Bannack Got a Haircut

Look up above this post at the TOP TAGS list up there. The list is alphabetical, but the most used tag is “Bannack.” Forty five, now forty six of the posts I’ve made have something to do with him.

Looking through those old posts you might get a sense of my nephew’s life. For most of it he’s been a long haired boy.

Whenever we would hang out in Brooklyn, in the park at the store, whatever, eventually someone would use female pronouns when referring to him. Fair enough, and Bannack was cool about it. “I’m not a girl, I’m a long haired boy,” he would say. And I would smile. He rocked that pony tail.

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Imagine my surprise then when my sister posted a picture on Instagram of Bannack in a barber’s chair with the caption, “it’s happening.” It’s kind of ominous, right? I knew right away what was up. Haircut time. Short-haired boy time.

It was a long time coming, his hair cascaded over his shoulders. Apparently Bannack knew it was time and my sister and Chris were more nervous than he was. But he knew what he wanted and walked into the barber ready.

It’s just a haircut, but it marks a transition and I can’t help but make a connection to transitions in my own life. Hair grows, silently, slowly, imperceptibly. Eventually you just know it’s time. That’s how it is for me at least. I don’t have standing dates for my haircuts. Hair starts tickling my ears or I see a picture of the back of my head looking like a chicken’s back end and I know. Haircut time.

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Something’s been tickling my ears lately. Ilgaz and I look at our life here and see that something has to change. So we’re doing something about it. I’m heading back to Montana in a week. Ilgaz will head home to Turkey. Both of us want to spend time with family, mark transition with bold actions. It just feels right. (No drama. We’ll meet again in December, right after Ilgaz performs in Greece.)

I remember when I moved back home after college I got a haircut, chopped off my sweet hipster fringe and got, you know, a regular haircut. It felt awesome. I felt like less of a kid, people took me more seriously. This time when I come home I don’t have to get a haircut, my hair looks normal but I feel more serious anyway. Ready. Active. Able.

So what does it mean for a kid to decide it’s time to change his hair-do? Something gets left behind, but ultimately it’s superficial hair grows back after all. What’s important is the decision to make a change and every kid knows that getting hair lopped off makes you run faster than ever before.

In Defense of Villainesses

My over coffee read this morning was an editorial in defense of female cartoon villains.

It argues that there is something admirable about Ursula or Lady Tremaine or any of the evil ladies in cartoons. Especially when comparing them to the heroines in the same cartoons.

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Female cartoon villains define transgression. We look at thin-wristed shy-smiling nice-haired female protagonists and we see what’s expected of us: wait. Be patient. Be nice. Be happy with your lot, enjoy what you’re given, and don’t look for more. Make wishes, not plans. Have animal friends, never henchmen. No one should work for you, but everyone must love you. Look soft and small and breakable, and cry with your head flung into your arms so no one has to see your puffy eyes. Be afraid that no one will ever rescue you. Be afraid that you’ll have to live your whole life without adventure ever finding you.

My first reaction to a piece like this is, come on, feminist reading of Disney movies? That’s beating a dead horse, and dismissal. But I like reading about cartoons and I trust the feminist project for gender equality too. So why do I find myself ambivalent to the argument here?

Even the best cartoons are simple storytelling. Cartoons are flat, a context that does not lend itself to deep analysis. Attempts to lock down meanings beyond the surface in cartoons take a conspiratorial tone. That’s because they are empty, same as fairy tales, they don’t have a “true meaning.” They are not crafted to be meaningful but to carry it.

I get the argument and I agree with it up to a point. Princesses are passive, reacting to what is going on around them. The stepmothers of the cartoon/story world are much more interesting, they’re doers, ambitious, smart. But what makes me uncomfortable about the article is the idea of modeling behavior after characters from cartoons/tales at all. This is using stories as moral lessons for dumb children and dumb women, it’s a creepy side effect of the Grimm’s publishing folk tales and having to market them. Very few people took them seriously as literature to study, so they became little lesson books for wifey and baby. It’s crazy really.

Here’s a thought experiment

Imagine someone transcribing the best standup bits from the top dozen or so comedians in the past few years. Now re-work them them so they are clean, appropriate for children and have the same voice and the same point of view. Edit them so that the moral voice is unambiguous. Now adapt one into a cartoon. Now show that to your children. Now your kid grows up and writes an interesting essay on how the characters in the cartoon ring false and she can interpret them differently after all.

See what I’m getting at? The finger pointing at the producers of these cartoon lady-villains has to point all the way back to moralists messing with folk traditions 200 years ago. In any case, Disney has been addressing the Princess problem in newer movies. The witch in Tangled was driven by fear and protectiveness, Elsa in Frozen is a mean magic princess, Maleficent hates humans because she was betrayed. These more recent cartoons feel more generous to me. They serve ambiguity, show a little more of the why of badness than old Disney was able to. Because when the story stops ringing true you can’t blame the story, you just retell it.

Some Good Pictures From Forever Ago

I’m getting ready to say goodbye to Ilgaz for the next few months. She’s heading back to Turkey for a few months, and I’m going home too. We’re getting starting packing which means I’m procrastinating.

Procrastination Plan:

  1. Clean my laptop
  2. Drink some OJ
  3. Anxiety
  4. Brush my teeth

Right now I’m on step one. That means throwing all the movies and audiobooks in my download folder away or into other folders to watch and listen to later. I’m also throwing all the photos from their various folders into some dated folders in a Photos folder.

This is awesome though because I get to see all the great photos I’ve taken over the past year. There are so many! And they’re all over my hard drive. Here are some from the Prince’s Islands in the last weeks I spent in Istanbul before we moved to Slovenia.

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Looking good! It’ll be hard to be apart for so long but we’ll make it.

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Trains in America

I only took a train once in America. From Seattle to whatever that stop is in northern Montana. It was great. I wondered for a long time why the train service wasn’t as popular in the US as it is in Europe. This little video explains why.

A Short Visit With Matteo

Matteo Destro is a mask maker, theater director and teacher. He was my mentor during the years I spent in Italy studying movement theater at Helikos and it’s his voice I hear in my mind whenever I’m making masks or puppets.

He was passing through Ljubljana so we threw him a little party.

In just a few hours, three years worth of work and lessons came back in a flood. Sensitivity, silence, and observation all contributing to the poetry that can be achieved through theater. Not to mention I got to see some of the new masks he’s been working on. They are beautiful full face leather masks that are so simple and strong.

We even had time to make some goofy pictures thanks to Justin and Ilgaz.

Good to see you again Matteo!

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