One of my all-time favourite songs. The Christion cover was one of the first songs I posted on this blog. This is the original. It came out at the end of 1976 and went to #3 on the US R&B chart.

The video shows me trying to get with Tracy Reed, back when I used to work at an LA car wash. Just kidding! The video comes from the film “Car Wash” (1976), for which Rose Royce did the music.

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Sittin here in this chair
Waitin on you
aaahhh baby to see things my way
But not a word do you say
You won’t even look my way, yeah
Girl I’m spendin my dimes
Wastin my time
Talkin til I’m black and blue
Uh can’t you see
I wanna get next to you

Dreams of you when I go sailing by
When ever your eyes meet mine
Your so fine
And girl you make me feel so insecure
You’re so beautiful and pure
Why must you be unkind
And tell me I’m not your kind
Blowin my mind
Girl my, my money is low and I know
That I can’t take you to the fancy places
You might wanna go
Still I wanna get next to you
I wanna get next to you

Baby yeah

Aah aah aah aah aah
Aaahh yeah

Girl you can bend me, shape me, make me
What ever it takes to please you
I’m willing to do
Cause you’re my dream come true
And I wanna get next to you
Baby yeah
I wanna get next to you
I wanna make you mine for all of time
(I wanna get next to you)
I promise I’ll never make you blue
I wanna get next to you
So let love begin between me and you
(I wanna get next to you)
Girl I’m in love with you
(I wanna get next to you)

Source: A-Z Lyrics.

via RT.

Note: This week I am getting all my news from RT, a Russian news outlet. A big story this week on RT is the French election for president. This post is based on RT only. Next week I will do a post on Le Pen in my usual way for the sake of comparison.

Marine Le Pen is the leader of the National Front (FN), a party in France on the far right founded by her father. French voters will chose between her and Emmanuel Macron for president on May 7th 2017. She is considered a long shot – not unlike Donald Trump and Brexit last year.

Our story: Francois Hollande has been president of France for the past five years. Under him France has had high unemployment (10%), repeated terrorist attacks (Charlie Hebdo, Nice, Paris) and military operations abroad that have failed to make the world safer (Libya, Mali, Iraq, Syria). His approval rating: 4%, a record low. He chose not to run for re-election.

In the first round of voting in 2017, Hollande’s centre-left Socialists got only 6%. The centre-right Republicans came in third due to scandal – leaving far-right Le Pen and 39-year-old Macron, an independent, to go head to head in the run-off election in May.

Frexit: Le Pen wants to pull France out of the European Union (EU) to regain control of its borders, its trade, its money and its laws. She would put it to a nationwide vote, like Britain did last year (Brexit). She says the EU’s common form of money, the euro, will tear the EU apart. Better to get out now while the getting is good.

She wants stronger borders to limit the “twin globalizations” of wage-suppressing economic migration and Islamic terrorism.

Russia: She visited President Putin just last month. She wants:

  • no “hostility” towards Russia,
  • a united effort with Russia against terrorism,
  • says sanctions against Russia are “unfair”.

Follow the money: French banks have refused to loan her money, so she is getting money from banks in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Russia.

Macron she says is not a patriotic Frenchman but a Europeanist. He is a frontman for the big banks which are robbing France. Le Pen, meanwhile, stands up for the common man in France – while living in a penthouse.

Media: The big news outlets in France all favour Macron, but he is a fresh face without fresh ideas – he was Hollande’s minister for finance and the economy.

Le Pen is anti-immigrant, some would say even racist.

In 2010 Le Pen compared Muslims in France to the Nazi German occupation:

“more and more veils and burkas, after that came praying on the streets, I’m sorry but some people are very fond of talking about the Second World War and about the occupation, so let’s talk about the occupation, because that is what is happening here, there are no tanks or soldiers, but it is still an occupation and it weighs on people.”

In 2017 she denied France took part in the Holocaust:

“I think France isn’t responsible for the Vel d’Hiv. I think that, in general, if there are people responsible, it is those who were in power at the time. It is not France.”

Vel d’Hiv is where French police sent Jews for the Nazi Germans to send onto Auschwitz. Le Pen’s father was a Holocaust denier.

– Abagond, 2017.

Source: RT, all the way, even the images. The best bit by far is an interview (YouTube, 11 minutes) with Jean Messiha, of the Le Pen campaign, and Yasser Louati, a human rights activist. Unlike most people RT interviews at length, Louati is a Le Pen critic and Messiha has inside knowledge. 

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Granny Fight Club

“Granny Fight Club” (2017) is a documentary about a self-defence course taught to old women in the slums of Nairobi to protect them from rape. The course is taught by “Ujamma”, an NGO. The documentary was filmed by RT, a news outlet in Russia.

It was filmed in Korogocho, one of the worst slums of Kenya according to RT. Part of it was also filmed at the nearby Dandoro dump, where some of the women make a living finding things to sell. We hear the stories of rape and see the self-defence course being taught. The women are taught to shout “No!” and to hurt the man in a weak spot (eyes, nose, chin, testicles). They are trained in several self-defence moves.

You would think old women would be free from rape. But they are seen as going through a “secondary virginity”, so some teenage boys go after them, believing that sex with them will cure AIDS.

“Ujamma” is misspelled, as I found out from a Google search. Ujamaa Africa is an NGO founded by Dr Jake Sinclair, a White doctor in the US, and his wife. The website says he is “a passionate advocate for young victims of domestic and sexual violence and has developed several youth empowerment programs in the USA and Africa.”

RT gets its money from the Russian government. It presents itself as being free from the bias found in Western news, but in this case it is not. Rape, poverty, AIDS, Africa – you see it so much that there is a name for it: the Broken Africa stereotype.

Most RT documentaries on Africa seem to be little better. They are about stuff like:

  • child brides,
  • child soldiers,
  • street boys,
  • witch kids,
  • garbage dumps,
  • overcrowding,
  • refugees,
  • refugee camps,
  • tribesmen visiting Russia,
  • poor people who “waste” money on nice clothes (Les Sapeurs),
  • camel races.

Of the three less stereotypical stories – about Nollywood, Mount Kilimanjaro and West African fishing – two seem to be centred on White people.

This is not to say that the issues covered in these documentaries are not serious. Many are. Rape is most certainly a serious issue. But there is no balance.

Stories: This week I am getting all my news from RT. And after four days, this documentary is the only thing I have seen about Africa – or about any Black people anywhere. RT presents itself as covering world news.

Employees: RT has at least one Black employee, Ashlee Banks – I saw her once, a few weeks ago – but not so far this week. Except for one Asian woman, everyone has been White, mostly with British and North American accents.

Bias in the news is pushed not so much by untrue facts but by the selection of facts. The documentary by itself was not bad – they even let Black people do all the talking, something you do not always see. But when it is the main thing I am seeing of Africa and of Black people, and when it fits a stereotype, that is bias.

– Abagond, 2017.

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Reading War and Peace

This week I am getting all my news from RT. To go along with that, I am reading only Russian books. So I started reading Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” (1868). So far “War and Peace” is way better than RT.

It is supposed to be one of the best books ever written but I had been put off by its length. I found that I am not alone on that one. The Penguin paperback runs 1,444 pages! And on top of that I am a slow reader, reading at about half the average speed. But then, come to think of it, I read Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” without batting an eye and that is over 1,000 pages. And I have read the Bible, which is about 1,900 pages.

The trick to reading a long book is to read a bit of it every day. “War and Peace” is divided into 361 chapters. The chapters are short: four pages on average, no longer than 11. Chapters are designed to give you a good place to stop. So reading the whole book in a year is easy.

Another way to think of it: it is about six books long. So, however long it takes you to read six books is about how long it will take to read “War and Peace”. For those who read a book a month, it will take about six months. For those who read a book a week, it will take six weeks. And so on. You cannot read it in a weekend, but maybe in four weekends. For the average reader, it takes about as much time as watching all five seasons of “Breaking Bad”.

Tips from Oprah.com:

  1. It is not a hard book to read – it is just long.
  2. Russians have long, confusing names. Just pay attention to the first name. If two first names sound alike – Natalia and Natasha or Piotr and Petya, for example – and you think it might be the same person, it is.
  3. Read the first 50 pages to see if you like it.
  4. Do not skip the war parts.
  5. It is a book you will never forget.

Tips from Charles Van Doren:

  1. Take off a week to read it. It is worth it. If you cannot do that, get as close to that ideal as you can.
  2. Throw away any reader’s guides that list characters and their relationships.
  3. Let the book happen to you. If you are confused at first, you will not be confused for long. It is like moving to a new town: it could take a while to get your bearings.
  4. Trust Tolstoy to tell the story. He is one of the best storytellers ever. He knows what he is doing. Just go with it.

Like Paris: When I was about to leave Paris, I was sitting on the train next to a young woman from Chile. She said she was about to see Paris for the first time. I envied her. Charles Van Doren feels the same way about “War and Peace”.

– Abagond, 2017. 

Sources: Oprah.com; “The Joy of Reading” (2008) by Charles Van Doren.

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Go Set a Watchman

“Go Set a Watchman” (2015) by US writer Harper Lee is her first novel to appear since “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1960). It has the same characters but takes place in the 1950s, 20 years later.

Disclaimer: I have never read “To Kill a Mockingbird” – I could never get into it – but I saw the movie starring Gregory Peck as lawyer Atticus Finch.

Our story: In “Watchman”, Scout, Atticus Finch’s daughter, is now better known by her grown-up name, Jean Louise Finch. She is 26 and works in New York. Twice a year she goes back home, to the Jim Crow South, to visit her father, now in his 70s. On one such visit, presumably in the summer of 1954, the scales fall from her eyes and she sees how racist her home town is. And it is not just the town, it is her boyfriend, her aunt, her uncle, people she knows from high school, and even her own father, Atticus Finch himself, who back in the 1930s defended a Black man accused of raping a White woman – because he believes in justice for all.

She wonders if something is wrong with her, but no, even people who never said the N-word before are saying it now. Calpurnia, the Black servant who brought her up from the age of two, is now overly polite with her. Her father has joined a White citizens’ council, defending Jim Crow. She finds out he used to be in the Klan too. Go along to get along, it seems.

Spoiler warning: I am about to give away the ending.

The book builds towards a showdown with her father, which comes in chapter 17, by far the best part. She calls out his hypocrisy. Despite all his fine words, he believes Blacks are subhuman. She calls him all kinds of names. It was glorious.

But then, a chapter later, she caves. Ugh. While she is packing her bags to leave town for good, her uncle hits her, almost knocks her out, saying, “I am trying to attract your attention.” According to him, she is the true bigot, someone with fixed, unbending ideas. She lacks the maturity and humility needed to live in the South. Oh, is that what it is? She needs to ease up on her father and the other (White) people in town. They are only human, with human hearts and human failings. Her father is not the tin god she made him into as a girl. Grow up! Then he makes a triple literary allusion. She falls for it.

She accepts her father as a mere human. They make up. The End.

What a cheap ending! And one that seems to write off racism as a mere human failing.

Not to worry: Her publisher back in 1957 did not like it either. They had her rewrite it, hanging it on the rape trial in the 1930s, making Atticus Finch into a White Saviour fantasy figure. Oh, and they changed the title: “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

– Abagond, 2017.

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Programming note #32

I am going on an RT news diet. This coming week, from Sunday April 23rd to Saturday April 29th 2017, I will be getting all my news from RT, a news outlet funded by the Russian government, a sort of Russian BBC. I will stay off of YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter and any other sort of feed. No cable news (other than RT America) or newspapers or news magazines either, of course. If I get a New York Times newsflash on my phone, I will not read it. If a commenter provides a link to a non-RT news outlet, I will not follow it.

I will avoid doing posts on anything in the news. If I do, it will be completely based on RT, with a disclaimer to that effect.

After the week is over, I will record my experiences and later do a post on RT itself.

– Abagond, 2017.

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“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” (2010) by Rebecca Skloot tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, her children, how her cells changed science, and how medical ethics and the law have failed to keep up.

The book won awards, was named Book of the Year by many, and has been made into a film by Oprah and HBO, which premieres tonight.

Note: This post is not about the film – I do not get HBO – nor about Henrietta Lacks – I did a post on her yesterday – but about the book.

Skloot tells the story well, which is amazing considering all the moving parts – not just the large cast of characters, but all the science and case law too.

The only confusing, boring part came at the very end where she talks about the current state of medical ethics and the law.

A huge thing that is missing, though, is the story of medicine and race. While she does not sugar-coat the part that race played, it stands in the background almost the whole time. For example, the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment and medical testing on Black prisoners are brought up only in passing, while Dr J. Marion Sims is not brought up at all. Skloot talks plenty about the law and medical ethics, but there is little sense of how they are applied unequally according to race.

Faith in doctors: In her book, doctors are keeping people in the dark all the time. They are cold-blooded, treating people like specimens, even sometimes like in a UFO movie. And yet Skloot seems to find it unbelievable that they would straight-up lie to patients! For example, when the Lackses tell her that Johns Hopkins asked them for blood samples in the 1970s because they wanted to test for cancer, she does not believe them: there were no cancer tests back then. She thinks it is more likely they were confused.

The most annoying part is the eye dialect. In her book, only Black people, and maybe a few Whites out in the country, drop their g’s (growin, sellin, keepin), or say an’ instead of and, or em instead of them. Well-to-do Whites might say gonna instead of going to, but that is about as far as they go. I find that hard to believe. If you are going to quote Blacks in eye dialect, then please do the same for Whites.

The most horrifying and heartbreaking part by far was chapter 33: “The Hospital for the Negro Insane.” That is where Elsie Lacks, Henrietta’s oldest daughter, went. She was epileptic and never learned to talk. After Henrietta died no one came to visit her. She was almost certainly used in gruesome medical experiments, like drilling holes in her head to drain out the brain fluid so that doctors could get clearer X-ray pictures of her brain. In the last known picture of her she is in terrible shape – too terrible for the book to print – with white manicured hands around her neck.

– Abagond, 2017.

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