Betty Bowers' Further Thoughts On Faith...

Stop everything. Read this.
Betty Bowers comments on The Terry Schiavo Show.
(Betty at the Betty best -- the most hard-edged, but hilarious, commentary on recent events....)

Shout out to HeyJane aka Ma for introducing StinkyLu to BettyB lo so many moons ago...


Ham of God

MrStinky flew away again this weekend; this time to Boston. StinkyLulu was 'sposed to hold on to the library copy of a certain book so MrStinky could read it on the plane but StinkyLu got confused... The book went back to the library & MrStinky has to survive without Annie Lamott's Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith for the whole weekend.... Alas. Alack. Alloo.

StinkyLulu really does love Anne Lamott when she writes about faith. Traveling Mercies stands as one of the few books that StinkyLulu's read and reread in the last coupla years -- with each reading being an almost entirely new experience, each encounter providing a welcome kick in the head. Lamott's Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith enters into Lamott's spiritual journey as an aging sober born-again hippie parent & offers -- in addition to Lamott's signature style/humility/humor -- her impassioned struggle of faith and principle living under the Bush.

StinkyLulu read "Ham of God," the first story in Plan B, about 6 times last weekend. (That's not mentioning the 4 or 5 times StinkyLulu retold the story to anyone who happened to pass by.) So...as we enter into Easter weekend, StinkyLulu encourages you to make your own Easter snack of "Ham of God". Go to Border's or Barnes&Noble or wherever. Pick up Lamott. And read "Ham of God." Be sure to read to the end...



Whew. Whatta week...& StinkyLulu's Many Discoveries...

Whew. Whatta a week (or so) StinkyLulu's had... Lotsa craziness. While a late spring snow storm snowed StinkyLulu OUT of the adobe abode for nearly five days StinkyLu stayed at MrStinky's TV-Free (eek!) apartment, while MrStinky was gallavanting with yoga-buddies in Mexico, while StinkyLulu's teaching gig gasped & wheezed its way to spring break, while StinkyLu started a cash gig scoring the SAT, while two NYC area colleges called StinkyLu for interviews, while the SAT scoring company pooped out and laid-off StinkyLu and all the SAT scorers, while... well, you get the picture...

In the midst of all the cuckoo hooha, StinkyLulu discovered a few things. To whit, StinkyLulu discovered:

1: The delights of PageSixSixSix. Bookmark it. And while you're at it, add the Daily Fug to your daily delights. You won't regret it.

2: That the pleasures of romantic melodramas -- ala Bride and Prejudice and Diary of a Mad Black Woman -- are like grocery store cake. You know? How grocery-store-cake tastes really good at first & then -- after you've had a piece or two too many -- it starts to make you feel like your mouth needs a'scrubbin' just as your stomach starts to cavort around what feels like a tuna can? You know how that is? Well, StinkyLulu basically liked both flicks but, in quick succession, a bit of an overdo.

3: That the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was really important. Now, StinkyLulu knew this very well already but, upon seeing the really quite extraordinary recent documentary Home of the Brave, StinkyLulu was reminded of the core passion that compelled StinkyLulu to be a pollworker in the 2004 election. Reactionaries/conservatives tend to proclaim that voting is not so much a right to be ensured (from such things as systemic disenfranchisement) but that voting is a privilege that must be protected from abuse/fraud. The story of Home of the Brave reminded StinkyLulu just how recently the balance tilted toward universal enfranchisement. And it underscored the cynicism of our current reactionary/conservative The Powers That Be...just as "democracy" is championed in Iraq, republican legislators in states like New Mexico are working hard to elaborate voting requirements, ostensibly to "prevent voter fraud"...

4: That a "Culture of Life" must be avoided at all costs. The recent Schiavo debacle underscores just how cynical the Bushies are in their use of "Life" as a marketing strategy. WBush had no problem deferring to the judgements & rulings of state courts when, as Texas governor, his administration authorized the execution of 152 inmates on Texas' death row. It seems that when WBush asserts that "the executive branch ought to err on the side of life" some "life" is more valuable... Surprise, surprise.

Whew. Whatta week.


Born into Brothels -- For Better and Worse.

At long last, the film StinkyLulu has been waiting to see wafted into Albuquerque -- Academy Award winner for "Best Documentary" Born Into Brothels. So, MrStinky & StinkyLu snagged a screening (before MrStinky blew this popstand for a week of yoga by the beach in Mexico) and, ever since, StinkyLulu's been wondering if it's somehow wrong that StinkyLulu didn't love the film...

StinkyLulu's reaction to the film? Decidedly ambivalent.
And the question that's been dogging StinkyLu for the 24 hours since seeing the film? Would StinkyLulu have liked the film just fine if StinkyLulu weren't a goldarn academic?

See, StinkyLulu's been wondering -- does it matter that filmmakers Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski don't offer a self-reflexive/interrogative moment contemplating the "power" of the camera in their white Western hands as they maneuver the back alley brothels of Calcutta? Does the placement of cameras in the hands of the children "born into brothels" obviate the complicated history of the ethnographic film tradition?

On the one hand, StinkyLulu shared many of the reactions that champions of the film have articulated. As a subject, Born Into Brothels offers an indelible glance into the lives of this handful of kids, doing so through a remarkably respectful attention to each kid as author and as subject of the photographic gesture. As a film, the filmmakers' technological creativity illuminates the scenario cinematically -- so that it's a visually thrilling experience in addition to being a videographic slice of life. As a project, Zana Briski's determination to help these kids secure resources and opportunities presents important lessons in and of itself. As an filmgoing experience, it's undeniably affecting -- Criticlasm told StinkyLulu that this film moved him more intensely and in more ways than he recalls any film doing in years, possibly ever. In these ways, the film does what StinkyLulu loves documentary film for: it tells a really powerful "real-life" story that StinkyLulu at least would likely never have heard/seen/felt were it not for the efforts of these filmmakers.

So, all these things being true, does it matter that the filmmakers did not address the elephant just on the edge of every documentary's frame? (And StinkyLu's not talking about those poor elephants in that tragic zoo visited by the kids in the film.) No, StinkyLulu's basically crabbed out that the film didn't address the tension dogging every "ethnographic" film since Nanook. (StinkyLulu's own experience of this interpretative tension began in the critiques that got articulated hither and yon around Jennie Livingston's Paris Is Burning.) What does it mean when a white woman brings a camera into deep/dark/disempowered impoverishment? Can the camera become a vehicle for transformation or empowerment? Or is the camera itself a tool of power, of oppression, of fetishization? Are the kids empowered by the cameras trained upon their photographic training? Or do their images become totemic souvenirs of a Western exercise in colonial sentimentality?

StinkyLulu fears that the "child-saving" emotional hook -- Zana Briski's actual experience in the red-light district cinematically transformed into the narrative structure of the film -- debilitates all the film's most illuminating aspects. Indeed, StinkyLulu fears that this uninterrogated sincerity on the part of the filmmakers will ultimately situate this film squarely in the fairly square tradition of Nanook, FSA photos, and Paris Is Burning...

Which returns StinkyLulu to the original question? Would any of this actually matter to StinkyLulu if StinkyLulu were not an academic who's spent many a classroom hour examining such questions? Probably not. But that's who StinkyLulu is -- and these are the questions StinkyLulu asks -- for better and worse.


The Amazing Heather


StinkyLulu's proud to say that Heather Williams is one of the most treasured & significant influences on StinkyLulu's life. Not only was her friendship an elemental part of StinkyLulu's graduate education, but Heather taught StinkyLulu how to quilt. Gratitude does not even begin to describe it...

Now, the world can witness the awesome spirit, creativity and intellect of The Amazing Heather, what with the publication of her book, Self Taught. And, yes, that's a quilt by Heather on the book's cover...

Heather rocks.