Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Underground: Becoming radicalized

That title may seem a little scary. It is not completely intentional, but it seems like the best title. Maybe that will make sense by the end.

I've written about fear and choice, but not all choices are made by fear.

In "Minty" Harriet Tubman talks about her escape, and coming back to get her husband, who did not want to go. Other people did. She had been thinking about her family, but that was a limited vision, and she realized that and began to free many.

When Noah and Rosalee make it to John and Elizabeth's, family information comes out that was not expected. John learns that Rosalee is his niece. Rosalee learns that her brother Sam is dead.

Maybe it's important that Sam is her half-brother. Maybe her father would not have hung his own son to gain political points at a rally and show that he was sufficiently tough on slavery. As it was, it was one of the most horrifying images of the series, and it was irrevocable.

As Noah and Rosalee lay together, processing her grief for Sam, but no doubt also thinking of all those lost along the way, she says that none of us are free until all of us are free.

Noah being captured not long after may reinforce that, as well as finding out that she is pregnant. Her determination to free her remaining family and her fear of not being able to leads to some questionable decisions, but she's right. If the people you love are in captivity, your caring for them becomes another bond.

Regardless of what wrong decisions she makes, her decision to train with Harriet is an admirable one. Even if she does it because of her family, it does not change that the help she gives to others extends beyond them.

Noah is angry at her concealing the pregnancy, and he has a point, but he also cannot resist the call. He cannot deny Harriet's words when she appeals to him, and he cannot deny the need of another man to be reunited with his family.

Maybe it's not just our own family that matters, or maybe at one point you realize we are all family.

It is possible to deny caring for others. You can kill your soul to the point that you will rush through a viciously misanthropic tax bill and lie about it being a gift. You can narrow your focus to where you believe that everyone else is lazy and worthless but you (maybe including you, on some level), and you will keep accepting pain as long as it gets spread around to those bad ones.

You can do that, but it's evil, and it kills joy, and it scorches land that should be beautiful and live-giving. And it kills joy.

There is a lot of pain in caring about everyone, but there is joy in it too, and comfort, and moments of triumph.

It is technically radical, because it means you want to take the oppressive structures and tear them up by the roots. Doing that requires being radically honest, including with and about yourself, so you will notice if your plans end up leading to more destruction. Therefore it also requires being radically caring and radically kind.

The details may vary in how we get there, but there shouldn't be any doubt as to destination.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Underground: Choice

I'm going back to the "Minty" episode.

Tubman's presentation was absolutely enthralling, which only increased the sense of discomfort that I am about to get into.

In earlier episodes there was beginning to be some conflict between the members of the Sewing Circle - a group of women who openly support abolition and with somewhat more secrecy shelter runaway slaves - and some visitors affiliated with John Brown. The disagree on the justification for and necessity of violence.

With everything that she has been through (probably including some PTSD), Elizabeth finds herself becoming more drawn to the violence, especially when she sees the face of her attacker. This is where she commits arson, though after she has seen the man leave his home. She then sees a young boy calling for his mother and entering the flames.

We later see the boy heavily bandaged in a hospital. It does not appear that his mother was in the house, or that anyone else was hurt, but Elizabeth is now responsible for injury, not just property damage. It's a reminder that if trying to be careful does not guarantee results.

In "Minty" we aren't there yet, but she does begin to talk in terms of war. Her communication is so direct with the audience that it is a question for the watcher; will you fight for this?

I came to a place of empathy with John Brown a few years ago after watching The Abolitionists on The American Experience. I can understand why it seemed like there was no other way, and I already believed in the importance of his cause. I still don't know that I could initiate an attack. Defend myself? Yes. Defend others? Yes. But if there's not an actual attack going on, just a horribly wrong and unjust structure, can I start violence against that? I don't know that I can.

So the thing I appreciate so much about where they went is that it gave a choice without removing responsibility. I wish I could give the words, but probably really people should just watch it. Still, here is what it meant to me: You better listen.

Harriet Tubman believed that she was led, guided by visions in her case. I have often felt myself led too. You better listen to find out what you can do, and what you should do, and what it is your role to do.

There is so much that I don't know right now about this time and how to get through, but I do believe in my ability to listen. I believe in the ability to get answers.

And I believe that I can do what I need to do.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Underground: Fear

In the first season Jay (a slave who spent time living with Indians) tells Ben Pullman that we each have two wolves inside, one good and one evil. Only the one you feed can live. He leaves unanswered which one Ben's father August is feeding. In both seasons characters give in to the their better and worse impulses, but in the second season it becomes clearer how much of a factor the fear inside can be.

There were two conversations that stood out specifically. In one, Noah argues that you can't get rid of the fear; you just can't let it overcome you. That is a healthier attitude than the other conversation.

Elizabeth has had a hard time. Watching the woman who seemed on the verge of a nervous breakdown over her failure to conceive, it was hard to picture her taking to sheltering runaway slaves with such enthusiasm, but she did. She found a new purpose and new abilities, and found herself held hostage in her home, raped, attacked and branded, mocked by her attacker, pelted when attempting to speak, and her husband was murdered.

She was never going to get good advice from Cato, but she had no way of knowing that.

You could certainly argue that the things he was saying didn't sound like the words of a recently suicidal man. There were reasons for alarm bells to go off.

Elizabeth said she didn't know whether to try and keep the fear inside or let it out. Cato's advice was to pull it all inside and then let it all out, transforming you into a worse monster than the one who hurt you, basically.

And he sounded convincing; Alano Miller is a super-intense actor. Shortly thereafter, Elizabeth commits arson, blackmail, and apparently enters into a sham marriage to get inside information in preparation for the raid on Harper's Ferry. She also participates in a daring raid to free the slaves from three plantations with Noah, but she had participated in a daring raid to rescue Noah before a lot of the terrible things had happened to her and before she had ever thought about becoming a monster.

It's worth remembering that Cato's pretended suicide attempt was an effort to gain sympathy to accelerate his spy work in pursuit of Harriet Tubman. When he is buying the freedom of some slaves, and contributing to causes, it can look like there is a good heart there, but there are other clues that his primary motivation is ego. His belief that he is the necessary force to tear the country apart is easily cast aside in favor of controlling the legend of Patty Cannon.

Even if you ignore moral issues (which I don't recommend), Cato is not the best source of advice because he doesn't seem to have much of a problem with fear. He did fear for Devi briefly, but he turned on her definitively when she rejected his actions. His ego may lead him down bad paths, but it also tells him he is smarter and more capable than everyone else (which is not completely unfounded). Elizabeth would never really want to be like him, even if there is some temporary allure.

Caring for others does hurt. Noah's worst taste of fear comes when he learns that Rosalee is pregnant. It was bad enough fearing for her; now there is so much more at stake. It does lead to anger, but still, his answer is that you cannot let the fear overtake you. You might even take big risks to help another family, and other people, because you know that it matters. (Hence a daring raid freeing slaves from three plantations).

If you don't care about anything you don't have to fear anything, but it's no way to live.

You have to find a way to deal with that fear.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Band Review: A.J. & Tara

A.J. & Tara are a pop duo from Los Angeles.

I enjoyed them pretty well. Their music has a strong technological influence. I can't swear to the presence of Auto-Tune, but I can't rule it out either. Between that and the synth, the music seems like a natural fit for the club scene. The emphasis on partying in the music tends to agree.

Despite that, there is still an emotion that comes through. The tempos are not endlessly dance-centric, but can also go well as a background to other activities. I thought "Rock The Night" and "Believing" were the best of the four tracks. You will notice similarities between them, but they do not end up being monotonous.

For the niche where it would be easy to place A.J. & Tara, they are better than they need to be.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Band Review: DiElle

My primary feeling with DiElle is annoyance. That has been building up for a long time.

I have had her on the review list since January 21st, getting surprisingly close to a year. For some perspective, tomorrow's band was entered on June 28th. (I try to keep it within six months.)

That happened because when I first went to check out DiElle's site there was a very disjointed navigation process for listening to about 40 songs, and I didn't have time for all the clicking back and forth.

That only delayed her for about two months. Then when I gritted my teeth to get to it, I discovered that the vast majority of the tracks were just half-minute samples. You needed to pay to get whole songs.

I have a lot of sympathy for the need of musicians to make money. I support that. I still think if you are trying to sell 40 songs you can afford to have a small block of songs (I think 4 - 6 is optimal) for people to listen to together, letting them know if you have music they would be interested in. This is especially true if you go around following different accounts trying to raise interest in your work: provide some work! Some bands will send you some tracks if you subscribe to their mailing list; I don't love that either, but at least it gives you an option.

(If this complaint sounds familiar, I had similar issues with Prophecy of Sound.)

What DiElle gives you is two versions of the same song on Spotify, a list of four official videos that is really just two videos that play, one private video, and one short clip, and of course a page full of 30-second clips. What I mostly used was another play list - titled original material - which had some good recordings but also some with poor sound quality, some interviews, and more of the notorious short clips.

I remain annoyed.

Anyway, DiElle reminds me a lot of Adele. Her voice isn't quite as strong, but she doesn't take that hard edge Adele often does either, which may make her more palatable for some. However, unless you just want to assume you like and start buying tracks, listening to her takes an unfortunate amount of commitment.

But, except for a daily song down the road, she is no longer my problem, and that makes me happy.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Underground: Three episodes

I have only seen each episode once, but while I thought the cuts and tracking that they used in the first season were interesting, the most innovative things seemed to happen in Season 2. That makes sense; the success of Twin Peaks aside, normally you want to get your audience somewhat established before you mess with them too much.

There were three episodes that particularly stuck out.

"Ache" was the third episode of Season 2. Rosalee has been working with Harriet Tubman, and goes alone to a rendezvous with some runaway slaves. Despite some close calls, she gets them safely away, and then a gun shot sends her off of the boat, into the water.

That is just the beginning. After making it to shore and tending her wound, she has to deal with fights, falls, cold, thirst, temporary deafness, and snakebite. Also, she is pregnant.

The physical toll on her feels punishing for the viewer. It was visceral, and it almost made me want to stop watching. That's not an exaggeration; I was seriously considering that I didn't want to watch this anymore during the show. But then after, I did want to watch the next episode, so I guess it worked out.

I'm not sure that the next one I am thinking of was really "Citizen", but I think it was. Everything was out of sequence.

It was an episode where people were changing directions. As disjointed as they were feeling, maybe it left the viewer confused and disoriented with them. That can work, but I wouldn't have done it for that alone, mainly because there were so many things I still wasn't sure of by the end of the episode.

However, they also covered a lot of ground, and moved everyone forward very quickly. As the season was winding to a close, that was necessary. I guess it worked for that, but I am still not sure about it.

Not all risks pay off, but the biggest reason I am writing a post on film making choices for the show (instead of my emotional responses) is because of sixth episode, which was brave and bold and powerful.

"Minty" was amazing.

Harriet Tubman combines the name of her mother and her husband, but she was called Minty (for Araminta) as a child, which is something she tells her audience. Here Harriet Tubman speaks.

There is an odd tension at the beginning. We see a woman getting ready in front of a mirror, with a long skirt and corset and visible scars from whippings. For a moment I wondered if we had jumped forward with Ernestine, because we hadn't really seen Tubman in a dress at this point. There is that uncertainty of whom we are watching, and also the long silence.

She goes to where she will speak, and it is an auction block, with prices marked on the merchandise - something never referred to beyond that, but full of symbolism that cannot be ignored.

Then she speaks. For most of the episode she is the only voice that you hear. There is one other voice briefly, when she asks a question about one of her scars and a man answers, but mainly she is telling her story. She is telling it well, and almost unbearably at times when the thunk of her hand emphasizes the beatings she received as a young girl.

Monologues are a risk for holding attention. I was watching it aware of what a risk it was, and it was spellbinding. The writing helped and the cinematography helped, but I have to give a lot of credit to Aisha Hinds who plays Tubman. It was riveting.

And then there were emotional things too. I am going to try and combine those things with things I felt in other episodes, and try and write some good things about that for next week.

Today is just about film making, and Underground was bold.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Queen Sugar: Making amends

In my last round of writing about Queen Sugar (it's only going to be one post this time, I am pretty sure), I wrote about fears for Blue. He is so well-loved and so sweet that the vulnerability was hard to ignore. Something happened, but not at all expected.

Blue's mother Darla had been out of his life due to drug addiction. Two years clean meant that she was not only in Blue's life again, but that she was working a good job, and engaged to Ralph Angel. The engagement led to a reunion with her long-estranged parents. Then she told Ralph Angel that Blue might not be his.

I have noticed that Darla really uses the steps and processes that she has learned in recovery to keep herself functioning. I think that telling Ralph Angel was not done well, and it was because she wasn't thinking about steps.

I blame that on the pressure from her father, telling her that she had to tell. A part of me wonders if it was somewhat deliberate, knowing it would lay waste to the life she had built. I can't be completely against them either. Her mother said some things about how difficult it was having an addict as a daughter, with the disappearances and the broken promises, and I don't doubt there. There was nonetheless a certain rigidity to them that I don't think did their daughter any favors.

(And if they were hoping it would give them Blue, they were mistaken.)

I saw a lot of comments about the storyline that this is the kind of thing that you take to your grave. I'm not necessarily in favor of that either, but this confession that wouldn't just blow up Darla's life (though it really did), but also Ralph Angel's. If you have wronged someone, and need to confess it, then I think you need to think about reducing harm.

What really drove that home for me is that even though Darla told him that Blue might not be his, Ralph Angel told his family that Blue wasn't his. He only took in the worst information. I have seen that happen before. If you tell someone something horrible enough, it blots out the surroundings. It was also pretty horrible that she told him right at harvest time.

If Darla had felt less pushed by her father - and by guilt - could she have thought about that? She could have done a paternity test first, and eliminated the unknowns. She could have waited until after harvest, both to help Ralph Angel be able to concentrate and to not take a staffer away from the mill at a time when they really needed someone on the phones. She could have put some support for Ralph Angel in place. You can't take away all the pain, but can mitigate.

That is my cerebral response. Emotionally, I hate that it happened at all. They love each other so much, and have been through so much, and it's hard to believe that they can really be happy apart. There was a grace in their final parting that was beautiful, but also tragic.

She has grown stronger, and so has he -- they have shown the most growth out of any of the characters -- but this shattering of trust may be irreparable. It hurts and it should hurt, but maybe it could have hurt less.

Anyway, that was the thing I had thought about most. Otherwise, I think the interest that all the younger Landry's are showing in Charley is really creepy, especially given the family history. I believe in her ability to destroy them, but I question whether it will be worth the cost.

And I can see that in many ways Nova and Remy could make sense. They have a shared commitment to service and community that they fill in a lot of different ways, but, I did not see that coming.

That would blow up some things too.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Watching television

If this has been kind of a Black History year for reading, it has been for watching too.

I have already posted things about Hidden Figures and A United Kingdom for movies. My sisters and I also went to see Girls Trip. I have posted a lot about Queen Sugar, but I have also been watching Underground and Black-ish.

Much like my reading, my watching wasn't carefully planned either. Mostly it came from hearing positive feedback on everything, but that isn't generally enough. I can't tell you how strongly people have recommended The Good Wife and Madame Secretary and so many shows (let alone movies) that I have never watched. It's not that I don't believe them when they say the shows are good, but getting me to watch something new is relatively difficult.

The tipping point for both Queen Sugar and Underground was the pilot I have been working on for so long. Yes, the focus on Black characters - especially with the focus on women - was helpful, but also I had been at a point where I was mainly watching sitcoms, and some things about dramas are different, so it seemed like a good refresher. I have learned things from their setups and how they carry story lines through. Underground specifically has taken some amazing creative risks in its second season. I don't know that I would ever try and pull off similar things, but it's good to be reminded what can be done.

We started watching Black-ish on the "Lemonade" episode. Perhaps it was mainly the image of tiny Wanda Sykes being held back from destroying a Trump voter (I don't care how short she is, her feet were going strong!), but we felt like it might resonate, and it did. I believed that it would be smart and funny from what I had heard, but yeah, it is a clever show, and it educates, and it does a pretty good job of not letting the explanations drag things down.

I had some luck on my side. About the time that I was ready to watch Queen Sugar, they repeated every episode from the first season in preparation for the second season. I was able to watch an episode a day for a little over two weeks, which for me is binge-watching. (When I finally caught up and had to wait a whole week to see what happened next, that was rough.)

I have seen a good amount of Black-ish. Reruns allowed us to see all of Season 3 except for episode 15, "I'm a Survivor". (I'm not sure why we never got that one), and we are keeping up with Season 4. The library had Season 1 on DVD. I wish they had Season 2.

The library also had both seasons of Underground, though I hate that it is over now, and the reasons why it is over. (Sinclair Broadcast Group is going to get its own post. Trust me.)

I have strong thoughts about various episodes and arcs, and the following posts will try and cover those. Beyond that, maybe the right thing to mention is a special chat that the cast of Queen Sugar had with Oprah and an audience after the season finale. Audience members talked about the things that were important to them.

The one I remember most was a man whose son was attacked, and then the police arrested him, and he was handcuffed to the hospital bed, and it was an ordeal for the family. Micah's arrest and trauma, and sharing it with his father, helped that family. It gave a vent to the feelings and the experience. Maybe it helped them feel heard.

There are shows that don't go there at all, or shows that have treated police brutality and come down on the sides of the cops (CSI Cyber and Blue Bloods come to mind), but this show that has been so focused on women and supportive of women was also really helpful for two men.

When we worry about the loss of predatory men who have been associated with hits ending the golden age of television, or that a show with a specific focus can be too niche, we should remember all of the different ways that different people can react to shows.

And we should remember that representation really matters.

Related posts:

Friday, December 08, 2017

Band Review: UFO

I came to UFO by a different path.

I have watched "That Metal Show" with my sisters, but I was not with Julie when she was listening to a radio interview with host Eddie Trunk, who named UFO as his favorite band. (Or maybe it was his favorite unknown band, because otherwise I would think it was KISS.)

She asked me if I had ever heard of them. I hadn't, but if finding out that there is an unfamiliar classic rock band that comes recommended from someone who knows music isn't a reason to check out a band, I don't know what is. And then their catalog was so large I had to spread out the listening over a few months while continuing to review other bands.

UFO is an English rock band that formed in August 1969. A part of me thinks it would be cool if I had discovered them two years later, so it would be a 50-year retrospective, but there's always a possibility to do something else then --- maybe review a new album or a live show.

For all their longevity I am pretty sure that I had not heard them previously, but there are things that are familiar. They very much sound like 70s rock -- not dated, but I can hear similarities from their contemporaries, and from some bands that came later but were influenced by UFO.

It is not just that they sound like similar bands, because I can hear the band pulling from other sources as well. There is a noticeable blues influence that I appreciate.

That variety between songs led to some additional mystery when Spotify threw in some really techno songs; did UFO experiment that much? One of the titles referenced Lovecraft, but lots of rockers do that. Finally, after figuring out the right search, that appears to be UFO!, with an exclamation point.

Once I was pretty sure which tracks were UFO and which were UFO!, two things added to UFO's familiarity.

Many of the song titles made me think of other songs, but then when I listened, they were different. Beyond that, UFO's most recent album, The Salentino Cuts, covers songs by other bands, ranging from Bill Withers to John Mellencamp. That gave a new view to how the band fits into the larger world of rock, its history and its present.

Glad to have checked them out.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Band Review: Bruce Guynn & Big Rain

Bruce Guynn & Big Rain are a California crossover band, blending country with rock and blues.

They have an impressive touring history, including going to China and tours for troops.

They would probably be enjoyable at an outdoor concert on a warm day.

None of those statements are negative, but they don't indicate any particularly strong impressions either.

The music is mellow. There is nothing wrong with that, but nothing really stood out to me either. Maybe that's because it is more country, but being more country could have easily made me hate it, and that didn't happen either.

There is just a teeny bit of irritation at finding their own pages self-describing as "Heroes of Crossover Rock", and how the tribulation they have faced would break other bands. That seems like they should be a little less forgettable. They could at least have written a short summary of the tribulation to give some context.

I find them fine, but not compelling.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Thoughts from Black History Month 2017

This will be a little random, but there are bits and pieces here that I want to get out.

I mentioned being torn between Maya Angelou and Gwendolyn Brooks for poetry. I would never even have known about Gwendolyn Brooks, except for a pinned tweet from Mikki Kendall:

"We are each other's harvest; we are each other's business; we are each other's magnitude and bond." - Gwendolyn Brooks

Regular readers should not have any trouble figuring out why that quote resonated with me. Also, based on that statement, the point I am going to make shouldn't even be surprising, but I was touched by the kindness in Brooks' poetry. There was a sensitivity and empathy for the lives of people in her poems, for circumstances mundane and tragic. Supplemental interviews and reminisces corroborated that aspect of Brooks. I value her kindness and compassion, and the value she could see while looking at "each other".

Initially I wasn't enjoying The People Could Fly that much. Many of the tales were familiar, and I had kind of wanted them to be more magical. Near the end, though, there was a true story of a man who ferried escaping slaves across the Ohio river until the time that he went seeking his own freedom, and that was fascinating. Then the last story was the title tale, "The People Could Fly". It was so magical and moving and heartbreaking. So if you start the book, and it's dragging for you (which if you read a lot of folklore is a real possibility), don't give up; at least read the last section.

I wrote yesterday that 1948 was the official start of Apartheid and the Khama marriage, but it was also the publication year for Cry the Beloved Country. It was so much more familiar than I expected it to be.

Things that I have learned since being a high school and college student against Apartheid have shown me that I didn't know that much about it then. Beyond that, most of what I have studied has been near the end. Of course it would look different seeing things near the beginning. There were two things that particularly struck me, and I guess that's where the familiarity came in.

Paton was inspired by what he saw around him, of course, and his attempts to help, but he was also inspired by The Grapes of Wrath. He read it on a vacation, which he needed because he was burned out, and there's something to remember there for people who want to do good. Regardless, I saw that he was inspired by Steinbeck and thought, "Okay." I read about the worn out land, overgrazed and dry and children dying from lack of milk, and people leaving their homes in the hope of some chance to survive that contained a lot of empty promises, and then I understood differently. Of course it inspired him!

And maybe it discouraged him too, because all over different parts of the world we keep having the same problems, but then maybe you remember that you are not alone in caring about it.

I wondered other things too, like if some of the formality built into the language and customs made it harder to have necessary conversations. I suspect that there is more than I understand about the correlation between not valuing people and destroying the land. I was grateful to find helpful people.

There was a bus strike going on in the city, due to a fare hike that would be insupportable for those who relied most on the buses. Car pools were organized, but a lot of people took long walks. (Yes, there was a familiarity there, but for something that was still coming on our side.) And there were people who would offer rides to those walking.

I never heard much about white South African resistance to Apartheid. (I heard rationalization about how the news made it sound worse, which was really disturbing.) You would hope there would be people who didn't approve, and it is good to see that was true too. It doesn't undo all the people who wanted it, or were afraid to let it go, but it's something. I'll take hope where I can find it.

There was one other thing about South Africa, getting back to that fraught relationship with Great Britain that was being explained as context for the opposition to the Khama marriage.

I am a big fan of L.M. Montgomery. Rilla of Ingleside is set during WWI. The family's housekeeper reveres Lord Kitchener and relies on him utterly. All I ever thought of from that is that there was a high ranking military guy, probably from the peerage, who died while WWI was still in progress. In that South African background, I learned that he was also responsible for concentration camps during the 2nd Boer War. Wives and children of the Dutch South Africans were imprisoned under horrible conditions, resulting in thousands of deaths. That's literal: 4177 women, 22074 children, and 1676 men, who would be mainly those too old to be combatants.

Susan's admiration was treated as a joke, without the text otherwise commenting on the merits of Kitchener. I can't help but suspect that there were many older Canadians who relied on him, and then wonder if part of their faith in him came from how abominably he treated the Boers.

It was a bit of a shock. It probably shouldn't be, because at this point I shouldn't be naive enough to be shocked if a "war hero" has some atrocities on the record. Without excusing anything about Apartheid, the tension with Great Britain becomes understandable. Also, one begins to see the difficulty in condemning human rights abuses when your own hands are dirty.

But that brings us back to the Khamas, and I already wrote a lot about them. Through different posts I also said quite a bit about Hidden Figures; maybe I tend to write more about things I've watched. That will lead us into next week, because I watched a lot of stuff that relates. Only some of it happened in February, but that goes perfectly with the reading.

I guess the final thought should be that this was really more of a Black History Year than month. Maybe my studies are just becoming more integrated. That sounds better than terrible disorganization.

Related posts (besides Monday and Tuesday):

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

How dare they?

Between the movie and two books, I got pretty caught up in the story of Ruth and Seretse Khama.

It was interesting to view the story through three different pairs of eyes. Generally it didn't make a lot of difference. I believe Michael Dutfield gave more information on the history of the Bamangwato tribe, while Susan Williams gave a better sense of how the rest of the world was viewing the conflict, and the general African presence in London.

The London information was interesting, not only because it gave the impression of a diverse and vital community that I had never heard of, but also because as some of those participants went on to lead other countries on the continent, it becomes not just a story of one city at one time but many countries over many years. That also showed Seretse Khama to be uniquely forward thinking in his efforts to train future leaders and establish stable succession processes.

There was one other way the two authors diverged, and that was on the reason for British interference. Some months have gone by now, so my memory may be fuzzy, but for all three sources it was a question of South Africa's relationship with Great Britain, already a fraught one.

If I recall correctly, the film just focused on stability, Dutfield mentioned concerns that losing British influence over South Africa would make their racism worse, while Williams focused on British concerns about South African uranium deposits.

Just for background, though minority rule had been the case in South Africa for many years, and was becoming further codified all through the 40s, Apartheid became official in 1948. That is also the year in which Ruth and Seretse married.

Racism has such a long history of fearing the unions of white women and Black men that it should not be at all surprising that South Africa had a problem with it, but that it should be the case in the royal marriage of a country just above them and sharing borders felt like a threat; something that could give their own residents ideas.

The South African factions that would have been happy to completely cast aside the British relationship were gaining popularity. Nationalism and racism have always had a natural affinity anyway.

To Dutfield's credit, I am sure that when any South African influence was admitted, the government official doing the admitting would be more likely to credit the desire to help the people of color in South Africa than fears of price gouging on uranium or fears of communists getting their hands on South African uranium. (To be fair, the South African nationalists tended to hate communists also.)

I can't help but think it was more about the uranium. It's hard to demonstrate that their careful treatment of South Africa did much to ameliorate Apartheid anyway. Regardless, Britain didn't like admitting any South African influence on the British government's opposition, first to the marriage of Ruth and Seretse, and then to Seretse taking his place as chief and king. Interfering with the sovereignty of one country at the behest of a third country for racist reasons is not a good look for any government.

I can sympathize with worrying about the long-term effects of damaging diplomatic ties with a country. If there were true worries about Apartheid, and worrying that taking a stand would do more harm than good, I can totally sympathize with that. I'm not denying that the decisions of various government officials didn't make a certain sense.

What angered me (and led to this post's title) was the utter indignation that so many of these officials demonstrated. How dare these two single people who are in love get married? How dare a legitimate ruler want to take his throne? We told them not to!

That's something that comes up again and again with women and with people of color -- with anyone lower on the power structure -- how dare they be so insolent? Where is their gratitude?

How dare they?

Monday, December 04, 2017

An accidental Black History Month

In February, I wrote how post-election there was some necessary reading that was causing me to get a late start on my Black History reading.

I am finishing up with the last book (though that list did expand) now, but I realized at one point that I had done some pretty good reading pertaining to Black history along the way. Things aren't always completely intentional, even if they are guided.

(It's kind of like that time that I was really behind on my 2014 Native American Heritage Month reading, so just I let all of those videos count, pushing the intended list out 2015.)

Here's what happened. I did not put Hidden Figures: The Untold True Story of Four African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly, on the original 2017 list, because there were a lot of holds on the book and I thought I would have moved on by the time I got to it. I finished it April 2nd. That was later than I originally intended, but sometimes things work out.

Then we watched A United Kingdom, a movie about the marriage of Ruth and Seretse Khama. Seretse was heir to the throne Bechuanaland, but when he married a white woman he met while studying in England, the British government tried to stop the marriage, then his ascension. He did end up renouncing the throne, but they also changed from a protectorate with a king to a parliamentary republic, Botswana. Seretse Khama was the first president.

That was a very interesting story, and I read two books about it: Colour Bar: The Triumph of Seretse Khama and His Nation by Susan Williams and A Marriage of Inconvenience: The Persecution of Ruth & Seretse Khama by Michael Dutfied.

Much of the interference came from pressure from South Africa, which I will get into in another post, but one of the books that I own and have not read was Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. It was mentioned as a book the Khamas admired, so adding that to the reading was easy.

Because of something I was working on, I also checked out The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales by Virginia Hamilton.

That's about when I realized I was building up a kind of list. The first time I observed Black History Month it was with just four books, even though I have expanded what I do some. I thought about what I was missing.

I had read some Luke Cage comics because the series was getting so much buzz: Luke Cage, Iron Fist & the Heroes For Hire, Vol 2 and Luke Cage: Avenger. I really wanted more about when Luke and Danny were working with Colleen and Misty, but that's okay. I learned some stuff, and now from just a brief picture I really love Ignatz, so that will be something else to check out.

I had not read any poetry yet, but when I had picked Maya Angelou, I felt a pang about remembering that I wanted to get to Gwendolyn Brooks. I read her Selected Poems. I also read The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, because I am reading more children's books now, and this one is culturally significant as a Caldecott Medal winner and the first full color picture book to feature a Black protagonist.

Altogether that felt pretty good. Yes, the books that I was meaning to get to have a year delay, but by the time I accepted that it was much less than a year. And, this happens. Right now I am not reading my intended books for Native American Heritage Month yet, and November just passed, but I am in the middle of my second online course on aboriginal issues, because sometimes things come up, and it works out.

(Also, one of my intended books, that I have had in the plans for months, made some end of the year book honors and now has many holds.)

The other thing that I appreciate is that for all my specific plans, even what is not carefully planned tends to be pretty good. There have been so many unintended books, or maybe they are intended, but not with a lot of notice, and they interact with each other and contribute to the whole in ways that are important. So I stick with it, even if I always feel somewhat behind and disorganized.

Also there was some watching, which is going to be its own post.

And also, I read Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. I read it because of what I was reading, and things it made me wonder, but I don't know that it counts.

Related posts:

Friday, December 01, 2017

Band Review: Blue Flamez

I am now reviewing my last indigenous rapper for the year. A few things about this are significant for me.

We are out of November, though just barely. He is also not from the Mic article like the other six. Instead, he was from this article:

That's right; Blue Flamez is an Oregonian, and that is one reason I wanted to save him for last -- not only to crown my Native American Heritage Month listening, but also because that makes him my 500th band reviewed. I can see doing 500 more.

One thing that the article notes is the optimism of Blue Flamez' work. It does feel like there is less use of minor keys, where it is a subtle difference but the sound does not pull downward the way a lot of rap does.

The sound may be influenced by a sense of place, though I can't be sure. I nonetheless appreciate the decision to stay local, which is not always easy.

Also, after having reviewed many defunct bands, I appreciate the immediacy here. There is recent, current music.

I appreciate the nerd vibe on "Beam Me Up". "King Without A Crown" may be the most important track, but I really liked "We Come Correct", which has a sense of vibrancy and a strong hook.

It looks like there was at least one Portland date over the summer, but I did not see any current touring information.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Band Review: Tru Rez Crew

Tru Rez Crew is the last of the bands from the Mic article, with a mention of their video, "I'm a Lucky One":

One of the reasons that particular song is mentioned is the inclusion of Inuit throat singers on the track. This feels seems appropriate.

With their name it is impossible not to think of 2 Live Crew, and a lot of their music that will remind you of 2 Live Crew and Snoop Dogg and that segment of rap. Still, Tru Rez Crew in no way limits themselves to that, pulling in grooves and vocal accompaniments from other genres, often getting on a good funk.

The throat singers may vary a bit farther off that musical path, but bringing in Inuit performers is very in keeping with the band's theme of uniting along diverse aboriginal experiences.

It is not clear that the band is currently active (the Mic article itself is from 2015), but there are several tracks available via ReverbNation and Soundcloud.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

I care

Saturday was a long day.

I'm not saying it was bad; just long. At some point toward the end, it came to mind really strongly that I am a caretaker. It meant beyond being my mother's caretaker, but that it's what I do and who I am.

I had been having related thoughts recently as I go about doing things. Often it is something domestic, like unloading the dishwasher and then loading it again, and checking on the laundry after getting dinner started. The thought comes that I am good at this. My time in the nursery has shown that I am good with children. I already knew that I am good with animals, but lately I think all the checking in -- with all humans and animals to make sure they are okay -- has shown me that care-taking is a key part of my identity.

I have been going over that to try and figure out what to do with it. What does knowing that mean? What should it mean?

It could work as just an affirmation. There's something to be said for knowing that you are good at what you do. That didn't really feel like enough.

It is important to me that it didn't feel bad. It didn't feel like a trap or a minimization or anything like that.

That may be one really important point, which I didn't get to yesterday. I believe this segment of my life is taking years off of the end of it. This is not so much because of the limited health care access but more because of the financial stress. There are so many things to worry about, with so much pressure and so many disappointments, and so much shame... I know it is taking a toll. Life is wearing me down faster than it should.

But that is not the care-taking; it's the harsh economic environment.

I'm not saying that care-taking isn't hard. It often is. Respite time is still really important (which makes the last two things that I was supposed to go to but not able to seem worse than disappointing). Even knowing all of the potential pitfalls, this is something that I can do and find fulfilling.

Even when I imagined a life where I was a wife and mother, I always saw myself writing; that is fundamental for me too. Still, there may other spaces in my future where I can do more of both, if these financial problems are ever resolved.

I don't really want care-taking to be my job. It can be great when your job lines up with your core being, but if my core being means I will always be looking out for other people while off the clock, doing it on the clock too seems like it would result in me never not being tired. And sure, that often seems like a real possibility anyway, but that doesn't mean I should go running toward it.

Maybe the most important thing to remember is that when I am trying to find a way to remember to see to my own needs (and not keep putting myself last), I know that I do know how to care for people. I have the personality for it and the skill set, so I should be able to be successful in taking care of me.