, with exceptional actors proving less is more. Bill Nighy plays the father who concentrates more on his missing son than he does on the one present (Sam Riley), although he does pass on tips on tailoring.

  6. Stan & OllieBeautifully done: understanding comedy is hard; understanding the comedy of a bygone era is even harder. Director Jon S. Baird allows the nostalgia to linger for just long enough, and with enough humour to ensure it tips the scales on the right side of the balance. Steve Coogan and John C Reilly mine the depths of nuance to portray these larger-than-life characters with a gentle charm and generous wit, and Nina Arianda makes the most of a dream role as Stan's cold and catty wife, Ida. They don't make 'em like they used to.
  7. Swimming with Men - The Pool Monty, as surely everyone is calling it, is entirely formulaic and predictable, with the same old character types and story arc. This time a group of middle-aged misfits form an all-male synchronised swim team, which goes on to win hearts and awards. The actors led by Rob Bryden do a decent job although none of them are pushed out of their depth. Even the football analogy (Ronaldo stepover) is similar to the one in The Full Monty about the Arsenal off-side trap, the father-son estrangement is mined again for pathos, and the female instructor (Charlotte RIley) and token wife (Jane Horrocks) reveal the sadly familiar gender divide.  It's well directed however (Oliver Parker), with tidily-framed shots and the emotional manipulation, while obvious, is comforting.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Friday Five: Still Cross

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have found that cross-stitch is wonderful therapy. It helps me to relax; I get to stab things without hurting anyone; I am able to express my sentiments in a non-violent manner; and I end up with a product that I can give as a gift. Here are my latest creations. All the patterns and explanations are taken from Really Cross Stitch; for when You Just Want to Stab Something a Lot by Rayna Fahey.

Five More Cross Stitches:

'"She was warned. She was given an explanation." Such chilling words when you consider their intent: to silence a woman's political voice.
Fortunately it takes a lot more than that pitiful attempt at bullying to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren, whose refusal to stay silent energised a movement. 
These three words have become a rallying cry for women fighting to be heard in male-dominated spaces. The knack for persistence is a requirement for any activist, just like cross stitch. So consider this pattern part of your revolutionary routine.'
'Sometimes the state of the world really is quite rage-inducing, and five minutes watching the news can leave you feeling very stabby indeed. 
Channel your rage into this project! There have been countless studies expounding the mental health benefits of craft. Something about the gentle repetitive nature of creating with your hands calms and balances the mind. One thing's for sure, by the time you've stabbed your needle through these 750 stitches you're bound to feel much better. There's a reason it's not called "happy stitch".'
'"I am not as nasty as racism, fraud, conflict of interest, homophobia, sexual assault, transphobia, white supremacy, misogyny, ignorance, white privilege..." Nina Donovan
Funny how men in power really don't like it when people have political opinions that challenge their domination over the world. Of course if those people happen to be women, or even worse *gasp* women with political power, the dudebros get real upset real quick and the name-calling begins. Yes, we are here to destroy the joint. Calling us names just fuels our fire."
'Compassioning: verb; the act of choosing not to be an asshole to your fellow humans.
Call me a Buddhist if you must, but is there any evidence anywhere that building walls makes people safer? If they work so well, why do people make such a big deal of tearing them down?
Here's an idea, how about we introduce a new measure for governments: the National Index of Compassionate Elected Representatives. Let's rank all politicians and see who truly tops the NICER list.'
'If you think telling your kids there's no Santa is hard, try telling them there's no North Pole.
There are some corporate spin doctors who really have a lot to answer for. Honestly, imagine having the job where you have to come up with ways to spin total climate destruction and obliteration of life as we know it. Somehow they've even managed to propagate the idea that climate change is something "invented" by political activists to, I don't know, make the world a better place or something... Next time you're up against some skeptic, remember:
What do we want? Evidence-based science!
When do we want it? After peer-based review!'

Monday, 1 October 2018

Twirly Girl

While in a blacksmith's shop in Ferndale a couple of months ago, I noticed this rather wonderful sculpture. She is called Twirly Girl and she is created by E.B.Chase. I liked her different faces, her implication of movement, and the general sense of confusion. 

There is a sheet of paper attached to her plinth, which explains the process behind her design, from which I shall quote below.
"Twirly Girl is a spinning woman with four faces, which express anger, bewilderment, embarrassment, and satisfaction. 
During the 1970s, ideals and expectations about women, from female and male viewpoints were pushed into the public consciousness like never before. Feminist authors and speakers helped create a new discourse about women's current roles in our society. However, with this attempt to throw off old sexual stereotypes a new flood of advice and popular images were aimed at women, which could often be just as restricting as the previous ones that they were replacing. With such contradictions facing women regarding social standards, making decisions about personal goals and changes could often be a confusing and difficult process. This was the idea that captured Chase's imagination although it would take him a while to discover the artistic shape to represent it.
Fast forward a few decades to 2003 when Chase was working on a staircase railing. He was experimenting with a spiral-like shape when it suddenly caught his attention. It looked like a swirling skirt flowing out from a spinning body. This figure finally gave shape to the ideas that Chase had been working around in his mind since the 1970s. The flowing skirt represented a woman whirling around overwhelmed with the numerous influences flying at her from every direction. What roles in life does she want to attempt and what roles has she been pushed into that she does not want? Whose advice should she take: women's magazines, her friends', feminist authors? How can she change and improve while remaining true to herself? How should she balance her roles and obligations as a wife/mother/daughter/sister with simply being a woman?
While the benefits of feminism have increased women's equality, it has not been a painless revolution. Women still find themselves battling media images and the social status quo, which do not necessarily fit with their own ideas and aspirations. Chase's sculpture, with her four different faces and twirling body, represents different roles women fill (unwillingly or by choice), different directions from which women receive influence, different paths women can choose, and the conflicting emotions that accompany such decisions and stages in life. Twirly Girl is not just a sculpture; she is also a social commentary with historical perspective on what it has been like to be a woman in our culture, as seen through the eyes of an exceptionally talented artist... who happens to be a man."
This piece of art and accompanying message has sat with me for a while. And I am no less ambivalent it now than I was then. You could even say it has got me in a spin. I love the sculpture. I love the fact that a man has considered this to be an issue worthy of interpretation through the traditional 'masculine' craft of metalwork rather than a more classically comprehended 'feminine' craft such as quilting or embroidery. 

And yet I can't help feeling that this is also an example of mansplaining - we know all this and don't necessarily need a man to point it out (even with multiple directions in such an appealing manner). I know that is unfair. Men can be feminists too; generally we welcome them, but should they 'shut up and listen' or continue to draw attention to themselves in 'our' struggle? It's certainly a fraught issue, and despite thinking about it for years, I haven't got an answer. (If I were a man I would have solved the issue by now and moved on - that's flippant, I know. I'm sorry.)

And then there's the name of the piece. Even though in the opening line of explanation we are told that she is a 'spinning woman', she is still called a girl. Every time I hear someone (usually male) refer to 'this girl at work/ in the office/ on the bus/ in the Olympics', I ask them how old she is. If she is over 16, why are they still referring to her as a girl? She is an adult and should be treated with the same respect that we grant to maturity of the male sex. There is a male receptionist where I work. He has a beard. I would never belittle his age, experience and achievements by referring to him as a boy.

There is a clothing outlet in America called Twirly Girl. It sells cute and colourful dresses with full skirts for babies and toddlers to teens. And dolls. Its range includes outfits called Butterflies Rejoice, Singing Sweet Daisies, Mystical Mermaids, Fantastical Rosy World, Dancing Queen, Devoted to Beauty, Hunny Bunny Blossom and Itsy Bitsy Wiggly Watermelon. Don't get me wrong; the dresses are delightful, and there are also frocks with less saccharine names, like I Can Be President, I Can Go To the Moon, and Queen of her Own Kingdom. 

Apparently most of the sales are to grandparents who like to hear their grand-daughters brag that 'Grandma and Grandpa gave me this'. Fair enough. The website states that 'our dresses are pretty unique [sic]. They're very well made and super-colorful and fun. Some have wings. Some are reversible. Others are adorned with long ribbons. And when a little girl starts twirling in her dress, it's showtime!' Exactly. Some little girls like to twirl. They want to show off and they want acclaim. They are performing for an audience. Good for them. I hope they're having fun. 

Please don't ever expect a grown woman to perform for your approval. She is who she is and she does what does. If she is a world-class tennis player, she is an athlete. She is a woman who deserves respect for her ability and her attitude that has brought her to this high pressure point. She should never be asked to 'give us a twirl'. It is demeaning and infantilizing. Women are not girls. Twirling is not spinning. It is not 'just' semantics. 

I really like E.B. Chase's sculpture. I admire his artwork and his rationale. I respect his talent. I am just conflicted by the effect this shape-shifting piece provokes. We may approach this from many different perspectives and arrive at different positions. Is that the point of art, after all? Yes, we all live on the same earth which rotates on its axis and revolves around the sun, and we are all constantly evolving in our opinions and our actions. I hope.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Friday Five: Spring has sprung

To put it simply; spring appears to have happened in the last week or so. Here, as proof, are five pictures of the pretty flowers in our garden.