Archive for June, 2008

South African Kawaii

Those who know us know we search out cute. Not that saccharine sweet Barbie + unicorns cute, but the kind of cute that’s got style. (Like, say, Meomi’s fabulous Octonauts.) And, honestly, the Japanese pretty much have that style on lock. They call it kawaii.

So imagine our surprise when, in a sketchy part of Cape Town called Woodstock, we found an art colony. And in that art colony, we stumbled into quite the cache of kawaii — cute culture African style. Meet Mü & Me.

Run by a two-woman team, the store is an unassuming space in a former biscuit mill. The inside, though, is bursting with personality — everything from t-shirts to postcards to wrapping paper to stickers to notebooks, each adorned with people and animals that mix just the right amount of cute and thoughtfulness. But what I love most about the characters is how representative they are of the many ethnicities that make South Africa so special. Mü is a colorful bird and Me is, well, you! Lovely stuff. We bought tons.

See more of our visit to Mü & Me and Woodstock on Flickr and visit the mothership yourself at muandme.net

NBA Finals in Three Words

Three words: Kevin Deserves This

His post-game speechlessness spoke volumes. The respect for the game, the years in purgatory, the payoff. What a deeply worthy guy. And it doesn’t hurt that he took Doc, Ray Ray, and The Truth with him. Kid in a candy store. So awesome.

Watch KG’s reaction and read Scoop’s reflection

image via boston.com

A Jihad for Love: Being Gay in the Muslim World

Is it easier to be gay in the Muslim world than straight? In Saudi Arabia, a country notorious for its adherence a puritanical strain of Islam, it’s forbidden to mix with an unrelated person of another gender. That makes dating straight near impossible but dating gay quite easy, even undetectable (within limits). A gay man in the Atlantic’s Kingdom in the Closet put it this way: “It’s a lot easier to be gay than straight here. If you go out with a girl, people will start to ask her questions. But if I have date upstairs and my family is downstairs, they won’t even come up.” It’s a fascinating turnabout of expectation.

And that got me wondering: What does it mean to be a gay Muslim? First time director Parvez Sharma set out to an answer just that question, and 5.5 years + 12 countries later he’s painted a study in contrasts: from relatively moderate Turkey to fundamentalist Iran to the the opening scenes with Muhsin Hendricks, South Africa’s openly gay Imam.

We watch a group of young Iranian men flee their homeland for safety in Canada. We meet Mazen, a member of the Cairo 52, and hear his stories of being tried and imprisoned simply for his sexual orientation. We travel with lesbian couple Ferda and Klymet as Klymet meets mom-in-law for the first time.

But more than anything we see people searching for acceptance — from family, the law, their religion. And, particularly in the last case, we see so many of them denied. Time Out New York asks the question perhaps many of us have:

Why would gay Muslims stay true to a religion that hurts them? Shots of beautiful mosques and kneeling supplicants pad out a brief running time that still feels too long because we’ve already heard of the abuses; Islam’s strict social censures are not news. Sharma forgets to push his subjects to a deeper truth — not on the courage to recognize one’s self and bear the consequences, but to leave dead things behind.

But that fundamentally misses the point of the film. What Sharma does brilliantly is show why Islam is very much alive in the hearts of his subjects — the calls to prayer, the value of family, the deeply held teachings of Muhammad, the beautiful writings on paper. If anything, the film shows us why it is so difficult, so painful for gay Muslims to make just that choice — the intractable choice between earthen love and love for God. And it shows why the work of people like Muhsin Hendricks, the gay Imam working to reconcile homosexuality and Islam, is so important.

The real power of A Jihad for Love, though, comes in quieter moments. Words between lovers, a phone call to a mother far away. It’s deeply humanizing. There’s a scene about halfway through the film when Mazen (of the Cairo 52) dons belly dancer garb and dances among his friends, men and women, gay and straight. The camera lingers on him — we see clear joy in his eyes. It’s a beautiful thing seeing someone express themselves, be themselves, without fear. You see into their soul. And, in showing us that, A Jihad for Love is a special document indeed.

For more, Watch the Trailer. A Jihad for Love is showing exclusively at the IFC Center in NYC, but it really deserves to open wider. We last connected with gay issues over at GayGamer.

My Perfect Day

Asian American pop culture mag Giant Robot has a fab regular feature called My Perfect Day, where a so-and-so (sometimes well known, sometimes not) gives a recounting of a recent smile-packed 24 hours. Here’s mine:

10:01 Wake up in the Upper West Side. Holy shit, is that clock right? Scramble for the shower, then the door. Gotta be in the Village by 11.

10:34 Enter the 103rd St. subway on Broadway and a train pulls up. This is fortuitous. Local-express-local with perfect transfers down to Christopher. Clearly divine intervention.

11:04 Petite Abeille for brunch with friends. I love those get-to-know-your-neighbor cramped space cafes. Mmmm… Belgian waffles. Mmmm…ham and gruyère omelette. Gotta walk through the kitchen for the bathroom? Call that extra food quality insurance.

1:12 Walk in the Village, through the tree lined streets and cobblestone pathways. 80 degrees and just overcast enough to make it gorgeous. Wonder aloud if there’s a more beautiful neighborhood on Earth. Curse those living here under my breath. Troll flea markets. Find a Chuck Mingus test pressing and Quatar Airlines business card holder — score!

2:00 Lunch at Gray’s Papaya. Fried fish sandwich (sacrilege!) and french fries. Fried and fried = double plus.

2:25 Catch A Jihad for Love at the IFC Center — a film about being gay and Muslim. Courageous, beautiful stuff. Walk into theater on a whim, walk out of theater inspired.

3:50 Kenny Graham’s West 4th Street Basketball Tournament at The Cage. Seriously wicked skills on display. But the best fun is mocking the goofs with the peanut gallery and haranguing officials, who jaw almost as much as the players do.

5:10 Walk into the Christopher St. subway station, and a train pulls up. (See a pattern here?) Head back uptown. Read Out of Poverty on the trip, a stunning new approach to empowering poor people.

6:00 Cleanse the apartment of bachelor debauchery — where most of the debauchery involved working all Friday night and Saturday. The place is piled high with takeout containers and books. (Okay, this wasn’t so perfect.)

8:10 Get out the bike and hit Central Park. I love night biking. It’s still light enough to see folks camped out in the Sheep Meadow for dinner. Second time around, the meadow fades into darkness, save for the click-clack of horse drawn carriages and the disembodied giggles of young couples. Lovely.

9:30 Back from the park and my wife is home from her business trip. We eat cheese and sip wine. We eat Thai and watch BSG. We marvel at how much better episodes are when there’s no Baltar to overact them into oblivion.

11:55 Boy Friends. Nightcap it with a little half stupid/half genius from Team Genius. Favorite lyric: “Sometimes life is impossible / Like that one level / With the thorns and shit.” But life ain’t impossible, it’s awesome! At least Sunday was. The thorns are another story, though.

So that’s the perfect day. And it just happened by accident. Considering the hellish 70 hour workweeks I’ve been turning in for the past month, maybe it’s cosmic payback.

Make sure to visit Giant Robot and their tiny-awesome NYC art space/store. Thanks to them for the inspiration.

top image via xpressbus, middle via my phonecam, bottom via team genius




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