Sunday, June 26, 2011

"Step into the sun, Step into the light"-- Gay Marriage Legalized in New York

"You're out of the woods, You're out of the dark, You're out of the night.
Step into the sun, Step into the light.

Keep straight ahead for the most glorious place
On the Face of the Earth or the sky.
Hold onto your breath, Hold onto your heart, Hold onto your hope.
March up to the gate and bid it open."

"New York Allows Same-Sex Marriage, Becoming Largest State to Pass Law

By Nicholas Confessore and Michael Barbaro
Published: June 24, 2011. The New York Times

ALBANY — Lawmakers voted late Friday to legalize same-sex marriage, making New York the largest state where gay and lesbian couples will be able to wed and giving the national gay-rights movement new momentum from the state where it was born.

The marriage bill, whose fate was uncertain until moments before the vote, was approved 33 to 29 in a packed but hushed Senate chamber. Four members of the Republican majority joined all but one Democrat in the Senate in supporting the measure after an intense and emotional campaign aimed at the handful of lawmakers wrestling with a decision that divided their friends, their constituents and sometimes their own homes.

With his position still undeclared, Senator Mark J. Grisanti, a Republican from Buffalo who had sought office promising to oppose same-sex marriage, told his colleagues he had agonized for months before concluding he had been wrong.

“I apologize for those who feel offended,” Mr. Grisanti said, adding, “I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that I have with my wife.”

Senate approval was the final hurdle for the same-sex marriage legislation, which was approved last week by the Assembly. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the measure at 11:55 p.m., and the law will go into effect in 30 days, meaning that same-sex couples could begin marrying in New York by late July.

Passage of same-sex marriage here followed a daunting run of defeats in other states where voters barred same-sex marriage by legislative action, constitutional amendment or referendum. Just five states currently permit same-sex marriage: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia.

At around 10:30 p.m., moments after the vote was announced, Mr. Cuomo strode onto the Senate floor to wave at cheering supporters who had crowded into the galleries to watch. Trailed by two of his daughters, the governor greeted lawmakers, and paused to single out those Republicans who had defied the majority of their party to support the marriage bill.

“How do you feel?” he asked Senator James S. Alesi, a suburban Rochester Republican who voted against the measure in 2009 and was the first to break party ranks this year. “Feels good, doesn’t it?”

The approval of same-sex marriage represented a reversal of fortune for gay-rights advocates, who just two years ago suffered a humiliating defeat when a same-sex marriage bill was easily rejected by the Senate, which was then controlled by Democrats. This year, with the Senate controlled by Republicans, the odds against passage of same-sex marriage appeared long."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Color Coordinated

[Hans Hoffman, Indian Summer, 1959]

[David Gates, Color Run Riot, set to "Invisible Colors" by Russ Malone, posted May, 2011]

"There is a surprising disconnect between what children seem to know about colors and numbers and what they actually know when tested," writes Melody Dye of Stanford University in the latest issue of Scientific American Mind ("Why Johnny Can't Name His Colors," SAM, May/June 2011, pg. 48). "Nailing down just what 'red' or 'three' means is a difficult hurdle in mastering language, and even older children sometimes slip up and reveal a less than expert grasp of the concept."

[Anish Kapoor, Dismemberment of Jeanne D'Arc, 2009]

Dye's research demonstrates that, even after hours of drilling, most two- and three-year-olds and children as old as six cannot identify colors accurately without contextual prompts. It appears that context is critical, which "may explain why children, across every language studied, invariably learn their nouns before their colors."

[Frank Stella, Hyena Stomp, 1962]

In English, color words may be especially tricksy because we tend to say "red balloon" rather than "the balloon that is red" (i.e., we typically use the adjective prenominally instead of postnominally). Order provides context: the brain must process the prenominal without the "hook" provided by the noun, so has a much wider spectrum of possible meanings to search. Using a postnominal construction helps "narrow 'red' to being an attribute of the balloon and not some general property of the world at large."

[Scarlet Tanager]

[Indigo Bunting]

Also, children tend to understand a color word used postnominally as a descriptor like "wet" or "sharp," whereas they see a color word used prenominally as being part of the object's name ("Indigo Bunting" versus "the bunting that is indigo").

[Yves Klein, his patented blue]

Dye's findings slot in with the provocative research on the linguistic classification of color perception sparked by Brent Berlin & Paul Kay's Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution (1969), and most recently updated with the 2009 publication of The World Color Survey (Kay et al.) Click here and here for more.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Revisiting Bordertown; Returning to the Shire

The Way from the fields we know to the Border has re-opened: Holly Black and Ellen Kushner have edited a new volume of tales, poems and art from the Borderlands, Welcome to Bordertown (released last month by Random House).

Lobster & Canary was delighted this past Thursday evening to attend the NYC debut of the new collection, at Books of Wonder (an exceptionally appropriate venue; if you ever have a spare hour or three in the city, find your way to this Chelsea/Flatiron bookstore, which Lobster & Canary has known since its original site near Barrow & Hudson in the West Village). Kushner, Black, and co-authors Delia Sherman, Cory Doctorow, Alaya Dawn Johnson, and Annette Curtis Klause read to a large and appreciate audience, answered questions, and signed copies of the book. There was even a brilliant fiddler on hand-- Joe Kessler, a friend of Ellen's, a jack o' the green-- playing klezmer, bluegrass and other faerie reels, hints of the music along the Border.

We look forward to delving into the tome (a very generous 500-plus pages, all for just $20), whose authors are a Who's Who of speculative fiction, from bright new stars like Johnson, Cassandra Clare and Amal El-Mohtar (who presumably grew up with the original Bordertown stories) to established talents such as Kushner, Sherman, Doctorow, Neil Gaiman, Nalo Hopkinson, Jane Yolen, Patricia McKillip, Charles de Lint, Emma Bull, and Steven Brust. Christopher Barzak is here, Cat Valente, and Tim Pratt...and Terri Windling.

This is a reunion of Diana's tribe, Titania's court, our best modern-day druids...with wine in humble containers at Tompkins Square Park, over coffee at a diner on Queens Boulevard, in a tagged doorway on the Bowery. Somewhere Lord Dunsany and Hope Mirrlees are smiling.

*** *** ***

Meanwhile, in other news:

Unless you've been waylaid by goblins ("of the worst possible description") or trapped in conversation with Smaug ("it does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him"), you know that two weeks ago Warner Bros., New Line and MGM announced the release dates for the two Peter Jackson-directed films of The Hobbit: December, 2012 and December, 2013. Most of the cast from LOTR will be back, and shooting has begun on the WETA-designed sets in New Zealand.

Here is Jackson's first vlog of production on The Hobbit:

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Remembering Gil Scott-Heron

Gil Scott-Heron died May 27th, just 62 years old.

I grew up on his music, his poetry, his philosophy: "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," "The Bottle," "Winter in America," "We Almost Lost Detroit," "Pieces of a Man," "Whitey on the Moon," "Home is Where the Hatred Is," "Johannesburg."

I saw him only once, decades ago-- with Brian Jackson, at Brandeis University-- but the memory after all these years is like a ruby, red hot and burning in the night.

Scott-Heron never got his full due, but his influence is deeper than many realize and will--here's a prediction from Lobster & Canary-- continue to grow.

He called himself a "bluesologist." He was a cousin to the Beats, an uncle to the first rappers, a great-uncle to later hip-hop artists. Listen for his influence in work by Mos Def, Kwalib Tweli, Public Enemy, Erykah Badu, Arrested Development, Meshell Ndegeocello, The Roots, Common, Ludacris, Kanye West...too many to list.

Scott-Heron wrestled mightily, like Jacob at Peniel, with addiction and its collateral damage for many years, yet continued to produce art and was in the midst of a comeback with last year's
album I'm New Here.

He had regained his power. This is "Me and the Devil" from I'm New Here:

As Lobster & Canary mourns his passing, we think of his tribute to Billie Holiday and John Coltrane, and imagine him making music with them in some other place:

"Ever feel kinda down and out,
Don't know just what to do?


Ever feel that somehow, somewhere,
You lost your way?

And if you don't get a help quick,
You won't make it through the day?

Or could you call on Lady Day?
Or could you call on John Coltrane?

Now, they'll wash your troubles, your troubles,
Your troubles, your troubles

Click here and here for more on Scott-Heron.