Saturday, October 31, 2009

Monsoon Season

And it's rained every day since! Just like home!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Jessie's first publication, available Feb 16, 2010

In March 2007, I went to the UK (sponsored by the University of Southampton, where Quinn is now!) to deliver a paper on photography and abolition at a conference held in honor of the 200th anniversary of the end of slavery in the British Empire. Cora Kaplan and John Oldfield took interest in my work and invited me to submit a chapter for this volume. Scholarly publishing takes time, but Palgrave Macmillan now lists our book for next spring, and this week it appeared on

From the editors' description :
A collection of new essays, Imagining Transatlantic Slavery offers the latest research and thinking on current debates about the representation - past and present - of transatlantic slavery. Building on the interest generated by the bicentenary in 2007-8 of the end of British and American involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, our volume is interdisciplinary, drawing on history, literature and museum and heritage studies. Its focus is on the transatlantic nature of slavery and abolition, and the essays range from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century. Its distinguished contributors offer a critical view of the histories leading up to the defining decisions of 1807-08 and its complex legacies over the last two centuries. Essays on notable figures such as Phillis Wheatley, Olaudah Equiano, Hannah More, Benjamin Flower, and William and Ellen Craft are juxtaposed with those on early Quaker writing and the use of photography in abolitionist discourse. The last part of the book on 'Remembering and Forgetting' addresses debates surrounding the representation of slavery in drama, visual culture, museums and galleries, and appraises the importance of recent research to public understanding of slavery today.

Contributors: Brycchan Carey, Vincent Carretta, Lilla Maria Crisafulli, Eileen Razzari Elrod, Catherine Hall, Douglas Hamilton, Cora Kaplan, HollyGale Millette, John Oldfield, Jessie Morgan-Owens, Elizabeth Kowaleski Wallace and Marcus Wood

Maybe you want a taste? Here's the first paragraph from my chapter, "'Another Ida May': Photography and the American Abolition Campaign":
Photography’s potential as a persuasive visual adjunct to reform campaigns was recognised from the inception of the medium in 1839, even if before the half-tone process revolutionised printing in 1880 images had to be distributed hand-to-hand. The majority of photographs made in antebellum America were daguerreian portraits: a unique image typically the size of your palm, imprinted on a reflective mirror, encased in brocade and brass. Daguerreotypes circulated without captions; therefore, authors who utilised these early photographs to depict abolitionist ideology found a malleable and suggestive representative space. Their evidentiary power in political debate relied upon writing to instruct audiences how to ‘read’ these images. In this essay I will discuss images of two little girls, both in appearance white, one fictional and the other daguerreotyped, one free and the other a slave, that nevertheless illustrated the same potent message of late abolitionist rhetoric: that however impugned by the public’s anxieties surrounding miscegenation, the invisibility of racial markers demonstrated a moral obstacle to defining slavery along racial lines.
Pre-order your copy now! Or, since it's listed at $74.95, ask your library to order one for you.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Making groceries

James and I went to Carrefour today to pick up some groceries, and ended up seeing Julie and Julia instead, which cast life in Singapore into sharp perspective.

The biggest supermarket in our area is a French-owned conglomerate, which means that we can pick up "Western" items like cheese, sausages, unscented eco-friendly detergents, cous cous, charcoal briquets, and El Paso brand tortillas (oh how far the mighty have fallen!). I heard Carrefour pronounced Ka-fou by a cosmopolitan local friend last night, but we still call it "Care-a-4." Stupide americaines...

The aisles are wide and well lit. Today, touts with bullhorns announced one-hour specials on Korean grapes, bone-density screenings, and ready-made Swiss rostis. Durian gets an entire section apart from the regular produce. The first basement offers the sorts of items one might find in Target (but mysteriously, whatever we are shopping for-- lamps, gardening tools--is never there).

In short, making groceries here in no way resembles a trip The Met on Henry Street, followed by a visit to Scottos or Smith and Vine, followed by Fish Tales, followed by Mazzolas, followed by the green market on Carroll Street, and the many other stops on our peripatetic daily shopping trips in Brooklyn and Union Square. That said, the reason we live in this neighborhood is the extensive wet-market a few blocks away, which we visit with the same frequency we did our marketing at home. So it's all good.

But some things necessitate a visit to Carrefour, which is located on the ground floor and 1st basement of a 9 story shopping mall called Plaza Singapura (which we pronounce with a Spanish accent for no reason whatsoever). This mall is but one of many malls on Orchard Road, an avenue which features 10 blocks of 9+ story malls facing one another, many of which also have grocery stores on their bottom floors and cineplexes on their top ones.

Each floor of Plaza Singapura has a theme: for example, go to floor 5 for hobbies and crafts, floor 6 for music and instruments stores, and a floor each for books, young fashion, imported fashion, home improvement, etc. There are four food courts, each catering to a different taste: mall restaurants, local hawker style food, fast food chains, and the desserts/snacks chains.

Today, I was feeling a little post-shoot malaise. Anyone feels low when a week-long trip is followed by a long work week of catchup, though in my case, this feeling is compounded by nostalgia for the those 7 days of joy, fulfillment, and energy that accompany successful creative output. Add in meeting beautiful new people and trying new cuisines while staying in five star accommodations and you'll understand the catch in my stride. So I planned to enjoy a book of poems written by my landlord at the Starbucks, and then join James in a bit of grocery shopping.

(Caveat: Before you indulge my feeling sorry for my slump today, I should admit that I had a great week at the university and then I spent Saturday: at a poetry reading from 1-2:30, then a dessert date at 3:00 with my female colleagues, then we met friends at Siloso beach at sunset, then J and I watched part of a movie on our couch, then we met up with friends for falafel and foul on Arab street, had a nightcap at a jazz club, and still managed to catch a full night's sleep. So don't let me whine.)

Instead, we wandered up to level four to look for a lamp for my office, stopped by the faucet store to a price a hot water heater for the kitchen sink, and did a quick pass though the sale at the fabric store on level five. Since we were all the way upstairs, we decided to visit the cineplex on level 7 to see what was on. There was The September Issue, but frankly, Gourmet's closing this past week has me just too aggravated at 4 Times Square to enjoy a movie about the work (and waste) of putting together a magazine. But Julie and Julia was in sneak previews 5 minutes! so we bought tickets and went in.

I got a little teary in those first few minutes because I simultaneously missed our life in New York, Paris, my mother (Meryl reminds us of her), and Julia Child, who I just love, even though I haven't successfully made a single one of her recipes. I remembered how we used to shop for groceries in Brooklyn, how our apartment (much less than 900 sqft!) also looked crammed with worn but comfortable things, how I also got pearls on my 30th, and oh, all that beautiful fall produce I'm missing! I remembered the first time I read the Julie/Julia blog and marveled at the tenacity of her idea. I remembered the first time I went to Dean and Deluca, and the rooftop parties--it was at my first roof party that I met my dear Parisian friends, who would in time, teach me about markets and picnics and productivity.

The movie is slow in parts, too long by a quarter hour, and delightfully sappy as all get out, but my thanks and my two thumbs up for capturing that moment. (But did we really dress like that in 2002? for goodness sakes!)

After the movie we sat at an outdoor table at Toast Box for butter and jam/butter and ham sandwiches and pretended we were on the continent. Then we did our shopping at Carrefour and tried to enjoy the irony. At the checkout line I bought the last copy of the last issue of Gourmet. Then James made beet salad for dinner, followed by my zucchini bread and some brie.

Bon appetit!

Friday, October 9, 2009

call me

I hate to use this space for product placement but I want everyone to know that you can call us on our 718 number, and vice versa. There's been a some confusion when we call and our 718 number comes up on your caller id, seeing as how we sure don't live in Brooklyn anymore! We subscribe to a service called Vonage that magically transferred our old home line into a little black and orange box, that when hooked up to a DSL line anywhere on the planet, thinks it's still in Brooklyn. So our phone rings here in Singapore, though for all intents and purposes, your phone company thinks you're calling Brooklyn. It works the same for us, too, when we call you. Our bill looks the same as if we were calling you from Brooklyn. Except Vonage throws in 60 other countries for free, including Singapore and her neighbors, Germany, UK, Mexico, France, and 50 other places we haven't had a reason to call yet. For this service we pay a flat rate of about $30, which we call the Momma Bill, since my mom and I love to talk to each other on the phone. Worth every penny!

The downside: having a 718 number that rings in Singapore also means that dinner time sales calls ring here at 6am. And sometimes even well-intentioned callers get the time zones upside down. Thankfully, the service comes with voicemail, so we'll call you back when we wake up and turn the ringer back on.