Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘stuff’ Category

Trump retrospective

Mark Bryan’s “The Nightmare” (2017) – but is it over?

Donald Trump has been out of office for six weeks now. It is such a relief not to have to think about him all the time. But before he becomes too much of a distant memory, hopefully for good, I want to look back on his first (and hopefully his only) four years in office as US president, as I did with Obama.

Jemele Hill put it well:

“I wish I could say I feel happy, but I don’t. Relief, yes. But the wreckage from these last four years is substantial. The democracy is not fixed. White supremacy isn’t taking a break. This is a baby step, but the ugliness Donald Trump seized upon will intensify.”

In October I predicted Trump would still be in power at this point. I was right that he would try to hang onto power by hook or crook, but I underestimated his incompetence. So, yes, I am relieved.

But Trump is down, not out. The Republican Party remains firmly behind him. Despite losing the White House and the Senate. Despite making the Pandemic of 2020 way worse than it had to be, killing more Americans than a world war. Despite his coup attempt on January 6th, the Capitol riot. Despite paying off porn stars and setting up concentration camps and all that.

Cult of personality: There seems to be no line Trump can cross, no norm he can break, that would shake them. Their loyalty to him is dangerously cult-like. They have become unhinged from reality. I hate to say that, but that seems to be the truth. It cannot help but damage the US. It already has – from the poor response to the pandemic to the poor response to global warming. And it is on course to get worse:

2042 and all that: In about 2042 non-Hispanics Whites will become a minority in the US. That is no longer in the distant future: the 2040s are now closer than the 1990s. This places White Americans at a crossroads: do they believe in democracy or do they believe in White rule? For the first 250 years they have been able to have it both ways. No longer. So, will the US move towards the promise of 1776 or will it descend into years and years of right-wing terrorism, if not outright fascism? Time will tell.

It does not look good: 58% of Whites voted for Trump in November, the same as four years ago – and they seem to be sticking with him. He won Whites across the board: man and woman, young and old, rich and poor, Protestant and Catholic, North and South (but not West), rural and suburban (but not urban), and at all levels of education up to and including four years of college (but not more advanced education). And that was after four years of the Trump Era. They liked it! They want more! On top of that, Republicans in 43 states are now pushing for yet more voter suppression laws.

– Abagond, 2021.

See also:

560

Read Full Post »

Living like it’s 1979

Jet magazine, March 1st 1979.

I lived like it was 1979 for the first two weeks of August 2020 – as much as that was possible in the Internet Age in the middle of a pandemic. I could only use 1979 technology or simulations thereof, like using my laptop computer as a radio or my mobile phone as a watch. Also, I limited books to those first published before 1980.

Rule of thumb: If a word or thing was not in my 1983 Chambers dictionary, I did not use it.

I did not change my hair or clothes. Apart from the cut of my jeans, no one would give me a second look if I went back to 1979.

Since it was still the Pandemic of 2020, I had to limit my outings and wear a mask and socially distance when I did go out.

Cher in 1972.

What I re/learned:

  1. The biggest difference between now and then, by far, is the Internet.
  2. Broadcast news is not a good source of news for a democracy. It is way too limited and shallow. Newspapers, and especially the Internet, are way better – or can be if you avoid filter bubbles.
  3. The Internet (and Kindles) have made it way easier to research and write posts. So much so that during the two weeks of reliving 1979, I produced only one original 500-word post (1908: Race Problems in America). The other posts during that period were either short or were reposts. Journal writing, on the other hand, is little changed.
  4. Looking at porn is 80% habit. So is watching television.
  5. “Saturday Night Live” was way funnier in 1979. (I saw episode 4.16 from April 7th 1979. Rickie Lee Jones sang “Chuck E’s in Love”.)
  6. Women on television were way skinnier. Cher, Mary Tyler Moore and the Bionic Woman were all disturbingly thin.
  7. MAD magazine is no longer in print.
  8. Magazines have gone down hill. “Since at least 1955,” says my mother.
  9. Watching television used to be more communal.

More on how writing has changed:

  • In 1979 I had to think out what I was going to write and then write it down. Half of writing was in the thinking. Even in 2008 I was still writing that way: I wrote these posts on the bus in a notebook and then later typed them into a computer to post them on the Internet.
  • But then in 2009 I got a laptop computer of my own that I could take with me anywhere, an HP Mini 1000. Now I could compose directly on a computer. Posts now start out as a series of notes, of facts and quotes, of half-formed ideas written down. That is fleshed out into sentences, then paragraphs. Paragraphs are moved, sometimes deleted, new ones added, etc, as the post takes shape.

Without the Internet, I read more books, watched more television, and saw less porn (none, in fact). And produced fewer posts. And, for the first time in years, I read the Sunday comics and tried to write a letter – but had no envelopes!

– Abagond, 2021.

See also:

580

 

Read Full Post »

TLC: Unpretty

Remarks:

This is by far my favourite TLC song. In 1999 it went to #4 on the US R&B chart and was a top-ten hit throughout the Anglosphere. For Stefani Germanotta, a 13-year-old outcast at her school in New York, it changed her life. We now know her as Lady Gaga.

It is based on a poem by T-Boz (the blonde in the video):

“I’m a very petite woman, and was never extra developed like how most girls in high school were. I wanted bigger boobs and all that. So that’s why when we shot the video, it was personal to me to tell that story. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you feeling like you want to get a breast job or reduction. But the most important part is it needs to happen because that’s something you want for yourself, not someone else. Not some guy telling you that you’ll look better if this was bigger. If they do say that, just drop them.”

See also:

Lyrics:

[Verse 1: T-Boz]
I wish I could tie you up in my shoes
Make you feel unpretty too
I was told I was beautiful
But what does that mean to you?
Look into the mirror, who’s inside there
The one with the long hair
Same old me again today, yeah

[Pre-Chorus: Chilli]
My outsides look cool
My insides are blue
Everytime I think I’m through
It’s because of you
I try different ways
But it’s all the same
At the end of the day
I have myself to blame
I’m just trippin’

[Chorus]
You can buy your hair if it won’t grow
You can fix your nose if he says so
You can buy all the make-up
That M.A.C. can make, but if
You can’t look inside you
Find out who am I to
Be in the position that make me feel
So damn unpretty

I’ll make you feel unpretty too

[Verse 2: T-Boz]
Never insecure until I met you
Now I’m bein’ stupid
I used to be so cute to me
Just a little bit skinny
Why do I look to all these things
To keep you happy?
Maybe get rid of you
And then I’ll get back to me, yeah

[Pre-Chorus: Chilli]
My outsides look cool
My insides are blue
Everytime I think I’m through
It’s because of you
I try different ways
But it’s all the same
At the end of the day
I have myself to blame
Can’t believe I’m trippin’

[Chorus]
You can buy your hair if it won’t grow
You can fix your nose if he says so
You can buy all the make-up
That M.A.C. can make, but if
You can’t look inside you
Find out who am I to
Be in the position that make me feel
So damn unpretty

You can buy your hair if it won’t grow
You can fix your nose if he says so
You can buy all the make-up
That M.A.C. can make, but if
You can’t look inside you
Find out who am I to
Be in the position that make me feel
So damn unpretty

And make you feel unpretty too
And make you feel unpretty
(Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh)

[Chorus]
You can buy your hair if it won’t grow
You can fix your nose if he says so
You can buy all the make-up
That M.A.C. can make, but if
You can’t look inside you
Find out who am I to
Be in the position that make me feel
So damn unpretty
You can buy your hair if it won’t grow
(Hahahaha)
You can buy all the make-up
That M.A.C. can make, but if
You can’t look inside you
Be in the position that make me feel so

Source: Genius Lyrics.

Read Full Post »

Strongmen

“Strongmen” (2020) by US historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat compares and contrasts right-wing authoritarian rulers from Mussolini to Trump. Most of what makes Trump seem strange when compared to other US presidents is what he has in common with – strongmen.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat is a Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University. She is a Mussolini expert.

Her strongmen:

  • fascists (1922-45):
    • Mussolini (Italy, 1925-43)
    • Hitler (Germany, 1933-45)
    • Franco (Spain, 1939-75)
  • military dictators (1945-91):
    • Mobutu (Zaire, 1965-97)
    • Gaddafi (Libya, 1969-2011)
    • Pinochet (Chile, 1973-90)
  • the new authoritarians (1991- ):
    • Berlusconi (Italy, 1994, 2001-06, 2008-11)
    • Putin (Russia, 2000- )
    • Erdogan (Turkey, 2014- )
    • Trump (USA, 2017- ) – still in power at the time of publication.

With cameo appearances by Idi Amin (Uganda), Bolsonaro (Brazil), Modi (India), Orban (Hungary), Duterte (Philippines), and Siad Barre (Somalia).

She says little to nothing about communist leaders like Stalin, Castro, Mao, or Xi. Or characters like Assad, Netanyahu, or MBS. Or all that much about US foreign policy.

She mainly writes about the life cycle of a strongman as illustrated by her favourites: How they rise to power, how they maintain power, and how they fall.

Rise: Some come to power violently, like Gaddafi and Pinochet, but many do not, like Hitler and Trump. While military dictators come to power mainly by controlling the military, the new authoritarians mainly do it through control or mastery of the media.

Fall: Strongmen almost always fall, though it can take decades. They are mostly brought down by elites, though mass uprisings certainly help:

“More personalist rulers are toppled by elites than by popular revolutions, especially in situations of economic or military distress. While they may last longer than other kinds of authoritarians, 80 percent of them are booted out of office eventually.

“Mobutu’s fall from power is symptomatic. By 1990, twenty-five years of kleptocracy and violent behavior had turned elites and the population against him.”

Tools of the trade – aka the red flags of strongman rule:

  1. Promise national greatness – Make America Great Again! Stand up against the marginalized religious, racial, ethnic, sexual or political minorities that are trying to destroy the nation. Be a bigot and call it courage.
  2. Propaganda – Lie! It works. Especially if you control enough of the media. Truth is the enemy of power. But be careful not to believe your own lies! Reality bites.
  3. Displays of virility – Be a misogynist! Grab them by the pussy! Or pose bare-chested. Or devote part of the government bureaucracy to provide an endless stream of sexual partners. Show that you are the alpha dog! But stay away from underaged girls. That might be a bridge too far for many of your supporters.
  4. Corruption – Rob the state! But make sure to give elites a cut of the action so that they have a stake in your continued power. Corruption is why loyalty matters more than merit.
  5. Violence – Keep your subjects in fear through terror, torture, massacre, disappearances, etc.

Not all of these are required. Hitler, for example, never bared his chest and seemed to be a one-woman man. Nor was he particularly corrupt. But he nailed all the others.

– Abagond, 2021.

See also:

526

Read Full Post »

books I read in 2021

Last updated: Wed Feb 24 04:59:04 UTC 2021.

Some of the books I have read so far in 2021 (to be updated throughout the year):

Nicholas Carr: The Shallows (2010) – how the Internet is making us shallow thinkers and knowers. Books still matter, says this book.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat: Strongmen (2020) – compares and contrasts right-wing authoritarian rulers of the past hundred years, from Mussolini to Trump. In US history, Trump sticks out, but not in world history.

Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice (1813) – considered one of the best romance novels in the English tongue. I still prefer “Wuthering Heights” (1847) by Emily Brontë.

What I am reading now: I am reading the following three books of history in sync, century by century. I have already read chapters here and there of the first two, but now I am reading them cover-to-cover:

Audrey and Brian D. Smedley: Race in North America (2012) – a good, solid history of racism in North America, from its roots in Spain and England before 1619 to the beginning of the 21st century. The main source of several posts, like Spanish racial identity in 1492 and slaveries compared.

Nell Irvin Painter: Creating Black Americans (2006) – a good overview of US Black history from 1619 to 2006.



Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain, editors: Four Hundred Souls
(2021) – subtitled “A Community History of African America, 1619-2019”. Divides Black US history into five-year periods and has an expert write a few pages about each, from “1619–1624: Arrival by Nikole Hannah-Jones” to “2014–2019: Black Lives Matter by Alicia Garza”. What a wonderful idea!

Suggestions: If you want to suggest or recommend a book, please leave it in the comments below! Thanks.

– Abagond, 2021.

See also:

536

Read Full Post »

Pride and Prejudice

“Pride and Prejudice” (1813) is a romance novel by Jane Austen, widely considered her best. Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy cannot stand each other – but then

Warning: Spoilers!

fall in love.

The first sentence:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

It is set in Regency England (1795-1837), among the landed gentry of Hertfordshire, 40 km north of the centre of London. It is probably the early 1810s – there is still a war going on – or arguably the 1790s when Austen wrote the first draft. Austen is why so many romance novels are set in that time and place.

Virginia Woolf in “A Room of One’s Own” (1929) on Jane Austen and Emily Bronte:

“They wrote as women write, not as men write. Of all the thousand women who wrote novels then, they alone entirely ignored the perpetual admonitions of the eternal pedagogue – write this, think that.”

The Bennetts have five daughters. From oldest to youngest:

  • Jane (age 22)
  • Elizabeth – “Lizzy” (20)
  • Mary (18)
  • Catherine – “Kitty” (17)
  • Lydia (15)

The bachelorettes: Jane, Elizabeth, Lydia, and their cousin Charlotte Lucas.

The bachelors, listed from richest to poorest by yearly income in pounds:

  1. Mr Darcy – 10,000
  2. Mr Bingley – about 4,500
  3. Mr Collins – 2,000+ after Mr Bennett dies
  4. Mr Wickham – less than 1,500 (what a colonel makes)

They have first names, but they hardly ever use them.

Money: In those days, the middle class started at maybe 150, the upper class at maybe 1,000. Upper-class income comes mainly from owning land, sometimes by having a commission in the army or a living in the clergy. At 10,000 a year, Mr Darcy is one of the richest men in England.

Elizabeth’s father makes 2,000. But because he has no sons (see above), upon his death his wealth will fall to the nearest male relative – the cringey Mr Collins himself. That means Elizabeth will be left with just 40 to 50 a year. Thus the need for the five daughters to marry well.

Love: The book is not so much about love but about picking the right man to be happily married. Lydia marries for love, Charlotte for money. Both become cautionary tales for Elizabeth, our heroine. Elizabeth says she married for both – and for Mr Darcy’s excellent moral character – but arguably she fell in love not so much with Mr Darcy himself but with his vast, beautiful estate of Pemberley in the north of England. You be the judge!

Empiricism: This book most reminds me of – Thucydides! He wrote a history of the war between Athens and Sparta, which sounds like a very different book. But Austen and Thucydides not only write in the same classic prose style, but both take an observational or empirical approach to human beings, judging character and motive based on people’s rational self-interest and a close observation of what they do, not what they say. Something Elizabeth Bennett learns the hard way in the course of the book. Austen lays bare people as they are, not as we wish them to be.

– Abagond, 2021.

See also:

565

Read Full Post »

The Texas deep freeze of 2021

The Texas deep freeze of 2021 (since February 14th) brought the coldest temperatures in over 30 years. It covered most of the state with snow, a freak event, and knocked out power for as many as 4.5 million people, some of them for days.

The skyline of Dallas went dark. The water was no longer safe to drink for 13 million (45% of Texas) – because there was no power to treat the water. Only bottled or boiled water was safe. Most homes in Texas are not insulated, which led to to freezing temperatures even inside. Meanwhile, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who wants to be president some day, went to sunny Cancun, Mexico on holiday.

@balagonline on Twitter on February 18th:

“I don’t even have words to describe how awful things are down here in Texas. people are freezing to death in their homes and cars. no clean water or food anywhere. govt refusing to even acknowledge what’s happening. I have never experienced anything like this in my life”

Tim Boyd, the mayor of Colorado City, Texas on Facebook:

“The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING! I’m sick and tired of people looking for a damn handout!… If you are sitting at home in the cold because you have no power and are sitting there waiting for someone to come rescue you because your lazy is direct result of your raising! …. This is sadly a product of a socialist government where they feed people to believe that the FEW will work and others will become dependent for handouts…. I’ll be damned if I’m going to provide for anyone that is capable of doing it themselves!… Bottom line quit crying and looking for a handout! Get off your ass and take care of your own family!”

“Only the strong will survive and the weak will parish”

Greg Abbott, the governor:

“this shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America.”

Tucker Carlson of Fox News:

“[Texas is] totally reliant on windmills.”

Energy sources: In 2017, ERCOT, which runs the main power grid in Texas, got its electricity from these sources:

  • 39% natural gas
  • 32% coal
  • 17% wind
  • 11% nuclear
  • 1% sun

Or 18% green. The deep freeze affected them all, even nuclear.

Shortfall: Texas needed 75 GW of electricity to get through the deep freeze, but could only come up with 51 GW. The weather had knock out 43 GW. Worse still, the ERCOT power grid is cut off from the rest of the country, so it was on its own.

Deregulation: Texas politicians had cut off the power grid from the rest of the country to free it from US government regulations. That led to more competition and lower prices. Electricity is now 20% cheaper in Texas than in the rest of the US. But cutting costs meant little spare capacity. Even last summer there were brownouts, a warning sign. And power plants were not properly winterized. The other US power grids held up under the storm. Texas did not.

– Abagond, 2021.

See also:

528

Read Full Post »

Remarks:

My favourite Chloe x Halle song to date. This is on their second album, “Ungodly Hour” (2020). It has not (yet) been released as a single. The nostalgic feel of the song was done on purpose.

See also:

Lyrics:

[Intro]
Ooh, ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh

[Verse 1]
I need you to stop lookin’ at me like that
We are just friends now
You already had your chance
So I need you to stop sayin’ the things you say
I don’t wanna regret, no
The reason I didn’t stay

[Pre-Chorus]
If you keep actin’ so sweet
I might just wake up and leave
This boy that I pinky swore
We’d be together for sure
I can’t be thinking of you
When I’m alone with my boo
If you smile at me again
I may do somethin’ stupid

[Chorus]
Don’t make it harder on me
Don’t make it harder on me
I told you not to love me
And now you’re growing on me
Don’t make it harder on me
Don’t make it harder on me
I told you not to want me
But you don’t listen to me
And you never did

[Post-Chorus]
Ooh, ooh, ooh
Never did, never did (Ooh, ooh)

[Verse 2]
Why did we stop bein’ together now?
Oh, I just remembered
How many girls you had
So you need to stop bein’ so nice to me
‘Cause a part of me has moved on
But a part of me is so weak

[Pre-Chorus]
If you keep actin’ so sweet (So sweet)
I might just wake up and leave (Leave)
This boy that I pinky swore
We’d be together for sure
I can’t be thinking of you
When I’m alone with my boo
If you smile at me again
I may do somethin’ stupid

[Chorus]
Don’t make it harder on me (Don’t make it harder)
Don’t make it harder on me
I told you not to love me
And now you’re growing on me
Don’t make it harder on me
Don’t make it harder on me
I told you not to want me
But you don’t listen to me
And you never did

Source: Genius Lyrics.

Read Full Post »

In memoriam: Mary Wilson

Mary Wilson (1944-2021) of the Supremes seemed fine last week – but now she is gone, suddenly, a month before her 77th birthday. Cause of death yet unknown. Of the original three Supremes only Diana Ross remains – and she was born just 20 days after Wilson. The Supremes had 12 number-one hit songs in the US in the 1960s. Wilson sang on all but two of them: “Love Child” (1968) and “Someday We’ll Be Together” (1969). She is the only Supreme who was there from the beginning till the end in 1977: Florence Ballard left in 1967, Diana Ross in 1970. All three are from the Brewster-Douglass Housing Project in Detroit. Wilson wrote of her glory days in a best-selling book, “Dreamgirl” (1986).

Requiescat in pace.

See also:

Read Full Post »

Cori Bush on the Capitol Riot

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Cori Bush, a Ferguson protester turned Congresswoman, gave a speech in Congress on Thursday (February 4th 2021) about the Capitol Riot. Here is some of what she said (bolding mine):

I saw the tip top of flags. And then I saw more of the flags, and I could read words. And then, after I could read words, I could see people. And then I realized that people were approaching. So I hopped on the nearest elevator and left and made it back to my office safely. And when we came back into our office, we walked in, and we started to see on our televisions people breaching doors. And I remember thinking, “Is this actually what’s happening?”

The more I watched – and people were calling this a “protest.” Let me say this: That was not a protest. I’ve been to hundreds of protests in my life. I’ve co-organized, co-led, led and organized protests, not only in Ferguson, Missouri, alongside the amazing Ferguson frontline that most people don’t even acknowledge. They don’t even know their names. They don’t even know who died. They don’t even acknowledge the amazing people that put their lives and livelihoods on the line for our safety, believing that Black lives matter, because they actually do. And we shouldn’t have to say it; it should just be true. But it’s not evident in our society, when we have to continue to say, “My life matters,” and then they hit us with things like this.

And so, I remember sitting in the office with my team and just thinking to myself, “I feel like I’m back, at this very minute. I feel like I’m back.” I feel like this was one of the days out there on the streets when the white supremacists would show up and start shooting at us. This is one of the days when the police would ambush us from behind, from behind trees and from behind buildings, and all of a sudden now we’re on the ground being brutalized. It felt like one of those days. And I just remember taking a second, thinking, “If they touch these doors, if they hit these doors the way they hit that door, if they hit these doors and come anywhere near my staff” – and I’m just going to be real honest about it – my thought process was, “We bangin’ ’til the end. I’m not letting them take out my people. And you’re not taking me out. We’ve come too far.”

We can’t build a better society if members are too scared to stand up and act to reject the white supremacist attack that happened right before our eyes. How can we trust that you will address the suffering that white supremacy causes on a day-to-day basis in the shadows, if you can’t even address the white supremacy that happens right in front of you in your house? “Does your silence speak to your agreement?” is the question.

More.

– Abagond, 2021.

See also:

518

Read Full Post »

The Supremes: Baby Love

Remarks:

This song went to #1 in 1964 in both the US and UK. It did not make the Billboard US R&B chart: it was songs like this that made such a chart seem redundant – Black music and pop music in the US had in effect become one, from November 30th 1963 to January 23rd 1965.

See also:

Lyrics:

Baby love, my baby love, I need you oh how I need you
But all you do is treat me bad
Break my heart and leave me sad
Tell me what did I do wrong to make you stay away so long
‘Cause baby love, my baby love, been missing ya, miss kissing ya
Instead of breaking up
Let’s start some kissing and making up
Don’t throw our love away
In my arms why don’t you stay?

Need ya, need ya, baby love, my baby love

Baby love, my baby love, why must we separate my love?
All of my whole life through
I never love no one but you
Why you do me like you do, I guess it’s me
Ooh, need to hold you once again my love, feel your warm embrace my love
Don’t throw our love away, please don’t do me this way
Not happy like I used to be, loneliness has got the best of me my love

My baby love, I need ya oh how I need ya
Why you do me like you do
After I’ve been true to you
So deep in love with you
Baby, baby ooh
‘Til it hurt me, ’til it hurt me
Ooh baby love
Don’t throw our love away
Don’t throw our love away

Source: Songfacts.

Read Full Post »

In memoriam: Cicely Tyson

Cicely Tyson (1924-2021), one of my favourite actresses, one of the Black women I most admire, has left us at age 96. She was hugely underappreciated by Hollywood, something even they belatedly recognized by giving her an honorary Oscar in 2018 – just three years ago. In 1962 she became the first woman to wear an Afro on US television, several years before it became fashionable, before “Black is beautiful” was a thing. A big reason I liked her, apart from her acting talent, is because she only took parts that put Black women in a good light.

Requiescat in pace.

See also:

Read Full Post »

Bridgerton

“Bridgerton” (2020- ) is a US television show on Netflix based on the romance novels of Julia Quinn. Like Jane Austen’s love stories, it is set in Regency England of the 1810s, but one with a handsome Black duke! It is brought to us by Shonda Rhimes, she who gave us “Grey’s Anatomy” (2005- ) and “Scandal” (2012-18). It has just been renewed for a second season.

Regency England, the one in our universe, did not have a Black duke, handsome or otherwise. But it did have actual Black people (Sarah Baartman among them), got rich off of Black slavery, and had a queen, Queen Charlotte, who was part African by blood.

Queen Charlotte, circa 1784.

Cast: The Duke is played by Regé-Jean Page, who played Chicken George in the remake of “Roots” (2016). Lady Danbury, the mother figure in his life, is played by Adjoa Andoh. She was Martha Jones’s mother in “Doctor Who” in the late 2000s. Both are British actors. The rest of the cast is unfamiliar to me.

Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) and the Duke (Regé-Jean Page).

Lady Danbury:

“We were two separate societies, divided by colour, until a king fell in love with one of us.”

That is how “one of us” became queen, leading to the racial integration of England. Compare that to the actual England of the 2010s wherein a very light-skinned Black duchess (Meghan Markle) was a bridge too far (Megxit), where Britain has torn itself from the European Union to stop the immigration of fellow White people from Eastern Europe (Brexit), where period dramas like this are beloved, one suspects, because they present a mythical all-White-everything past – a trope “Bridgerton” upends.

Race: But what could have been sharp and profound commentary on race is mostly just turned into a sugarplum fantasy. It is colour blind in the worst sense – of mostly just ignoring the whole issue of race. One character does talk about how Blacks have to be exceptional to navigate the new Kumbaya England (pretty much the “twice-as-good” parental talk that also appeared in “Scandal”), but that is pretty much it. Little if nothing is said of slavery. The sugar of those sugarplums came from somewhere.

Asian characters: There were a few, here and there, but only one, South Asian, spoke. Briefly.

Symbolism without substance: Race was a twist added to Quinn’s lily-White novels, which is a wonderful idea, but it was largely wasted. But, maybe as with Black presidents and Black duchesses, even that little bit was going to be too much for many White people.

Colourism: As colour-blind as the casting seems to be, colourism still abounds. Good characters are generally lighter-skinned, evil or unimportant ones, darker-skinned.

Fashion: Anachronisms also abound. Just as Regency England did not have Black dukes, neither did it have zippers, polyester, corsets, magenta dyes, nor did it lack for bonnets. And the queen in 1813 did not wear her hair or dress like it was still 1761. It is not a profound mystery how she looked: we have paintings of her from that time.

Overall, though, it was fun to watch.

– Abagond, 2021.

See also:

572

Read Full Post »

Amanda Gorman: The Hill We Climb

“The Hill We Climb” (2021) is the poem Amanda Gorman wrote and read for the inauguration of US President Biden. She follows in the footsteps of inaugural poets like Robert Frost and Maya Angelou – at age 22!

She presents a Black Liberal view of this moment in US history, where a White nationalism tried to overthrow democracy.

Excerpts:

“We’ve braved the belly of the beast, we’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace. And the norms and notions of what ‘just is’ isn’t always justice. And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it, somehow we do it. Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.”

“And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect. We are striving to forge our union with purpose. To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.”

“And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide, because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another. We seek harm to none and harmony for all.”

“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: that even as we grieved, we grew; that even as we hurt, we hoped; that even as we tired, we tried; that we’ll forever be tied together victorious, not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”

“Scripture tells us to envision that ‘everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid.’ [Micah 4:4] If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade but in all the bridges we’ve made.”

“We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. And this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.”

“In this truth, in this faith we trust for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us. This is the era of just redemption we feared at its inception.”

“We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour, but within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves. So while once we asked ‘how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe,’ now we assert: ‘how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?'”

“We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free. We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation.”

– Abagond, 2021.

See also:

536

Read Full Post »

Remarks:

If you told me this came out the same year as “Blade Runner” (1982), that would seem right. In fact, it came out just three months later. They are strangely the same in some way. My son, who has never heard of the band, guessed the song was from 1983.

The song only went to #42 on the US pop chart, but I still I remember it perfectly well. Probably because it was heavily played in some venue other than the radio, likely MTV.

The video above is from a lip-synched performance on Dutch TV. I like it way better than the official music video.

Dale Bozzio, she of the multicoloured hair, formerly sang for Frank Zappa (as Mary in “Joe’s Garage” (1979). She was the Boston Playboy Club Bunny of the Year in 1975 and appeared nude in Hustler magazine in 1980. She is now 65. That blows my mind.

See also:

Lyrics:

Life is so strange when you don’t know
How can you tell where you’re going to
You can’t be sure of any situation
Something could change and then you won’t know

You ask yourself
Where do we go from here
It seems so all too near
Just as far beyond as I can see
I still don’t know what this all means to me

So you tell yourself
I have nowhere to go
I don’t know what to do
And I don’t even know the time of day
I guess it doesn’t matter anyway

[Chorus]
Life is so strange
Destination unknown
When you don’t know
Your destination
And Something could change
It’s unknown
And then you won’t know
Destination unknown

[Chorus]

You ask yourself
When will my time come
Has it all been said and done
I know I’ll leave when it’s my time to go
‘Til then I’ll carry on with what I know

[Chorus x2]

Life is so strange
Life is so strange…

Source: Genius Lyrics.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: