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the colour pink

computer pink (#ffc0cb)

The colour pink (1733- ) is a colour between red and white, the colour of coral or salmon. Or so said the Oxford dictionary in 2011. There is no pink in the rainbow, in the “Iliad” or the “Odyssey”, in the King James Bible. Shakespeare used the word pink – “the very pink of courtesy” says Mercutio in “Romeo & Juliet” – but never as a colour.

Note: This post mainly applies to the English-speaking world, especially the US.

By the 1570s “pink” was the name of a flower, Dianthus plumarius:

By the 1680s “pink-coloured” was an adjective, meaning the same colour as the flower.

By 1733 “pink” was the name of a colour. This was well after the late 1600s when Anglos started seeing the world in terms of skin colour, which is part of why they call themselves White and not Pink.

In 1834 “pink skin” first shows up in print.

In 1908 “pink is for girls” first appears. But back then in the US it was not yet the self-evident truth that it later became.

In 1918 pink was still mainly a boys’ colour. Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department, a trade publication, observed:

“The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”

Early Disney heroines wore blue: Snow White, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Wendy Darling in Neverland, and Sleeping Beauty.

In the 1940s the tide began to turn and was given a huge push in the 1950s when Eisenhower became the US president: his wife Mamie (pictured above) liked to wear pink because she thought it looked good with her blue eyes.

But in the 1970s feminism pushed back. There are Sears catalogues from that period where there are no pink clothes for girl toddlers. Hard to believe now – because:

In the 1980s came the deluge. With sonograms doctors could determine a child’s sex before birth. Which meant that all the baby stuff could now be gendered (and therefore sold in greater numbers). Pink spread from sleepers and crib sheets to strollers, car seats and riding toys. By 1990 toy makers were heavily marketing things pink to little girls.

It was a snowball effect driven in part by how children understand gender:

Between the ages of 3 and 6 most children know what gender they are but do not think it is permanent. They think that what makes them a boy or a girl is how they look and what they like. As if having long hair or liking Barbie dolls makes one a girl. They pick up on society’s gender stereotypes and turn them into a kind of cult. This is when many girls go through a princess or ballerina phase, when cooties become a health concern.

And so “pink is for girls”, a piece of fashion from the 1950s, was turned into an act of gender expression that now seems almost inborn.

– Abagond, 2018.

Sources: Etymology Online (2018); Vox (2015); Smithsonian (2011); “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” (2011) by Peggy Orenstein.  

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Insecure

Issa (Issa Rae) and Molly (Yvonne Orji) on “Insecure” in 2017. (HBO)

“Insecure” (2016- ) is a US television show on HBO that was created by and stars Issa Rae, she of “Awkward Black Girl” (2011) on YouTube. It has been renewed for a third season. It tells the tale of two best friends, Issa Dee (Issa Rae) and Molly Carter (Yvonne Orji), and their search for success and love in Los Angeles. In 2018 it won an NAACP Image Award.

Overall: One of the best shows I have seen on television, but the bad language and nudity seem overdone. “It’s HBO!” I have been informed.

Broadcast Standards: HBO, unlike most television in the US, is allowed to use four-letter words and show people naked and having sex. Not only does “Insecure” seem to take it to an unnecessary degree, it confirms stereotypes about Black people as being oversexed and foul-mouthed. In real life White people are no better, of course, but you do not see much of that on television.

But otherwise it is something I have long wanted to see. In 2010 in my post “Black people according to American television” I said:

“There are not many middle-class blacks. Most of them are noble but boring – and have little or no love life.”

It is not just me: Zora Neale Hurston noticed the same thing in books and film back in the 1940s: people of colour (which back then included Jews) were “made of bent wires without insides at all.”

“Insecure” runs counter to all of that:

  • Issa and Molly’s love lives are shown in full.
  • Unlike “The Cosby Show”, the characters and circumstances are not idealized.
  • Unlike “The Wire”, the Black middle-class does not wink out of existence once they leave work and can no longer be observed by White people.

Bechdel Test for Race: It passes this easily: Black characters talk to each other all the time about something other than White people. But it does deal with issues of race too, like gentrification, Black-on-Brown racism, and the (White) old boys club.

Compared to “Awkward Black Girl” (I rewatched the first five episodes):

  • Longer episodes (30 minutes, not 13 or so).
  • Better make-up, cinematography and musical direction.
  • More cursing and nudity.
  • Deeper characters and storylines.
  • Not as funny.
  • Less multiracial.
  • More about love, less about work.

Issa Rae is still the star and still her awkward self.

Amanda Seales, who I also know from YouTube, is a regular character.

From YouTube to Hollywood: On YouTube people of colour can have complete control. Hollywood, on the other hand, is still a White man’s world. If Issa Rae had not stood her ground, most likely her character would have been made a light-skinned woman with long, straight hair. And the storylines would have been made “universal” – meaning “for White people”.

Behind the scenes:

  • Larry Wilmore acts as the bridge between her and (White) Hollywood.
  • Melina Matsoukas is an executive producer and directs most of the episodes. She is best known for her music videos, especially Beyonce’s “Formation”.
  • Raphael Saadiq is the music director.

All three are Black.

– Abagond, 2018.

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Programming note #35

My computer has been acting up of late so my posting might become yet more erratic.

TMI: My Windows 10 machine is in Update Hell and my fan runs high most of the time. I am afraid it is going to get fried. My machine is six years old, so maybe the “upgrades” that Microsoft constantly downloads are crushing it. For me Windows 10 is as much of a mess as Windows 95 was: freezing, rebooting, no DVD support, and even a Blue Screen of Death the other week. My computer is a Toshiba Satellite L735D laptop running Windows 10 Home with 3.6 GB of usable RAM. I bought it as a Windows 7 machine.

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Tears for Fears: Head over Heels

Remarks:

This came out in 1985 and went to #12 in their native Britain and to #6 across the Anglosphere as a whole. It holds up surprisingly well some 30 years later. It is meant to be heard after “Broken”. That is how it is played in concert, though it is too long for pop radio.

Even though I knew they were British the video seemed like it was filmed in the US. I was not far wrong: it was filmed in Canada, at Emmanuel College in Toronto.

I bring up this song because this is the kind of music the record companies wanted Sade sing – and would have sung if she did not believe in herself and only cared for fame and fortune. Instead she gave us “Your Love is King” and “Smooth Operator”, just the way she meant them to be, the songs the record companies thought would never sell.

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Lyrics:

I wanted to be with you alone
And talk about the weather
But traditions I can trace
Against the child in your face
Won’t escape my attention
You keep your distance with a system of touch
And gentle persuasion
I’m lost in admiration
Could I need you this much?
Oh, you’re wasting my time
You’re just—, just—, just wasting time

Something happens
And I’m head over heels
I never find out
‘Til I’m head over heels
Something happens
And I’m head over heels
Ah, don’t take my heart, don’t break my heart
Don’t—, don’t—, don’t throw it away
Throw it away
Throw it away

I made a fire, and watching it burn
Yeah, thought of your future
With one foot in the past
Now, just how long will it last?
Now, now, now, have you no ambitions?

(Mm, what’s the matter with my…)
My mother and my brothers used to breathe in clean air
(Nothing ever changes when you’re acting your age.)
And dreaming I’m a doctor
(Nothing gets done when you feel like a baby.)
It’s hard to be a man when there’s a gun in your hand
(Nothing ever changes when you’re acting your age.)
Oh, I feel so

Something happens
And I’m head over heels
I never find out
‘Til I’m head over heels
Something happens
And I’m head over heels
Ah, don’t take my heart, don’t break my heart
Don’t—, don’t—, don’t throw it away

And this is my four-leaf clover
I’m on the line, one open mind
This is my four-leaf clover

La, la, la…
In my mind’s eye
La, la, la…
One little boy, one little man
La, la, la…
Funny how time flies

Beychella

Beychella (April 14th 2018) is Beyoncé’s performance at the 2018 Coachella musical festival in California. She became the first Black woman ever to headline at Coachella in its 19-year history. Her two-hour performance was so amazing that it made the news in Brazil, needed a new word in the English language – and drew comparisons to Michael Jackson, even among those over 30.

She sang 26 songs, went through five costume changes, performed “Déjà Vu” with her husband Jay-Z, danced “Get Me Bodied” with her sister Solange (now in her blonde phase), and had a surprise reunion with her old band mates from Destiny’s Child – Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams. It was their first reunion in five years and marked the band’s 20th anniversary.

Coachella is a faux bohemian arts and music festival that takes place every spring out in the desert east of Los Angeles. “Faux” because few actual bohemians (or ordinary Black people, for that matter) can afford it: tickets run from $426 to $1000 – and that does not count food, room and travel. The whole thing can easily run $2000 a person.

All Black Everything: Beyoncé made it like Homecoming at an HBCU (Historically Black College or University). She had a marching band (made up of former HBCU marching band members), a drum line and a hundred dancers. She built the show on them. They were dressed in yellow and black, the colours of Alpha Phi Alpha, the fraternity of Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, Jr. She was dressed like Queen Nefertiti, and then like a sorority sister from a fictional Beta Delta Kappa. She quoted Malcolm X, sampled Nina Simone’s “Lilac Wine”, and sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, the Black national anthem. It was great, it was glorious, it was the way it should be.

Beta Delta Kappa: Queen Nefertiti, Black Panther, Black Power, the Beyhive.

She also added $100,000 to the scholarship money she gave last year for HBCUs.

Too Black? Her mother had warned her:

“I told Beyonce that I was afraid that the predominately white audience at Coachella would be confused by all of the black culture and black college culture because it was something that they might not get.”

But Beyoncé said:

“I have worked very hard to get to the point where I have a true voice and at this point in my life and my career I have a responsibility to do what’s best for the world and not what is most popular.”

At long last! For 18 years she cranked out robotic, raceless, “universal” pop music. A huge talent wasted on playing it safe. Not till 2016, with her Super Bowl performance of “Formation” and her album “Lemonade”, did she seem to discover that she was a Black woman.

Doctor’s orders: She was to perform at Coachella last year, but her doctor advised against it: she was pregnant with twins. But it was all to the good. Beyoncé:

“So I had time to dream and dream and dream with two beautiful souls in my belly and I dreamed up this performance.”

– Abagond, 2018.

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In the video above a top White American singer, Taylor Swift, sings “September”, the classic song by Earth, Wind & Fire. Here is the original:

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Starbucks

Starbucks (1971- ) is a White American chain of coffee houses that is found on every continent except for Antarctica. It is known for selling overpriced coffee and, to some, as a force for gentrification, globalization or US Americanization.

At first they were just a shop in Seattle that sold roasted coffee beans. But then in 1983 employee Howard Schultz travelled to Italy and fell in love with its espresso bars. The Starbucks website:

“He had a vision to bring the Italian coffeehouse tradition back to the United States. A place for conversation and a sense of community. A third place between work and home.”

Schultz bought out the company in 1987. From then until the Crash of ’08 Starbucks spread across the earth like a weed. Today in 2018 they have 28,039 shops in 77 countries and employ more than 300,000 people.

Business model: In the 1700s coffee houses provided free newspapers and let people hang out, knowing they would invite their friends and keep buying coffee. Starbucks does the same, providing free Internet.

Socially conscious: They pride themselves in being socially conscious. They even have a 12-page Conflict Minerals Disclosure statement and a 3-page statement on their Animal Welfare-Friendly Practices.

On their Company Information page:

“We make sure everything we do is through the lens of humanity – from our commitment to the highest quality coffee in the world, to the way we engage with our customers and communities to do business responsibly.”

Humanity: viral videos are now coming out that make it clear that their lens of humanity does not always extend to Black people.

In January 2018 in California, Brandon Ward, a Black man, a paying customer, was not allowed to use the toilet – while a White man who bought nothing was. As if it was Whites-only. Thus their “lens of humanity” and “sense of community”.

In April 2018 in the city centre of Philadelphia, just last Thursday the 12th, when a Black man asked to use the toilet he and his friend (also Black) were arrested. They were not doing anything wrong. True, they had not bought anything while waiting for a third person to show up – but White people do that all the time at Starbucks without the manager making an emergency telephone call to the police.

Six police officers arrived. When a customer asked why they were arresting the men, they said nothing. And charged them with nothing – while holding them for eight hours.

“Sense of community” – Philadelphia, 18th and Spruce, April 16th 2018. (REUTERS/Mark Makela)

Kevin Johnson, the head of Starbucks, at first issued a weak apology and refused to say it had anything to do with race. But now that it has blown up in his face as a public relations disaster, now he is calling it “reprehensible” and promises to shut down 8,000 shops for a Tuesday afternoon in May (the 29th) to provide “race-bias education”. Lessons in being a decent human being.

I was going to talk about their mermaid logo and so on, but fuck that.

– Abagond, 2018.

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