Saturday, April 30, 2016

So, will.I.am, Prince, and Michael Jackson walk into a Vegas bar . . .



Having gotten into several debates about who's the greater genius, Prince or Michael Jackson, I love this story will.i.am tells Ellen Degeneres on her show in the video above.

The public's always been curious about the tension between Michael Jackson and Prince, which is why I've posted on the topic of their intriguing relationship in the past. Notice I did not say that the two were friends and neither did I say that they disliked each other. I only say that there was a tension, which is a little different.

According to Prince, there was no rivalry between the two of them. In any case and for whatever reason, Prince seemed to raise an eyebrow more at Michael than vice versa, particularly at the story people would tell about Prince turning down being in Michael's "Bad" music video.

Aside from the effective comedic timing and impersonations will.i.am shows in this video, his representation of Michael as childlike also sticks with me. The Black Eyed Peas star quotes Michael as saying, "Oh, rats!" which is so old-school-kiddie that it makes me think again about the allegations against the King of Pop. It's still possible, as I've told others before, that Michael simply behaved with those children as though he were a child and nothing more.

Prince, however, never seemed to be a child, just playful and funny a times, sexy most others.

ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos

Yes, I'm still a bit weeping over Prince's death. That's a pain that will probably never go away, but I'm also dancing and laughing much of the time because I've always appreciated Prince's sense of humor and his eccentric nature, which is one of the reasons the will.i.am. For instance, Kevin Smith's story about trying to talk to Prince about music in a documentary always makes me laugh and Prince's shaking his head at his audience's being off while singing with him and declaring that he wrote "Cream" while looking in the mirror.

His Purple Highness said that during an acoustic performance of Cream during his Musicology tour. I so wish he had released a totally acoustic CD. Of course, maybe he does have the makings of one in his infamous vault of unpublished music. According to ABC news, there's enough music in Prince's vault to release a Prince album every year for the next century.

H/T to my writer friend Max Reddick for sharing the Ellen video on Facebook.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Van Jones tells the most important Prince story


On CNN, Van Jones tells the truth about Prince's life, which is that Prince was a generous soul. He says this is the most important story to remember about the man other than Prince was a genius musician.

I knew some of what Jones said about what Prince as philanthropist. I remembered his alignment with Yes, We Code and his concern about and help for New Orleans, but much of this I did not know.

The next video is Jones's 2015 interview with USA Today in which he talked about Prince supporting Yes, We Code and that movement'ss first hackathon, which was held in New Orleans in 2014. Prince headlined the Essence Festival here that year. That concert was the last time I saw Prince perform live.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince on New Girl and SNL - 2014


The old video clips of this episode that I had on my 2014 post have vanished, of course. I think Fox made the me private? I don't know. But someone else had this video of Jess & Nick meeting Prince on that episode. This has always made me laugh.

I have quite a few Prince posts because I love him so much, but most of them are missing videos now. Someone always goes around and takes down videos of Prince that someone's managed to get online.

But here is Prince's SNL performance. I hope it plays for you here.

Rest in Peace, beloved Prince

I am a Prince fanatic. That's all I can say because I am undone by news of his death.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Watching Julia Child and Emeril's 1993 master chef video brings back memories of growing up in New Orleans

I can follow a recipe or simply throw something on the stove to see what happens, but I don't think of myself as a cook. That's probably because I don't love cooking. Still, watching this 1993 episode of Julia Child's PBS series Cooking with Master Chefs swept me into a misty nostalgia, memories of my grandmother and mother at the cutting board.

My grandmother -- now, she was a cook!

In the video I've posted, Child introduces Emeril Lagasse who cooks shrimp étouffée, which is a type of smothered dish that can be made as well with crawfish or chicken. Generally, any poultry, shellfish, or meat that will not overcook during the smothering process will do.

Emeril, a young up-and-comer then, carefully guides viewers through his method, taking time to explain various term and show some of his techniques at least twice. As I watched him peel and clean the shrimp, I recalled my grandmother and my mother teaching me how to peel and devein the little scavengers. But what really brought back memories was Emeril's preparation of the mirepoix, the chopped vegetable mix that Cajun/Creole cooks tend to use for almost all dishes. A mirepoix consists of bell peppers, onion (my grandmother always used scallions), celery, and garlic, occasionally carrots, too.

My grandmother and mother never called the mix a mirepoix that I recall, but I definitely remember my mother saying, "always use these seasonings" for dishes such as étouffée, shrimp and okra succotash, gumbo, and so on. My mother was not a fan of the cooking either, but she could make a good dish when she chose to.  She didn't spend much time guiding me in cooking either, but this video reminds me of one of the few times she gave me a cooking lesson.

Side note here, Julia introduces New Orleans Cajun/Creole cooking and lists its influences; however, she leaves out a major influence, African. I'll just assume the tourism board didn't make that clear to her.



Saturday, March 19, 2016

Teaching black children to be slave catchers

Nothing reveals more than U.S. slave narratives (such as the one that follows) the psychological damage done to the enslaved in the U.S.A. and the ways slavery destroyed the black family. The horrific dysfunction of American society during slavery undoubtedly remains with this nation, and we should not forget what happened during that part of history as some people would like us to.

In the following slave narrative, a former slave, Anna Baker, tells an interviewer from the Writers' Project of the Works Project Administration (WPA) about life pre-Civil War and after it. She was a little girl during the slavery era and relays how her master petted her and groomed her to report to him what the adult slaves said and to tell him if anyone planned to run away. She did as he told her but also reported to the slaves what white people said. Anna was less than eight years old doing this.

Symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome are also clear. The former slave, an old woman at the time of the narrative, still talks about "the good white people"making it possible for her to eat. Previously she'd told of the Ku Klux Klan coming for her grandfather. And this is just a snippet of the story.

Some white historians and slavery apologists over the decades have taken some of these narratives in which a slave seems to have liked the master and tried to rewrite this damning history as "a beautiful era" of kind masters and Southern gentility, a period during which black people loved being slaves. The more astute, however, know that slaves learned to dissemble for the sake of survival and if not dissembling about being happy had been conditioned to accept their lives.

The slavery system kept black people illiterate and masters taught slaves only what they wanted them to know. People can be brainwashed into thinking even rapists and sadists are doing what's best.

Slave masters also trained themselves and non-slave-holders to buy their propaganda even creating terminology based on fallacious science, such as the drapetomania diagnosis. That theory promoted under scientific racism that slaves who wanted to escape were mentally ill.

To those who argue black people and other Americans should stop discussing slavery and racism because it perpetuates pain and anger, please understand that the effects of trauma appear to be passed on genetically, so not talking about horror doesn't make its evidence disappear. Furthermore, as many scholars have pointed out, the Civil War did not the end of oppression of black people. The Civil War did not even end slavery, just that type of slavery. After the war came racist backlash during Reconstruction which resulted in Jim Crow laws which birthed the birth/school to "prison pipeline we see today" and other forms of institutionalized racism.

No, we don't talk about racism and slavery too little. We need to talk more. We should talk about this history and hack a its vestiges until justice prevails.

Anna Baker, Ex-slave, Monroe County
FEC
Mrs. Richard Kolb
Rewrite, Pauline Loveless
Edited, Clara E. Stokes

ANNA BAKER
Aberdeen, Mississippi


Anna Baker, 80-year old ex-slave, is tall and well built. She is what the Negroes term a "high brown." Her high forehead and prominent cheek bones indicate that there is a strain of other than the pure African in her blood. She is in fair health.

"Lemme see how old I is. Well, I tells you jus' lak I tol' dat Home Loan man what was here las' week. I 'members a pow'ful lot 'bout slavery times an' 'bout 'fore surrender. I know I was a right smart size den, so's 'cording to dat I mus' be 'roun' 'bout eighty year old. I aint sho' 'bout dat an' I don't want to tell no untruth. I know I was right smart size 'fore de surrender, as I was a-sayin', 'cause I 'members Marster comin' down de road past de house. When I'd see 'im 'way off I'd run to de gate an' start singin' dis song to 'I'm:

'Here come de marster, root toot too!
Here come Marster, comin' my way!
Howdy, Marster, howdy do!
What you gwine a-bring from town today?'

Dat would mos' nigh tickle him to death an' he'd say, 'Loosahna (dat was his pet name for me) what you want today? I'd say, 'Bring me some goobers, or a doll, or some stick candy, or anything. An' you can bet yo' bottom doller he'd always bring me sampan'.

"One reason Marse Morgan thought so much o' me, dey say I was a right peart young'n' an' caught on to anything pretty quick. Marster would tell me, 'Loosanna, if you keep yo' ears open an' tell me what de darkies talk 'bout, dey'll be somp'n' good in it for you.' (He meant for me to listen when dey'd talk 'bout runnin' off an' such.) I'd stay 'roun' de old folks an' make lak I was a-playin'. All de time I'd be a-listenin'. Den I'd go an' tell Marster what I hear'd. But all de time I mus' a-had a right smart mind, 'cause I'd play 'roun' de white folks an' hear what dey'd say an' den go tell de Niggers.—Don't guess de marster ever thought 'bout me doin' dat.

"I was born an' bred 'bout seven miles from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I was de baby of de fam'ly. De house was on de right han' side o' de road to town. I had four sisters an' one brother dat I knows of. Dey was named Classie, Jennie, Florence, Allie, an' George. My name was Joanna, but dey done drap de Jo part a long time ago.

"I don't recollec' what my ma's mammy an' pappy was named, but I know dat her pappy was a full blooded Injun. (I guess dat is where I gits my brown color.) Her mammy was a full blooded African though, a great big woman.

"I recollec' a tale ray mammy tol' me 'bout my gran'pa. When he took up wid my gran'mammy de white man what owned her say, 'If you want to stay wid her I'll give you a home if you'll work for me lak de Niggers do.' He 'greed, 'cause he thought a heap o' his Black Woman. (Dat's what he called her.) Ever'thing was all right 'til one o' dem uppity overseers tried to act smart. He say he gwine a-beat him. My gran'pappy went home dat night an' barred de door. When de overseer an' some o' his frien's come after him, he say he aint gwine a-open dat door. Dey say if he don't dey gwine a-break it in. He tell' em to go 'head.

"Whilst dey was a-breakin' in he filled a shovel full o' red hot coals an' when dey come in he th'owed it at 'em. Den whilst dey was a-hollerin' he run away. He aint never been seen again to dis good day. I'se hear'd since den dat white folks learnt dat if dey started to whip a Injun dey'd better kill him right den or else he might git dem.

"My mammy's name was Harriet Clemens. When I was too little to know anything 'bout it she run off an' lef' us. I don't 'member much 'bout her 'fore she run off, I reckon I was mos' too little.

"She tol' me when she come after us, after de war was over, all 'bout why she had to run away: It was on 'count of de Nigger overseers. (Dey had Niggers over de hoers an' white mens over de plow han's.) Dey kep' a-tryin' to mess 'roun' wid her an' she wouldn' have nothin' to do wid 'em. One time while she was in de fiel' de overseer asked her to go over to de woods wid him an' she said, 'All right, I'll go find a nice place an' wait.' She jus' kep'a-goin. She swum de river an' run away. She slipped back onct or twict at night to see us, but dat was all. She hired out to some folks dat warnt rich' nough to have no' slaves o' dey own. Dey was good to her, too. (She never lacked for work to do.)

"When my ma went off a old woman called Aunt Emmaline kep' me. (She kep' all de orphunt chillun an' dem who's mammas had been sent off to de breedin' quarters. When dem women had chillun dey brung 'em an' let somebody lak Aunt Emmaline raise em.) She was sho' mean to me. I think it was 'cause de marster laked me an' was always a-pettin' me. She was jealous.

"She was always a-tryin' to whip me for somethin' or nother. One time she hit me wid a iron miggin.
(You uses it in churnin'.) It made a bad place on my head. She done it 'cause I let some meal dat she was parchin' burn up. After she done it she got sort a scared an' doctored me up. She put soot on de cut to make it stop bleedin'. Nex' day she made me promise to tell de marster dat I hurt my head when I fell out o' de door dat night he whip Uncle Sim for stealin' a hog. Now I was asleep dat night, but when he asked me I said, 'Aunt Emmaline say tell you I hurt my head fallin' out de door de night you whip Uncle Sim.' Den he say, 'Is dat de truf?' I say, 'Naw sir.' He took Aunt Emmaline down to de gear house an' wore her out. He wouldn' tell off on me. He jus' tol' her dat she had no bus'ness a-lettin' me stay up so late dat I seen him do de whipping'.

"My pa was named George Clemens. Us was all owned by Marster Morgan Clemens. Master Hardy, his daddy, had give us to him when he 'vided out wid de res' o' his chillun. (Marster Morgan was a settled man. He went 'roun' by hisse'f mos' o' de time. He never did marry.)

"My pa went to de war wid Marster Morgan an' he never come back. I don't 'member much 'bout 'em goin', but after dey lef' I 'member de Blue Coats a-comin'. Dey tore de smoke house down an' made a big fire an' cooked all de meat dey could hol'. All us Niggers had a good time, 'cause, dey give us all us wanted. One of 'em put me up on his knee an' asked me if I'd ever seen Marster wid any little bright 'roun' shiny things. (He held his hand up wid his fingers in de shape of a dollar.) I, lak a crazy little Nigger said, 'Sho', Marster draps 'em 'hind de mantelpiece.' Den, if dey didn' tear dat mantel down an' git his money, I's a son-of-a-gun!

"After de war was over my ma got some papers from de progo[FN: provost] marshal. She come to de place an 'tol' de marster she want her chillun. He say she can have all 'cept me. She say she want me, too, dat I was her'n an' she was gwine a-git me. She went back an 'got some more papers an' showed 'em to Marster Morgan. Den he lemme go.

"She come out to de house to git us. At firs' I was scared o' her, 'cause I didn' know who she was. She put me in her lap an' she mos' nigh cried when she seen de back o' my head. Dey was awful sores where de lice had been an' I had scratched 'em. (She sho' jumped Aunt Emmaline 'bout dat.) Us lef' dat day an' went right on to Tuscaloosa. My ma had married again an' she an' him took turns 'bout carrying me when I got tired. Us had to walk de whole seven miles.

"I went to school after dat an' learnt to read an' write. Us had white Yankee teachers. I learnt to read de Bible well' nough an' den I quit.

"I was buried in de water lak de Savior. I's a real Baptis'. De Holy Sperrit sho' come into my heart.

"I b'lieves in de Sperrit. I b'lieves all o' us when us dies is sperrits. Us jus' hovers 'roun' in de sky a-ridin' on de clouds. Course, some folks is born wid a cloud over dey faces. Dey can see things dat us can't. I reckon dey sees de sperrits. I know' bout dem Kloo Kluxes. I had to go to court one time to testify 'bout' em. One night after us had moved to Tuscaloosa dey come after my step-daddy. Whilst my ma an' de res' went an' hid I went to de door. I warnt scared. I says, 'Marster Will, aint dat you?' He say, 'Sho', it's me. Whar's yo' daddy?' I tol' 'im dat he'd gone to town. Den dey head out for 'im. In de meantime my ma she had started out, too. She warned him to hide, so dey didn' git 'im.

"Soon after dat de Yankees hel' a trial in Tuscaloosa. Dey carried me. A man hel' me up an' made me p'int out who it was dat come to our house. I say, 'Dat's de man, aint it Marster Will?' He couldn' say "No", 'cause he'd tol' me twas him dat night. Dey put 'em in jail for six months an' give 'em a big fine.
"Us moved from Tuscaloosa while I was still a young girl an' went to Pickensville, Alabama. Us stayed dar on de river for awhile an' den moved to Columbus, Mississippi. I lived dar 'til I was old 'nough to git out to myself.

"Den I come to Aberdeen an' married Sam Baker. Me an' Sam done well. He made good money an' us bought dis very house I lives in now. Us never had no chillun, but I was lef' one by a cousin o' mine what died. I raised her lak she was my own. I sont her to school an' ever'thing. She lives in Chicago now an' wants me to come live wid her. But shucks! What would a old woman lak me do in a place lak dat?

"I aint got nothin' lef now 'cept a roof over my head. I wouldn' have dat 'cept for de President o' de United States. Dey had loaned me some money to fix up de house to keep it from fallin' down on me. Dey said I'd have fifteen year to pay it back in. Now course, I knowed I'd be dead in dat time, so I signed up wid' em.

"Las' year de men dat collec' nearly worrit me to death a-tryin' to git some money from me. I didn' have none, so dey say dey gwine a-take my home.

"Now I hear tell o' dat barefoot Nigger down at Columbus callin' de president an' him bein' so good to 'im. So I 'cided to write an' tell 'im what a plight dis Nigger was in. I didn' say nothin noxious[FN: obnoxious], but I jus' tol' him plain facts. He writ me right back an' pretty soon he sont a man down to see me. He say I needn' bother no more, dat dey won't take my house 'way from me. An' please de Lawd! Dey aint nobody else been here a-pesterin' me since.

"Dat man tol' me soon as de old age pension went th'ough I'd git thirty dollars a mont' stid[FN: instead] o' de four I's a-gittin' now. Now won't dat be gran'? I could live lak de white folks on dat much.

"I'se had 'ligion all my born days. (I never learnt to read de Bible an' 'terpet de Word 'til I was right smart size, but I mus' o' b'lieved in de Lawd since 'way back.) I'se gwine a-go right 'long an' keep a-trustin' de good Lawd an' I knows ever'thing gwine a-come out all right.

"'Twixt de Lawd an' de good white folks I know I's gwine always have somethin' t'eat. President Roosevelt done 'tended to de roof over my head."

Related: "There Goes the Wind" at the Harvard University Press blog



Saturday, March 5, 2016

The worst thing the Democratic Party can do now





















Dear Democratic Party Members:
by Nordette N. Adams

A "presidential" candidate has stood
on television where he has proclaimed
his genitalia grand and ready wood.
Even in such small things, it’s his aim
to defend his huge ego no matter what.

Just imagine him negotiating pacts
with other nations -- then, each year, his gust
on every network lobbing crass attacks.

And whom among us will he target next?
He’s mocked women, the disabled, ethnic groups.
Yet, fans cheer him wildly, shout, "He's right!"
So, now the Grand Old Party is perplexed.
Frantic, they race to knock him off their boat.
But Dems, don't happy dance just yet.
Don't ever count your voters till they vote.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Oxford Dictionaries agrees usage examples should not be political

After anthropologist Michael Oman-Reagan created a stir on Twitter about the Oxford English Dictionary's questionable common usage examples, he discovered that I had written a blog post almost two years earlier on the very example he cited, "a rabid feminist." Consequently, he credited me on Twitter and at his own blog and asked that reporters interview me and other women instead of him. 
As a result of Michael's fairness, a number of news media websites, such as the Washington Post, the Huffington PostPajibaVox, and SheKnows, have quoted me to explain why Oxford's example for the word "rabid" is troubling. 
What's more important, however, is acknowledgment from the head of content creation at OxfordDictionaries.com that our critique of that tome's usage example is valid. She asserts that although the dictionary shows accurately a common usage of "rabid," its example is a poor choice.  In her blog post, "How are dictionary examples chosen?," she writes:
 . . . the real-life sentence from which the example was taken involved someone denigrating a person described as being a feminist. However, it was a poorly chosen example in that the controversial and impolitic nature of the example distracted from the dictionary’s aim of describing and clarifying meaning. 
Multiple female anthropologists and linguists came forward during the protest documenting that they also have written about sexist language in dictionaries in the past, but their objections to such entries went unnoticed, as did mine. Michael agreed that his complaint probably received more attention because he is male. Some will wish to argue whether that conclusion is the case, but in the meantime, I am pleased that the Oxford English Dictionary is revisiting its common usage choices.


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Steven Hart: Star Wars does not draw on literary classics but on classic pulp SciFi

I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens on New Years Day with my daughter, her boyfriend, and their friends. Yes, I enjoyed it. Director J. J. Abrams and co-writers Michael Arndt and Lawrence Kasdan have crafted a wonderful balance between the wit and action of the first movie released in 1977 and fresh material that old fans and new can appreciate. But this post is not a review of this latest entry of the franchise.

This post revives Steven Hart's 2002 essay at Salon.com, "Galactic Gasbag" that slams any promotion of the original Star Wars movie as inspired by Joseph Campbell's works on comparative mythology. As I watched the new movie, I thought often of Steven, an investigative reporter, brilliant man, critic, fiction writer, and friend. He died last year on January 20, a shock and great loss to me, his family, and all who knew him.

According to Steven, Lucas never said anything about basing Star Wars on classics such as The Odyssey or consciously tapping into mythology and archetypes Campbell studied until the franchise had become "a pop culture milestone." The belief that Lucas had created Star Wars with ancient mythologies and literary classics in mind grew as increasingly more critics shoveled similar analyses, and Lucas pushed it further when time came to promote the prequels, Steven argues.

After turning Lucas over a gentle flame about his box office flops, which Steven perhaps implies do not reflect the mind of an scholarly thinker, Steven turns up the fire on Star Wars itself as being not original but a bricolage of old Science Fiction novel images and figures. "More damningly, the real roots of 'Star Wars' are obvious to anyone not blinded by snobbery or the need for self-inflation," he writes:
They lie not in “The Odyssey” or the “Upanishads,” but 20th century science-fiction magazines such as Astounding, Amazing Stories and Galaxy. The “true theology” of “Star Wars” was written not by Virgil or Homer, but Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Frank Herbert, E.E. “Doc” Smith and a host of other S.F. writers.
The original “Star Wars” and its sequels are echo chambers of tropes and images from literary science fiction, used in ways that strike a careful balance between affectionate familiarity and outright plagiarism. The first glimpse of Luke Skywalker’s desert homeworld, Tatooine, evokes the setting of Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel “Dune”; Lucas even throws in a shot of a skeletal desert serpent reminiscent of Herbert’s gigantic sandworms. The amazing visuals suggest an eye nourished by the magazine art of Frank R. Paul, John Schoenherr, Kelly Freas and Chesley Bonestell.

Even when he was alive, I didn't argue with Steven, so I won't start now. You may read the rest of Steven Hart's article, "Galactic Gasbag" at Salon.