Monday, November 16, 2020

Next things next: Georgia Senate Runoff

I totally get anyone who is concerned with Trump not conceding the election, despite being significantly outvoted popularly and electorally. The court packing he did is an issue, on multiple levels. However, at this point it seems most likely that there will be a successful transition of power, and then a huge mess to clean up.

There are many things to talk about for that cleanup, but there is something that can be done before January 20th to help improve cleanup operations, and that comes down to the Georgia Senate Runoff.

Many of the issues we have had - with conservative court packing and with holding up relief bills - are strongly rooted in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's devoted obstruction of all that is good. Rush through an unqualified hack in the place of Ruth Bader Ginsburg less than a month before an election after refusing to seat Merrick Garland because an election was a year away? Sure! Do it while holding up relief packages, minimum wage increases, and voting rights protections? Love it!

But what if McConnell did not lead a majority?

Republicans currently have fifty seats in the Senate. January 5th can determine whether that becomes a majority of 52, or a tie with 50 Democrats and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the tie-breaker.

It is important to understand the role that voter suppression has played in Georgia politics. Biden's electoral win in Georgia is largely a result of increased voter registrations, and voters' commitment to showing up early and staying in the lines no matter how long. Olivia Pearson, a volunteer who was giving people rides to polling locations, was arrested on trespassing charges for doing so.

No, it is not technically illegal to give people rides to the polls, but there are still people who will arrest you for it.

In fact, this runoff election is a product of laws that were designed to keep election winners white, but it is an opportunity now, and can be a great thing.

Next steps for this key election are getting out the votes. That includes registering voters whose eighteenth birthdays fall between the registration deadline for the November 3rd election, and the registration deadline for the January 5th election.

It includes phone banking, text banking, and sending postcards to voters to remind them that this election is happening, it is important, and their voice matters.

And all campaigns can use money.

Georgia voters needing absentee ballots can request them at

Here is a link with many donation options. Please focus on the candidates' own sites, or sites like Fair Fight Georgia. The Lincoln Project does not need your money:

This may be the easiest site for donation:

Here are two links with volunteering opportunities. You have choices:

I personally am thrilled that text banking is a thing, and that phone banking is not the only option. For older voters, phone calls or post cards are probably going to be preferred. That's okay; there are many people to reach, and many ways to reach out to them.

Which way works for you?

Related links:

Tuesday, November 10, 2020


I meant to post yesterday. 

Actually, I meant to do a lot of things yesterday, some of which got done and some did not. Things came up that I needed to deal with, so I did.

I knew what I wanted to post, and I thought I could do that today. It turns out that after Thursday I will have more to say on that. It is probably better that my plans were disrupted.

For the blog, I am being pulled in two different directions.

The things that came up were related to my job hunt. It is important to respond to those, but also, once I am working that is going to take time. I am not sure what level of blogging frequency I will be able to maintain. I have worked full time and blogged daily before, but I was younger, and not as broken down.

Obviously, I could adjust my schedule, posting less frequently but still regularly. I don't know enough at this time to figure that out.

Also - completely counterintuitively - I feel a strong need to start doing interviews again. These would not necessarily be musician interviews, as I am not reviewing music again yet.

That idea comes more from how so many news sources - especially the New York Times, but not exclusively - keep wanting to hear from Trump voters over and over again, especially when that demographic is so persistently white. There are more people who voted for Biden, and more who voted for Clinton, and frankly, I find them a lot more interesting. They may not have all conquered the internalized structural racism, but there's a level of embracing required for Trump support that I find repugnant, and I do not believe consistently elevating them is the answer for any decent question.

The first problem with this is that it would be adding complication when I am having a hard time keeping up with what I am already doing. It does sound a lot like something I would do though.

The other issue is that I don't have that many readers. I had more when I was posting more regularly. So yes, sure, let's bring other people into it so that 27 people can see what they have to say!

I do believe it's important, but I question how much difference my efforts would make. Again, doing it anyway does sound a lot like me.

For the record, what I was going to post about yesterday was political, not job-related. 

Other than blogging, most of the things I had planned were outdoors and weather-related, trying to get them done before the rain started. I meant to do a lot more garden clean-up, but then found it was time to harvest the potatoes. Other tasks will have to wait.

Here is a picture of some super fresh potatoes.

Friday, November 06, 2020

Hang in there

As I write this at 5:05 PM, Pacific Standard Time, Biden has 253 electoral votes, and Trump has 213. Of the remaining states, Trump is likely to get Alaska and maybe North Carolina, but he does not appear to have a path to victory.

In addition, there are currently 48 Democrats and 47 Republicans in the Senate. I don't know what is happening with the other 5, but it is a nice thought to think of McConnell no longer being able to obstruct so easily.

Democrats currently retain control of the House.

Trump will continue to stew and try his best to cheat. That's who he is. The court stacking that has happened on all levels - not just Supreme - will matter, but this is still good. It is still a step forward, out of many needed steps. 

Well, it depends on your goals, but mine are based in equality; I have been very clear about that.

So, take a breath. Smile. Drink some water, eat something, nap... as there are many steps to be taken, you want to be in good walking condition. That requires taking care of your health and energy.

It also requires looking out for your safety. There are people threatening shootings - more in the places where counts are still going on - but wherever there are angry people with guns and alcohol, the risks are real. They are also bullies who are more likely to target marginalized people. Homeless people are really vulnerable, and people of color, and in some cases it may just be people with Biden or Black Lives Matter signs. Keep an eye out for them, listen to your instincts, but still, take that breath and enjoy the step forward.

There are a lot of naysayers, and I don't see most of them accomplishing a lot of good. I would rather do something good. 

(Though I can be scathing when I want. Ask around.)

Have a good weekend, one day at a time.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Black History Month 2019 - Black directors

 I guess I ought to do a summary, now that I have actually watched all of the films.

As is common, things took much longer than I anticipated. A lot of that was mission creep, but I don't regret it. It was a richer experience for watching more movies.

It also took longer because I went through periods when I was too busy with my mother to watch anything that would not hold her attention. I am not going to regret anything there either. I did what I could, with appropriate priorities. I tried.

My initial plan was to watch something every day until I was done. That didn't happen at all, but it is why I watched many of these documentaries toward the beginning, just so I could get something in. Those were good. I am glad I did it. However, since being a daily thing wasn't sustainable, I have removed the days where I was watching episodes of Queen Sugar and black~ish

I was able to catch up on black~ish, which I appreciated. I started watching during Season 3. I was able to watch Season 1 on DVD from the library, but I missed one episode (where Bo's night shifts coincide with Diane's difficulty sleeping without a light), and I saw the Season 3 episodes in re-runs, but somehow I missed "I'm A Survivor" (where Dre freaks out about mortality and disrupts his grandmother's life by moving her in and starts micromanaging his friends). I hadn't seen any of Season 2. 

I was able to catch everything on BET, which I discovered accidentally looking for movies by Black directors.

The timeline is below, but also, here are some notes. 

There are a few extra movies that I thought about, some of which did not have Black directors. They are listed because I still might have things to say about them that relate. There are also things that I watched during that time period that are not listed.

I don't know if horror films would have held Mom's attention, but I didn't want to risk putting any scary images in her head. That meant watching Jordan Peele's movies after everyone else was in bed, with lights and sounds down low. Exactly the best way to watch them.

I don't seem to have marked down when I watched Moonlight.  I have watching 2 Fast 2 Furious in a separate place from finishing it, because when I was almost done the DVD started to malfunction. I was able to record the movie off of television to catch the end. Paul Walker and Tyrese both have really nice smiles, though Paul does not sound smart when he talks.

I liked more than I didn't. I feel a lot of affection for most of the directors, and would watch other work by them. The greatest find was Talk To Me though, because I had at least heard of the other movies that I watched for this. Talk To Me was a complete surprise, and a revelation. 

The most disappointing was Hollywood Shuffle. I really expected it to be funny. Watching the comedians was generally more sad than funny.

I think Cuba Gooding Jr. was the weak link in Boyz N the Hood, but I see some similarities between Lawrence Fishburne as Furious and as Pops, so some sort of mash-up with parenting Trey and Dre could be fun.

But yeah, that was what I started last year and finally finished. All of my desire for knowledge is getting more ambitious while I get busier and more tired, so I am not sure that anything will ever fit neatly into a year again.

I may still try and do annual summaries. Sometimes.


6/22 13th - Ava DuVernay
6/26 The Rosa Parks Story - Julie Dash
6/28 The Clinton 12: The Clinton County Desegregation Crisis (1947 – 1958) - Keith Henry McDaniel
6/29 The Untold Story of Emmett Luis Till, 2005 - Keith Beauchamp
6/30 Brown V. Board - ? (Can't find which one I watched)
7/1 Daughters of the Dust - Julie Dash
7/2 Boyz N the Hood - John Singleton
7/5 Black Nativity - Kasi Lemmons
7/7 Creed - Ryan Coogler
7/8 Belle - Amma Assante
7/9 Desegregating Baltimore Schools - Not credited, but Chris Jolissaint probably comes closest.
7/12 Fences - Denzel Washington
7/15 Fruitvale Station - Ryan Coogler
7/18 and 7/19 Eve's Bayou - Kasi Lemmons
7/30 and 7/31 Rosewood - John Singleton
8/13 Get Out - Jordan Peele
8/15 Us - Jordan Peele
9/11 If Beale Street Could Talk - Barry Jenkins
9/20 Eddie Murphy: Raw - Robert Townsend
9/25 The Five Heartbeats - Robert Townsend
9/27 and 9/30 How Stella Got Her Groove Back
10/12 B.A.P.S. - Robert Townsend
10/14, 15, 16 Shaft - John Singleton
10/25 Little - Tina Gordon
10/29 The Original Kings of Comedy - Spike Lee
11/6 Richard Pryor Here & Now - Richard Pryor


2/4 and 2/5/2020 Talk to Me - Kasi Lemmons
2/6 Hollywood Shuffle - Robert Townsend
2/22 I Am Not Your Negro - Raoul Peck
2/23 Extras for I Am Not Your Negro - Raoul Peck
2/26 The Photograph - Stella Meghie
3/3 The Caveman's Valentine - Kasi Lemmons
3/6 The Great Debaters - Denzel Washington
3/12 Antwone Fisher - Denzel Washington
3/25 and 27 A Way of Life - Amma Assante
7/22 I Will Follow - Ava DuVernay
7/28 Middle of Nowhere - Ava DuVernay
7/30 Higher Learning - John Singleton
8/16 “Remember the Time” (re-watch) - John Singleton
8/17 30 for 30: Marion Jones: Press Pause (2010) - John Singleton
8/18 “My Mic Sounds Nice” (2010) - Ava DuVernay
8/18 Abduction (2011) - John Singleton
8/19 “Give Me One Reason - Julie Dash
8/19 Subway Stories: Tales From the Underground “Sax Cantor Riff” - Julie Dash
8/19 Illusions - Julie Dash
9/3 Queen of Katwe - Mira Nair
9/5 The Fits - Anna Rose Holmer
9/8 2 Fast 2 Furious - John Singleton
9/8 Good Hair - Jeff Stilson
9/10 Four Brothers - John Singleton
9/18 finished 2 Fast 2 Furious - John Singleton
10/2 Medicine for Melancholy - Barry Jenkins
10/5 American Crime Story: The Race Card - John Singleton
10/5 Baby Boy - John Singleton
10/9 & 10/13 Poetic Justice - John Singleton
10/14 Poetic Justice w/commentary - John Singleton
10/19 Love Song - Julie Dash
10/20 Incognito - Julie Dash
10/21 Funny Valentines - Julie Dash
10/22 When They See Us, pt 1 - Ava DuVernay
10/22 When They See Us, pt 2 - Ava DuVernay
10/23 The Door - Ava DuVernay
10/28 When They See Us, pts 3 and 4 - Ava DuVernay
10/28 Jay Z: Family Feud ft Beyoncé - Ava DuVernay

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Waiting to exhale

Well, things still aren't settled, but it is getting closer. If it is not everything that was hoped for, that is not really surprising.

I am not going to write about that right now, at least not exactly.

What I want to say is that it is no surprise Republicans are objecting to vote counts when they tried so hard to keep those votes from being cast. They're consistent, in a way that goes well with foolishness and little minds, but has a core that needs to be examined.

When they talk about the need for election day to become a federal holiday, it's important to think about all of those people who work holidays. It wouldn't really help them, would it? If you get the kids out of school (at least in a normal year), will that make it harder for some people to vote? 

Personally, I love voting by mail; that has worked great for Oregon. I don't have anything against early voting times or expanded voting hours if some states are strongly attached to in-person voting, but the places that try and cut that are the same places that tend to reduce polling locations. For a state the size of Texas to only have one ballot box per county? That is not pro-voting.

So what we need to think about is whom we want to vote. Early colonists often thought that there should be property-holding requirements. That not only required a certain amount of wealth but also a specific type of wealth, that could easily eliminate the merchant class and various tradesman and those military members that were not already property owners. Obviously, forget about women and any man who wasn't white.

This seemed very logical to them. Misogyny and racism were pretty accepted, and obviously you want the right kind of people with the right kind of education voting; superior people, you might say, who also just happened to be the same people making the decisions.

It didn't end up quite that bad, though if you looked at the voting percentages for ratification of the Constitution it can be shocking. Amendments have given us a better situation still. However, look at how hard some people will still work to keep some votes from being cast or counted.

If you are a constitutional originalist, and you truly believe that women have weaker minds (probably because of the presence of the uterus), you are stupid and gross. I don't even have the patience to be polite to you about it. Same deal if you believe in white supremacy, and double if you try and justify it based on cranium size. Seriously, fuck you. 

However, if there is a part of you that is okay with limiting who votes, because these stupid unwashed rabble make such bad decisions and don't even know what's good for them, yes, I am tempted to say the same to you, but I have a question: Would you have been able to vote in 1789? Would everyone have wanted you to? Remember, that means not just being white and male but also owning some property and investments.

I saw a meme about people making $30K per year and panicking at higher taxes on income over $400K per year; I know people for whom that is so true. Sure, they are not rich now, but they just know that someday they will be, and then the government is going to be taking it away from them. It is rather like the panic that the government will take your guns, which has never been true but it sure has been a cash cow for the people who make and sell guns.

I guess what I am asking is that if you can't vote based on wanting equality and good for everyone, can you at least vote to benefit your current situation instead of the fantasy you have been nurturing for so long where you are better than everyone else?

That would be great.

Otherwise, that fight for equality still has a lot of work left.

Tuesday, November 03, 2020


As you can see there are 11 orange pumpkins of various sizes (not counting the one that I carved), one that almost ripened that is a kind of nice mottled green and yellow, and a few shiny round green gourds.

Given how many issues there were with planting time and germination, it is kind of miraculous. 

The vines and the nightshade filled up the yard debris bin, so currently the sunflower stalks are still  standing, but all of the heads are down on the ground. Frankly, I had been hoping to see more small creatures eating the seeds, but there is still time. Come on, critters!

It was (for me) kind of a miraculous thing to pick a seed out of something I grew, and be like, "That's a sunflower seed, just like the one I planted a few months ago."

I don't really have any plans for eating them myself, but I did save a few, to see how planting them works. I saved some from a regular head, the big head on the mutant sunflower, and some little heads off of the mutant sunflower. I labeled them neatly in envelopes and meant to take a picture, but it appears that Lilly had some feelings about how long I had been outside.

Speaking of little critters and what they eat.


One reason I waited so long to pull up the nightshade was that - besides being pretty - I read that it composts well, and I kind of wanted to compost it here. I am not ready to sort out composting yet.

I still need to take down the sunflower stalks and the tomato plants in the back. The potatoes don't appear to be done yet. Being so deep underground, I guess the frost is less of an issue. 

Otherwise, everything is figuring out next year, and I am having a hard time looking ahead. 

I hope things are clearer tomorrow.

Monday, November 02, 2020

Halloween 2020 recap

 Thursday I pulled up the vines and cut the pumpkin stems, freeing up the patch. 

I had about four that I thought were big enough to carve, but time was an issue. I was going to try stencils for the first time this year, which I should have known would be overly ambitious. 

The first issue is that they all had big mud patches with worms. I scraped some off, but it wasn't effective and I was worried about hurting the worms. If you want good soil, you need them. So Friday I started using the hose and a rag to clean them off. This worked fairly well, except I ended up with a huge amount of mud, on the ground and especially on my shoes. I wouldn't mind being taller, but not that way. I still need to finish getting those scraped off, so that was an issue every time I left the house, trying to find something else to put on my feet. 

Separately, Julie had ordered a Halloween ice cream cake, and we had that for dessert Friday and Saturday night.

It was very cute and the frosting was good. It did not stay looking like this, but massacres are appropriate for Halloween.

Saturday. The big day. Still no pumpkins carved. I was going to do it while my sisters ran errands, but then they had a cancellation and we were off to the store, which took longer than I thought it would, so I needed to start making dinner as soon as we got home. The sun was going down and we still had no jack o' lantern.

There was also a good chance of having no trick-or-treaters. We had candy, masks, and tongs to allow us to distribute candy from a distance, but would children come? I mean, with the briefness of the interactions and it happening mostly outdoors, I think trick-or-treating can be safe, but people are freaked out this year, and who can blame them? One friend had prearranged to bring the child she cares for - who needed to have some trick-or-treating - but that could easily be it.

We did get some, and it was largely due to my procrastination and fixation, but I could not deal with not having a jack o' lantern. 

At 7 I headed out there with a knife. I did not have newspapers to use for the guts, because we only get one on Sundays now, and that one had been taken away by recycling. I did not bring the stencils. I did the fastest, least-dedicated job ever, dumping guts directly into yard debris (full of vines and nightshade) and sometimes balancing the pumpkin on my knee.

However, while I was dumping guts, the neighbor kids started loading into the car.

I grabbed my mask, tongs, and candy bowl. "Want some candy?" And even from the scary old neighbor lady, that is a good offer.

Then, while I was finishing the carving, two people were taking a kid in a wagon up the street. I nearly lunged at them, worried they would not come back, but they did! I was waiting on the sidewalk, and as they were looking at the decorations next door they didn't see me until the last minute and I scared them a little, but still, they took candy! Then while I was tonging out their candy, one more group of kids came. They saw and came, but they were not going to all the doors. If you wanted trick-or-treaters this year, you needed to flag them down. So it was good I spent some time outside, and I did carve a pumpkin.

I know I can do better than this, and I am a little sad that I didn't, but this is the first time I have carved a pumpkin I grew from seed, and it got us twelve of our thirteen trick-or-treaters. (I think that was the number. Probably no significance.)

We also tried building one of those haunted house kits. It looked like it was working out but then it went all Fall of the House of Usher on me. 

That is so 2020.

PS: I know there are more important things I could write about, but I am struggling with not knowing whether I am going to be relieved or furious or suicidal Wednesday, so today is Halloween, tomorrow is the garden, and I don't know what happens after that.

We all do what we can.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Love to watch you go?

I know when terrible public figures die, some people will say mean things and other people will give quotes about refusing to celebrate anyone's death... you know how it goes.

I have been thinking about one death recently that I didn't celebrate, but for which I did feel relief.

It was Dennis Richardson. 

Shocking, I know.

He was a member of my church, though in a different city so I had no personal knowledge of him. He had a beautiful family. I am no fan of people getting cancer. But still, I was relieved that he died.

He was elected at a time when Republicans nationally were targeting Secretary of State elections. They were being prioritized over governors then.

It was smart. People pay less attention to the down ballot. It's not as flashy, but if you want to influence elections, it is a great position to be in. I'm guessing it was inspired by part of the Voting Rights Act being struck down in 2013, but maybe the same people pushing that case were pushing the elections. I'm sure some of the reduced voting hours, eliminated ballot boxes, and voter purges are related.

Even before that, think about Katherine Harris running Florida's election while running W's campaign there. You know, people said it was a Democrat who designed the infamous butterfly ballot, and that is technically true. Theresa LePore registered as a Democrat in 1996 to help win an election, and then switched to Independent a few years after confusing many elderly Jewish people into voting for Holocaust denier Pat Buchanan.

(I do hope some of this is a reminder to pay attention to the down ballot, and also at least some attention to what is happening in other states.)

I know that Richardson promised to be non-partisan, but I had concerns. They became worse when he wanted to start redistricting before the census. I know some people like to complain about how their counties are underrepresented, but that's because of people. If Umatilla County has about 80,000 people and Multnomah County has closer to 800,000, that is more votes. That is fair. Trying to change that would be more unfair. 

It would also be hard to sabotage, but I think Richardson was going to give it a shot, so yes, I was relieved when he died.

I have been thinking about this for two reasons. 

Most recently, I keep getting phone messages encouraging me to vote for Kim Thatcher so she can continue Dennis Richardson's legacy. This makes her the only state candidate I actively hate. No thank you.

But also, as Mitch McConnell's body shows early signs of decay, and Trump apparently overcame Coronavirus via great medical care that included steroids (like he needs that in his system), and Republicans keep showing their determination to hold super-spreader events - including for the incompetent justice they shoved through, but forget relief packages! - I would not mourn their deaths. 

I might not feel much relief, either, because there has already been so much harm done. 

However, I know considerably more harm has been felt by other people, and if anyone dies and the death is celebrated by people have lost ground and suffered and lost relatives to disease that they could not get high-quality medical care for, or who can't find their children to be reunited with them, or who have lost businesses because more relief went to those who are more powerful and better-resourced and can apply faster, I will not shame their celebrations. They can have fireworks and socially distanced parades, and I will wish them joy.

But I will still be stuck regretting that it didn't happen sooner, before so much harm was done.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Director Spotlight: AVA DUVERNAY

Had already seen: Selma (2014), A Wrinkle In Time (2018), two episodes of Queen Sugar

Watched for this: 13th (documentary) (2016), When They See Us (2019), I Will Follow (2010), Middle of Nowhere (2012),My Mic Sounds Nice (TV short documentary) (2010), The Door (short) (2013), Jay Z: Family Feud ft. Beyoncé (video short) (2017)

Have not seen: Saturday Night Life (short) (2006), This Is The Life (documentary) (2008), Compton In C Minor (short) (2009), TV One Night Only: Live From The Essence Music Festival (TV movie documentary) (2010), Essence Presents: Faith in 2010 (TV short) (2010), Scandal (1 episode) (2013), For Justice (TV movie) (2015), August 28th (documentary short) (2016), Nine for IX: Venus Vs (TV documentary series, 1 episode) (2013) 

I find it interesting that so many of her early efforts are music-related. I have only been able to find My Mic Sounds Nice to watch, but I would be interested in the others.

Otherwise I think the main thing I come away with from watching more DuVernay is a sense of vision. I know that she uses good actors and designers and that is a help, but I also see a great sense of imagination and an openness to inspiration.

I am actually at kind of a weird place for writing about her. For past viewing, I have written about A Wrinkle in Time and six(!) posts about Selma. (And so much about Queen Sugar, but that is less her directing and more producing.) I just finished When They See Us, and I think I am going to have a lot to say about that as I process it.

Instead I will focus on two in the middle that are not well known, but the library had them: I Will Follow and Middle of Nowhere

I Will Follow has some music focus too, as the main character reflects on her recently deceased aunt - a legendary session drummer - schooling her on the music of U2. Mainly it is about moving on, as after about a year caring for her dying aunt, it is time to clean and finish and theoretically but maybe not possibly return to her old life. 

Middle of Nowhere also has a woman who has put her life on hold for someone else, working night shifts and giving up weekends for long bus rides to visit her jailed husband. 

I am in the middle of so much transition - then when I watched the movies, but still now - that they resonated with me. So many of my choices have been made for other people. Without even being wrong choices, they have still left me in a hard place, with a lot of unknowns.

Both movies end up in the air. The protagonists have gained some understanding or reconciliation, but there are still many things unresolved and messy relationships all over the place. There are people who know what they want and can't seem to get it, and people just stuck, even though it seems like it should be easier.

The most interesting relationships for me were in I Will Follow. There was an aunt and niece, but that aunt was also a mother to a frustrated daughter, who resented her cousin being the caregiver, but who would also not have done well as the caregiver, especially given her anger at her mother's decision to end treatment for her cancer, and go out peacefully. 

That resentment is worse because of its base in a previous rocky relationship, where the aunt and niece could get along and share interests in a way that the mother and daughter could not. It is poked at when the daughter sees that envied cousin bonding with her son. Aunts again.

Clearly everyone needed to accept and embrace people as themselves, but that is more easily said than done. There are lots of different ways of being selfish and jealous and hurt, and it seems like they found all of them. 

Also, perhaps we cannot relate to our parents like everyone else. It may not be fair, and it may not be terrible, but there are pressures there that are hard to ignore. Maybe "embracing" is still the answer.

Related posts:


Friday, October 23, 2020

Garden update - watching a garden die

 Yes, I did review an album by that name in February; this garden wasn't even planted yet.

I took this picture because things are starting to die.

I have been getting a lot of compliments on the sunflowers, but now they are all drooping. A few got so top-heavy they collapsed. 

The pumpkins have not gotten as much attention because the leaves hide them pretty well, especially when they are green. I have about ten that are orange now, though there is no angle from which you can see them all. 

Also, the powdery mildew - which is plentiful in our region and adores squash leaves - has spread a lot. I was going to do some cleanup this week, but temperatures are supposed to be low enough for a frost, at least for Sunday night, and that will make things much easier.

I was also worried about cleanup for the sunflowers, because I want the seeds to finish forming. It looks like detaching the head is an option. I am a bit nervous about it, but I may at least try it on the already fallen ones.

I took the picture as a reminder that a natural life progression includes a period of decline. It is not the most attractive stage. If I want my garden to be a showcase, that is a problem, but if I want it to be something living and growing and embracing life and nature, sometimes it will get messy.

I am eternally grateful there is no HOA here.

I am posting the picture today because today was full of problems, including continuing issues. It's frustrating, and I am not the person I want to be on those days, except in that I continue to get through them. But the messiness is valid and natural. I grow from the bad times, probably more than from the good times.

That one lone flower seed to sprout has really taken off though. That's all one multi-branching plant.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Director Spotlight: JULIE DASH

Had already seen: two episodes of Queen Sugar,

Watched for this: Daughters of the Dust (1991), The Rosa Parks Story (2002),  "Give Me One Reason" (Tracy Chapman video short, 1996), Subway Stories: Tales from the Underground - Sax Cantor Riff (1997), Illusions (short) (1982), Incognito (1999), Love Song (2000), Funny Valentines (1999)

Have not seen: Working Models of Success (1973), Four Women (Short) (1975), Diary of an African Nun (Short) (1977), Praise House (1991), Women: Stories of Passion - Season 2, episode 5 "Grip Till It Hurts" (1997), Brothers of the Borderland (short) (2004), Standing at the Scratch Line (short) (2016), Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl (2017)

It is for Julie Dash that I am most glad that I expanded my watch list. 

Initially I only intended to watch Daughters of the Dust and The Rosa Parks Story. I wrote about Daughters of the Dust being gratuitously beautiful, and there were many ways in which it kept coming back to me. It is a classic for a reason.

I did not like The Rosa Parks Story

There is an episode of black~ish where the Johnsons go to the movies on Christmas. They were going to watch a new action picture that sounded a lot like Captain Marvel, but conscience struck Dre and he made them go see a movie based on Rosa Parks. Everyone keeps trying to sneak out because they are so bored by this ridiculously slow and overacted but still not fun movie. 

I could not help but wonder if they had The Rosa Parks Story in mind. 

Even finding it boring and disagreeing with how they portrayed Parks (as a very shy and reluctant activist; maybe I'm wrong), I could still appreciate some nice touches to how the scenes were set and the aesthetics of the picture. 

Julie Dash has better movies. And worse ones, though not many.

I was only able to watch the three made-for-television movies because of a Youtube channel, Reelblack: 

(If Reelblack can locate and post the movies and shorts I haven't seen, I will watch them all, even though my watching is technically over.)

I thought Incognito got pretty contrived at the climax, but that was based on a book that has a lot of fans, and probably needed to be that way. I had a hard time sticking with Funny Valentines, but a lot of reviewers loved it. Tastes differ, that's okay. I am still really glad that the movies were there, and that I had the chance to see them.

I liked Love Song a lot. That is largely for the music and the hard to resist charms of Christian Kane. In addition, as Camille (played by Monica) goes to reconcile with Billy (Christian Kane's character), there is this excellently shot sequence of her walking to him, picking her way through the normal garage detritus. She is wearing flowing pink crepe-y pants and a really cute pair of ball heeled shoes. It is not your most practical outfit for navigating a greasy garage, but visually it works so well. I have to love the artistry there.

What really sold me on Julie Dash was her use of different kinds of lighting for different projects.

Daughters of the Dust has a lot of light saturation, with powerful sunlight striking characters dressed in white on sand. It is a memorable look on its own, but the other two projects show the range.

"Give Me One Reason", a music video for Tracy Chapman, is set in a club. That is frequently a dark environment, and this seems like one, especially with the royal blue backdrop. And yet, with the use of focused overhead lighting (I assume), there is also a radiance throughout the set. 

Where I really started to appreciate it was on Illusions, a short film from 1982. 

Lonette McKee plays a light-skinned Black woman passing for white and working in the studio system. That is one illusion, but Hollywood is full of them, including having Black singers providing the voices of leading ladies. 

(So, in Singing in the Rain terms, Lana is not really singing, but her understudy looks nothing like Debbie Reynolds.) 

The plot and dialogue is solid anyway, but I was first impressed with how much it looked like it really could have been filmed during World War II. Accurately, those movies did not give any definition to Black features, which you see with a few performers, including the actual singing voice, Esther, played by Rosanne Katon. 

When McKee's character has an extended and important dialogue with Esther, the film used doesn't change, but Dash doesn't leave Esther to be nullified by the darkness either. She shoots them outdoors, with Katon in bright sunlight and McKee partially shaded. Both actresses are seen distinctly, it doesn't change the accuracy of the period representation, and it also works as a metaphor for the openness with which each character can engage with her race and identity.

With John Singleton we talked about how to engage with different levels of quality in terms of scripts and what the studio wants; most directors are probably going to have to work with a few clinkers, just to keep working. 

As wonderful as it is to watch a movie where all of the different parts are working together, sometimes you learn more from the movies that don't work as well. 

I have learned that Julie Dash really knows how to make movies. She films well.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Listening to Black women: pre-requisites

Okay... two more posts, even though yesterday I said it would only take one.

Here's why: with everything I have written about Black women not getting recompensed for their work, and being expected to give free emotional labor, and frequently getting abused, I do not want to add to that. 

What I was going to post today was a starter kit, with a selection of various smart and wonderful Black women, where readers could choose a few and start reading their work and getting a feeling for them. I am still going to do that, but I worry about directing someone exhausting toward people I care about, who are often far too close to exhausted already.

Today's post is going to be about sending you in with the ability to not be a problem. There is no offense intended if you do not think you would be a problem. The people who want to be problems are way ahead of me, but well-intentioned people can really not live up to their intentions.

First, check your ego.

You may have expected me to say "Check your privilege", but if we are doing this right your privilege will get checked. More than once.

We have talked many times about how the racism is structural, so it creeps in without being noticed. Even knowing that on one level, it can still be appalling and hurtful and uncomfortable to find it inside you, and realistically there is going to be some.

Remember those ladies I wrote about yesterday, trying to add diversity and then so angry and offended when they were questioned on something? That they even had the idea to add diversity by inviting in a Black woman was a sign that they were trying. Their reaction was probably a sign that they didn't think it through. They weren't prepared.

It might sound logical that you prepare by self-examination and rooting it out, but you probably can't do that enough. The better preparation is being prepared to sit with the discomfort. When someone says something that seems to imply you are racist, pause and absorb it. Sit with it for a minute, and see what you can learn from it.

This is the same response for if they call you racist outright, but it is often not that. Maybe they rebut a point that you make, or they mention privilege, or it is something really mild, but that defensiveness rises. Stop. Breathe. Listen and learn.

That silently listening is a great response, because I can't tell you how many times I have seen people replying with their agreement to show they are good too, or trying to correct a blanket statement (Excuse me, but not all white women!). That is also in service of your ego, and it doesn't help anyone. It places the burden of your self-esteem on someone who is already too busy. 

Sometimes the request for ego service is an expression of dismay at how awful things are, and how deeply it hurts you. If your pain is at racism because it exists, but not because you are oppressed under it, it should not take a lot of thought to see how throwing that on someone under the oppression is not appropriate. 

And it does hurt. I am appalled and angry and grieving all the time. It is still not the job of non-white people to comfort me.

In the same vein, if you have a question about something, try a few Google searches. Don't add to the work. If someone is asking a question, but not to you specifically, and you don't know the answer, it is not helpful to reply that you don't know.

I say this coming from that place. Eight years ago I had great intentions and I knew some things, but there was still so much I didn't know and understand. I probably did ask unnecessary things, and I know I made stupid flippant comments at least twice. I did learn, and I found a lot of grace. I have even made some friendships. I would still rather not have made the stumbles that I did, and I did them in a much less traumatic time. So, take heed.

If you want to do any good in the world, it will almost certainly require checking your ego anyway.

For more on letting things wash over you:

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Listening to Black women 101

One frustrating thing this year is how many more people are saying to listen to Black women, then don't really do it, or get mad when Black women don't say what they want to hear. 

I hope the long lead-in to why we listen laid groundwork. I am glad that we had the movie break; that post about Deja getting fridged is relevant.

First, let's build some vocabulary. There is a name for the intersection of white supremacy, anti-Blackness, and misogyny; that word is misogynoir. It was coined by Moya Bailey as she encountered the concept while looking at the treatment of women in hip-hop. That is only one venue where misogynoir happens.

Now, I think a good step going forward is to build on this article and deal with some common stereotypes. My notes are not a substitute for reading the article. 

Obviously one of the big themes in racism is failure to see a person as a unique individual, instead assuming various traits. Kesiena Boom focuses on four tropes, but they are not mutually exclusive. One woman may be perceived in different ways by different people, or at different times.

1. The Sassy Black Woman

Boom has been on the receiving end of this minimization, and that sucks. What it makes me think of most is how often Black women get mocked for something, and then it gets appropriated and is cool once white people use it, but in kind of an ironic way. I would say a good example is Kayla Newman coming up with "on fleek" and not getting credit, but after that happened initially, people did work to give her credit. Newman is growing her brand. 

If the trend is to not credit Black women, we are not doomed to repeat that. It has nonetheless been a huge problem to get Black women credited and paid.

Likewise, people are getting better about crediting Tarana Burke for #metoo, and that kind of leads us to...

2. The Hypersexual Jezebel

Boom gives a few examples of being sexualized by strange men herself. They are disturbing, but there is a good chance that other women of other races have had similar experiences. There are different backgrounds to the sexualization of Asian, Latina, and Native American women, and also some men are so creepy that they can always find a reason to sexualize you. 

However, I remember via online discussions among women about the first time being catcalled or groped, and noticing early on that Black women seemed to have it start younger (by about four years) and often be more invasive, like getting escalating to groping sooner instead of remaining verbal. 

Some of that may be lingering effects of the mindset of slavery, where Black people were viewed as property that could be owned. It is probably also a factor that Black people are not allowed the same length of childhood. At 32, Ryan Lochte could be described as a stupid kid when was arrested, but at 18 Michael Brown was a demon and a monster, and at 17 Kalief Browder could be locked up for 3 years awaiting trial because of a backpack that was not found on him (and may never have existed, based on very sketchy witnesses). Okay, the time in jail did age him, I guess; it did something. 

There is a lot that is gross about this trope, but the irony that kills me is that it was used to justify rape of Black women, while at the same time Black men were portrayed as the sexual predators going after white women. It may be the most hypocritical stereotype. 

Fun fact: One part of Rosa Parks' early activism was interviewing rape victims.

3. The Angry Black Woman

I have witnessed this in an online group run by some very nice white women. They invited a Black woman to also be an admin, because "diversity" and "other viewpoints". The first time she pointed out something was racist, they felt so persecuted and attacked. It never occurred to them that she had a point, or even that she could have been wrong but with no bad intentions; she was an enemy, out to get them, and they were very hurt.

I left the group, but from what I remember, they are nice ladies, for the most part; they just can't deal with the way they have internalized structural racism. As much as the "nice" sounds sarcastic, it isn't if you think about niceness referring to things being calm and untroubled on the surface. That's just no way to bring about any valuable change. That kind of niceness won't do if you want equality.

I mention it because it is really easy to do without intending to. You have to actively root that racism out. 

Also, a fun part of this one is that The Angry Black Women relates directly to...

4. The Strong Black Woman

It sounds complimentary, right? She is strong; she can handle thing! And she is so nurturing too, caring about issues and guiding us, and dispensing wisdom for us.

So this is where it is really easy to exploit Black women, because they know so much and they are so strong that they don't really need support or reimbursement or credit. That is why it is so easy to suddenly view them as angry if they express any displeasure or ask for reimbursement or don't want to listen to your problems or do anything that isn't self-effacing. How dare they?

But also when they try to revel in their glory, they are reduced back to sassy.

And it's a rotten thing to put on anyone, but it's been going on for a while. Zora Neale Hurston called Black women "the mules of the world" in Their Eyes Were Watching God. That was 1937. 

And all of the tropes suck. It sucks to not have your full humanity recognized. 

Let's fix this. Now.

I think I can complete this in one more post.

Side note:

If you are wondering if there is correlation with the Nina Simone song, "Four Women"... yes, though I am not sure if it was intentional. 

Roughly, Sweet Thing could be the Hypersexual Jezebel, Peaches could be the Angry Black Woman, and Aunt Sarah could be the Strong Black Woman. 

Saffronia is not represented here, and perhaps would not be, because the mixed race product of rape would be uncomfortable to deal with; these tropes are supposed to allow for easy definition, without complexity. And yet, Saffronia exists because it was so easy to say they were all Jezebels, but only Sweet Thing got paid for it.

There is no Sassy Black Woman in the song, but TV tropes dates that to the '70s, and the song is from 1966.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Why we should listen to Black women

I know I have been taking a long time to get to the point with this. 

Part of that is this is not my specialty. For the people who read my work, I am relatively well-informed. In this space, my explaining makes sense, but there is a much larger space available. 

Because of that, this post will link to other sources, and then in a subsequent post we will link to even more.

Wednesday I mentioned that one aspect of privilege was not having to notice various forms of oppression, because they are not directed at you. I closed with the question, "How much do you get to ignore if you are on the receiving end of combined white supremacy, anti-Blackness, and misogyny?"

The answer is not much. That in the simplest sense is why we need to listen to Black women. They learn a great deal while on the receiving end of abuse.

Here is our first article: 

It is from October 13th, just 6 days ago, about Twitter accounts that claim to be Black people, encouraging other Black people to vote for Trump. You will also find fake accounts encouraging Black people not to vote at all, and then some real people who have been influenced by them. 

The purpose of them may very well be to suppress the Black vote, though there are plenty of other attempts to do that via voter intimidation and voter roll purges and reduction of polling places and ballot boxes in Black areas. What I really notice is that a lot of white people love retweeting these, because it helps them feel like their support for Trump is not racist. 

I mention it for this post because this is an old tactic, but it is a tactic that has been used by Russia, it influenced the last election and is being used again for this election - I hope not successfully - and if we had listened to Black women - especially Shafiqah Hudson and I'Nasah Crocket - in 2014, it might not have worked then.

This is the second link, and this is one that should really be read:

There is a lot of good information here, but I want to point out two things:

1. In June 2014 you had #endfathersday, then in August GamerGate, and then as the 2016 election got closer there was the election interference. The circle of people affected keeps growing. It is still very much targeted at people marginalized by gender or race, OR BOTH, but the people impacted will continue spreading. 

2. People find an astonishing variety of ways and methods to not credit the people doing the work. Whether that is referring to specific individuals generically as Black women, or skipping entire parts of the story, there is this continued refusal to talk to the experts, and therefore a continued failure to improve things.

The article has a reference to Black women being the canary in the coal mine. The canaries are important, but they pay with their lives. 

Black women are targeted with abuse. Sometimes it is intentional, where internet trolls test things out on Black women first, because they know they will face fewer obstacles that way. That is more obviously cynical and evil

It works because too often the people who are supposed to be good won't listen and won't take it seriously. We won't be the obstacles, and so the deliberate harm is not stopped; it flourishes. 

So perhaps in feminist circles Black and Latina women report abuse by one gender studies professor, but it gets shushed and ignored until his abuse spreads so far (and to white victims) that it can't be ignored. And we get Russian election interference, and continue to get bad health and environmental outcomes, and journalism that misses really important points. There are so many things that we get wrong simply by not listening.

"Good" people have to do better. Tomorrow I hope to give some ideas for that.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Deja was fridged

I mentioned that when John Singleton directed really stupid films (which he made fun) they had other writers. Allow me to specify that those movies are Rosewood, Four Brothers, Abduction, and - to a lesser extent - 2 Fast 2 Furious, because that one did what it was supposed to do. I can't argue with that.

I'm also not going to pick on Abduction too much. Once someone decides that they want to do a mashup of The Face on the Milk Carton and The Bourne Identity and cast Taylor Lautner in it, then you just have to be glad that Singleton was the director, because it probably could have been much worse.

However, there was something I noticed about the other two. 

Rosewood - Based on a true story of the massacre of Black people and the burning of their homes. Throws in a bunch of dumb testosterone and focuses on the white characters. Written by Gregory Poirier, a white guy, born in Hawaii. He also wrote the National Treasure sequel.

Four Brothers - Loosely inspired by The Sons of Katie Elder, and written by two white English guys, who made two of the brothers white and two Black but wanted to show that race didn't matter, except that it does, and two English guys are not likely to know how that would play out. They also worked on the G.I. Joe movie.

There was definitely the potential for a better and more honest telling of the story of what happened in Rosewood, Florida in January 1923.

Not having seen the original Sons of Katie Elder - also based on a true story - I don't know what the story potential is there. 

However, I feel confident that there were things missed because the people writing had things they assumed they knew well enough, but did not. 

(See, this is where what seems to be about movies is relating more to the posts from earlier in the week, on privilege and such.)

Now we are going to talk about a flaw in John Singleton's work, even though I like him a lot and think he was a good director.

While there were a lot of things that struck me about Higher Learning, what most made me want to listen to the director commentary was for Deja, played by Tyra Banks.

She is an achiever, running track, seeing to her own grades while also helping Malik with his school work, and making him attend the peace festival building toward greater racial understanding, where she is shot, the only person besides the shooter to die, even though there were certainly plenty of other people to shoot.

Then, at the memorial, the white woman who organized the event is sad, blaming herself, and Malik comforts her. 

That just seemed so emblematic of so much today, and I needed to know if he knew it.

One really interesting thing about that was that if Kristy Swanson could have opened herself up more emotionally, Singleton would have had Malik hug Kristen. Since the actress could not, the character just got a pat. 

The thing is, Malik said he lost his girlfriend. She's the only casualty that wasn't self-inflicted. This seems like a situation where Kristen should be offering comfort to Malik. She is too caught up in herself.

That felt real, but why did it have to be the Black woman who died? Why was she the expendable one?

There is a lot in that, but this was something that was in the commentary. Singleton thought about what would affect him the most, and it would be losing his girlfriend, who at the time was Tyra Banks.

The term "fridging" comes from comic books, specifically from when Green Lantern Kyle Rayner (there have been a lot of Green Lanterns) found his girlfriend had been murdered and stuffed in the fridge. That is one event, but it was part of a larger pattern of women getting raped, murdered, and de-powered to serve as plot devices to move forward the male heroes' revenge or fall or character development.

The term came from comics, but the concept can be applied to a lot of media.

There are some things that Singleton got very right. When Malik's dorm roommate gets offended that Malik is moving out after the first gun incident with Remy, saying "I'm not like them!", his anger and focus on self rather than empathy for Malik's feelings is very real. The portrayal of the cops - even really nice-seeming ones - automatically treating the students differently based on color is too accurate and very frustrating. The way Remy is groomed and radicalized by Neo-Nazis is very real, including the initial sense he had that he is being preyed on, just not the way he thinks. A lot of it comes from Singleton's college experience. 

Even that it is a Black woman who keeps trying to help everyone and ends up losing her life for it has a certain accuracy, but I don't think that he saw ir in that way.

Some of that may be timing. Frequently I see traces of respectability politics in the work or hear it in the commentary, and I see that it is from 1995 or so, and it's not that surprising. 

Let me switch to Poetic Justice, Singleton's second film. 

After his debut with Boyz n the Hood - focusing on the men - Singleton wanted to look at the women. 

Many girls wrote to him saying that he had captured their experience, so I am sure there is a lot he got right. However, his main character Justice - played by Janet Jackson - is different in a lot of ways. She has inherited a large house and was born when her mother was in law school, so comes from an educated, financially better-off family with high expectations. Then her mother committed suicide, and her grandmother died recently, and she is an only child, and probably most of all, her boyfriend was killed right in front of her. Then people keep wondering why she's always wearing black and never wants to have any fun. 

That's real, and it is nice to see her connect to Lucky, and open up, and even better that the Lucky's temporary rejection does not stop her healing. However... it is easy to humanize this dream girl; it would have been more impressive to humanize Lucky's baby mama, Angel.

I suspect it never occurred to Singleton to try. 

He might get a little closer with Juanita in Baby Boy, but we never see her side of what happened with Jody's brother, and so it leaves her to be seen as not nurturing enough. Her boyfriend is shown doing more for Jody.

That doesn't make John Singleton a bad man or a bad director. It might mean that he didn't really spend enough time listening to the women around him and hearing their stories. It's a common problem. 

It is important to be able to recognize a person's shortcomings without needing to hate them and everything they do.

We will probably get to that soon too.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Director Spotlight: JOHN SINGLETON

Had already seen: "Remember the Time" (Michael Jackson video short, 1992)
Watched for this: Boyz n the Hood (1991), Poetic Justice (1993), Higher Learning (1995), Rosewood (1997), Shaft (2000), Baby Boy (2001), 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003), Four Brothers (2005), 30 for 30: Marion Jones: Press Pause (2010), Abduction (2011), American Crime Story Season 1, Episode 5: The Race Card (2016)
Have not seen: 5 television episodes (from Billions, Snowfall, and Rebels) and a video short commemorating the 25th anniversary of Poetic Justice

It's hard to believe I had never seen a John Singleton movie before this. My first was also his first, Boyz n the Hood, viewed on July 2nd, 2019. 

I had been interested in it, but I was more hesitant to see an R-rated movie in 1991. I was also really interested in Rosewood, but in addition to the rating it had gotten some pretty bad reviews. (Which were fair; I referenced that in

Having seen all of the features now, I really appreciate Singleton. One of his best gifts is to take stupid material and make it really fun. 

I know that there are people who love the Fast and Furious franchise, but even then they probably don't call them smart. I thought Hobbes & Shaw looked fun from the trailer; I wish Singleton had directed that! As for Abduction and Four Brothers...

Of course, the stupid ones were all written by other people. I have some mixed feelings about Shaft, where Singleton had a writing credit but was not the main writer. I mean, I am not sure how I should feel about Jeffrey Wright's performance, there seems to be some bad stereotyping going on, but it is also really entertaining,. The movie lunges into its weaknesses I guess, with the playfulness of parody but still not being parody, except for maybe when Shaft throws the badge.

I should mention that I was thrilled to find the American Crime Story episode on Netflix (thank you free trial!), because then I got to see what he did with someone else's really smart material, and it was fantastic.

It was also good to see the Marion Jones feature. That was a different kind of material and very serious. There was a lot of humanity in his direction, which I always appreciate.

I was most blown away by Higher Learning, and that led to a turning point. With some of the themes he approached, I wanted to know more and know what was deliberate and maybe if there were things that he had to leave out. I watched it again with the audio commentary on.

The really big shift was loving that option. Having listened to two others, I wish I had started sooner, though I am not sure that time constraints would have allowed that. I suspect my ideal situation - at least for good movies - is to see them in the theater on the big screen the first time, and then to watch with commentary at home. I could enjoy that.

Anyway, some things were enlightening; sometimes our interests were different. There is a scene near the end where Malik is trying to catch up with a fleeing Remy, and I loved how the shots were set up with the stairs. In the audio, Singleton focused on their fight, with portraits of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson overlooking. I had noticed Washington but not Jefferson. Hearing him talk about that did make me appreciate it more, but man, those stairs and the way it was shot! Or perhaps I got that on my own and did not need to hear him talk about it.

The thing that became very clear to me was how much John Singleton loves movies. Some directors hate having to film the stupid material of other writers. Listening to Singleton mention other directors who influenced him, and other movies, and things Columbia did for him, and people he met through Columbia, and friends and their family members and crew members' family in some parts... he loved watching movies and he loved making movies. Any job he got was a chance to work on his art, to work with people he liked... it makes sense that he could bring the fun, because he could not have loved what he was doing more.

I worried when I first started the commentary that then I would get all attached to him and I would be sad that he was dead. There was some of that, especially when I listened to the Poetic Justice commentary and heard his grief for Tupac Shakur and another friend, Dedrick Gobert, especially in the scene the two shared. And yet, if I had not listened, I probably would not have noticed some shots, and I certainly wouldn't have known that the other guy in the mail room was Janet Jackson's boyfriend, or why that spat in the beauty shop happened, or other little things that are just fun to know.

I do feel a sense of loss that John Singleton died, but I also have a much greater appreciation that he lived.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Introduction to intersection

One of the Outdoor School lessons that I remember was looking beyond food chains to food webs. We had initially been taught something linear, and then it turned out the reality was more complex. 

I can't swear to whether it was them teaching kids the simpler version first, or that even the adults were starting to understand things differently. In 1994 Mufasa explained to Simba that while lions eat antelopes, after they die they become grass, and the antelope eat grass, so clearly it is material that can be taught to children, but it can also make sense to build up to complex things.

When we understand the various kinds of discrimination, there is a lot of complexity. 

You have your basic sexism, more commonly referred to as misogyny now, but it used to be called chauvinism a lot. Those changes in terms ideally help people understand the forces behind them better. You may nonetheless notice a resistance to understanding at times, often expressed as a resentment of political correctness.

It is still a great thing to understand something and to be able to express it. There is a power in naming. It's worth trying to understand.

There is a complexity to misogyny. There is even more complexity to racism.

Racism is not just judging someone by the color of their skin, though that comes up.

Racism is also white supremacy. There was a weird reference to "Aryan" in my Western Civilazation text book about peaceful people in India being mowed down by invaders. That probably came from theories of 19th century French writer Arthur de Gobineau who had this idea of blond white people migrating and founding all of the major civilizations. That's not how it happened, but before his work became popular with Nazis, it was popular with pro-slavery people in the United States .

Therefore, the next thing that it is important to know about racism is that there is also anti-Blackness, which indicates that brown people (who may also be referred to as yellow and red - it is hard trying to keep a necessary discourse about ugly things from turning ugly) are not as good as white people, but still better than if they were Black.

I have written before about how legislation after Bacon's Rebellion made slavery permanent for Black people as a response to Black and white indentured servants banding together. Now, let's remember that quote from Lyndon B. Johnson:

If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you.

I mention those to point out the value of having one race still lower than the other lower races, at least for people who want to think that way. 

(For me, going through and describing it makes me feel like crawling out of my skin, but I believe it is important. I also feel unqualified, but if it is easier as a starter to hear it from someone white and straight and cis, okay, and I will try and give some good resources in a later post.)

There are other prejudices that come into play: homophobia and ableism are big ones, but you will also see ageism at times, and growing fatphobia. Somewhere between white supremacy and anti-Blackness you can find colorism, where things like skin tones and hair texture become important. Money and class still come into play; some socialism-minded people will tell you that fixing them will fix everything else, but they are wrong.

You may also have seen the term BIPOC, for Black and Indigenous People Of Color, acknowledging that "nation of immigrants" does not describe what their historical experience has been.

Having so many vectors of hate is a complication to understanding everything. That some people will internalize the racism of the dominant culture at their own expense can complicate things. But also - and this is what we talk about when we talk about intersectionality - many people fit into more than one category of marginalization. 

So you might have a white disabled woman or a Black gay man or an Asian lesbian, and that gives them different experiences, and may cause them to relate differently. 

I want to make three points here. 

1. I know I'm repeating, but the structure is more of an issue than personal feelings. I reiterate it because that is what makes "reverse racism" a ridiculous charge. Even if I am treated with extra suspicion by a person of color, there are historical reasons for it, and there is a framework supporting me. Back to the white woman calling the police on the Black man in Central Park when he pointed out that it was not an off-leash area for her dog; she knew that calling the police and calling him a threat was dangerous. Video and awareness brought some mild consequence to her, but historically she has whiteness backing her up, and he doesn't. Let's reverse structural racism first and then worry about individual courtesy.

2. If we could get over this desire to exert power over others, we would not need to find so many things to hold against people. The dominator culture model may not have enough analysis beyond gender relations, but it does still get at a core part of the problem.

3. When there are prejudices, and especially as they are built into society and jobs and government, it is easy not to notice them if they don't apply to you. This is a key concept for when we talk about privilege. 

Here is an easy example, looking only at gender and ignoring race (which would add complexity.)

There are different requirements of attractiveness for women than men with most jobs. (Somewhat less in tech.) This tends to mean extra money spent on hair and makeup and clothes. It is magnified since women tend to be paid less, even for the same jobs. 

It is very easy for a man to not know this. It is also quite easy for men to give excuses as to why the wage gap is fair (that are wrong), and pretty easy for them to say that the extra outlay is a choice and not really necessary (also wrong). These are things outside of their own experience. They have to listen to someone with a different experience to understand it, and they are conditioned to assume that they know more about... everything, really.

Now, this discussion is going to go on hold until Monday, and we can spend Thursday and Friday talking about John Singleton, but I want to leave you with one point to ponder until Monday.

How much do you get to ignore if you are on the receiving end of combined white supremacy, anti-Blackness, and misogyny?

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Navigating hierarchies in the microcosm

How's that sound for fancy talk?

I want to get to why people say to listen to Black women and what that means, and I don't want to waste a lot of time cushioning the blows to egos that people might get as they deal with their own privilege.

However, all of the factors that lead up to it are fairly complex, and a lot of it is stuff that happens without a lot of thought. It is more a matter of conditioning than nature, but that conditioning runs deep enough that it can feel unnatural to challenge it. 

My solution to that is going to be a sort of circumnavigation to it, where subsequent posts build on each other. That is my natural tendency anyway (which makes me worry about exactly how much patience reading my blog requires).

First up, I am going to link to a post that I linked to ages ago:

It is a long post that covers a range of things, and I cannot say that I completely agree with Graham's conclusions, but it fascinated me at the time. (His post is from 2003, and I first read it in 2012.) Parts of it definitely resonate with me. The relevant part for today is quite small, but I think true:

Because they're at the bottom of the scale, nerds are a safe target for the entire school. If I remember correctly, the most popular kids don't persecute nerds; they don't need to stoop to such things. Most of the persecution comes from kids lower down, the nervous middle classes.

Now I am going to tell you something from my own experience; when the most popular girl in the school brought some friends to cluster in front of me and talk about how fat I was, it felt like it was every girl in school. It was probably not more than five or six girls total, but part of the effectiveness of bullying is that it feels like it contains the mass of society, whether that is by using superior numbers or superior strength or some other edge. 

(This is also why a smaller kid who bugs you is not a bully, but a pest, though they can still make your life miserable.)

Anyway, since reading that all of those years ago, I have come to recognize it as true. My school experience was never anywhere near as stratified as The Breakfast Club or The Outsiders showed, and there were a lot of different groups with their own hierarchies. You could still point to some people as more popular though, and these were generally not your worst people. If there was a group of boys that were friends, it was probably going to be the least cute one, without a girlfriend, who would pick on you. It's logical; in lieu of other assets, he can at least assert superiority by going after someone below him. 

Like Suzy on the playground when I was six, I have also written about the cafeteria when I was fourteen before. I will probably get to them again soon because I have gotten some new insights, but here is one interesting thing about that incident: for some reason it was just girls that day.

My junior high group was more or less five other girls and four boys, with some fluctuation. We did not get picked on a lot. We did have teachers tell us to quiet down at least once when we were having too much fun, but despite being overwhelmingly nerdy we did not attract a lot of abuse, except for that day.

Perhaps it was safety in numbers, but I tend to think now that some of it was the guys being gone. 

For future reference, studying one form of bigotry does not automatically mean that you understand all forms, but you find parallels. You should not even try and draw a straight line between misogyny and racism, but if you notice similarities, pay attention.

In Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny by Kate Manne, Manne grapples with what misogyny means and how it plays out. Is it really hatred of women? Is it really dehumanizaton?

There is a lot to it, but a key part is that men expect women to be available for them, with an understanding that some women will already be property of others. That would explain why so many men after grossly coming on to a woman will then apologize to her husband after they find out that she is taken.

A less obvious example might be how men like telling random women to smile: does it reflect an actual interest in her emotional state, or is it more an injunction to not kill his buzz?

A good one to check right now is how a man handles political disagreement with women versus other men. There is a different anger at feminine disagreement, though if you ask about that, it is very offensive.

Remember, for a long time a woman was viewed as the property of her father until she married, at which time she was deeded over to her husband. Many of the moves toward legal equality have happened in my lifetime, and there are other moves that have not happened at all. It's not surprising that there are un-examined expectations.

So, in retrospect I have to wonder if the absence of any boys at our table that day made us seem like fair game. I had realized a while ago that perhaps I should not have taken the incident so much to heart in light of the fact that none of them were boys that I found attractive or nice; I did not care anything about them until then. (Maybe that was the problem.) Looking back in light of Graham's work, I can also say that none of those boys stood out athletically or musically or intellectually. 

The really cute and talented boys didn't need to bug us, but even for those boys, if they had been nice we would have talked to them. We were all pretty nice people. If they wanted to dominate, though, yeah, that approach was probably best.

Interesting tidbit: a few years ago one of the boys contacted me through Facebook and I brought up the incident. He had no memory of it. He expressed regret, because the next year he got bad acne and was really unpopular, and he would hate it if anyone treated his daughter like that. 

My experience could not seem as real as his own, or an imagined one to his traditional property. It doesn't make him a bad person, and I didn't necessarily want him to be haunted for life, but he has not engaged with patriarchy and come away a better person. If he is in a solid enough place in life he probably does not feel a need to pick on anyone, but that is not so much enlightenment as luck.

That's probably enough for today, but let me point out the obvious: these interactions are rooted in rank and power. bell hooks has used the phrase "dominator culture" for this. It turned a light on in my head, but I have not read a lot beyond that. 

The term was first popularized by Riane Eisler, who contrasts the dominator model with the partnership model, and whose work focuses on relationships between men and women. 

Therefore, it relates well to today's content, but we will be moving beyond that to intersectionality.

Monday, October 12, 2020

The unbearable whiteness of tech bros

That title may feel a little in-your-face. 

It happened because I got mad. I got mad at myself for not just coming right out and saying that the problem was white people, and then I got mad that it felt so necessary to cushion the blow because white people are so sensitive about their skin color. 

Allow me to insert my periodic reminder that I am white and I do know it. I'm not trying to fool anyone about that. I am also not ashamed of it, nor am I trying to make anyone else feel ashamed of being white. However, our society has a legacy of patriarchy that has reflected and sustained a certain power structure, and we have to deal with that. As much as I love kindness, an individual commitment to niceness will not fix this.

Now let's get back to the movie.

In The Social Dilemma we get a parade of white men (Jaron Lanier's dreadlocks do not make him any less white), most of whom got rich off of social media and now feel bad about it. They have been thinking about it deeply - one has co-founded a center - and yet somehow they don't offer anything really helpful. 

Maybe they are talking to the wrong people.

Personally, I wanted to scream "Where are the Black women?"

I had included multiple links in the previous posts that approached that, but here is another article I like:

We disagree somewhat on the statistics - I remember an additional brown guy - but I am not going to watch it again. It wasn't that great, and it's more important to follow the information that will help. There are people who have been working on this. I want to say more about that later. Today I want to focus on the reasons for the gap.

Early in the film, the interviewer asked several of the subjects to name the problem and got a bunch of blank stares. I was saying "People. It's people. Say people." Then someone did say it, so we're getting closer, right? But still not doing anything with it.

They did kind of poke at how structural racism can be a factor. There was a line about it being white guys, and they showed some footage related to white supremacists. The family was carefully made a blended family, so you had two races represented. And yet, they still just couldn't come out and identify racism as a key problem. The white family members had more character development; the white talking heads got more screen time.

Here's the thing: people - at least especially white people - get easily offended about racism. I felt that pressure myself in just writing about the movie, and yet, I know that I am not going to get anywhere without addressing it; I would like to see proof that Jeff Orlowski knows that too. 

Even more, I would like to see Tristan Harris (no relation) talk about the conversations he has had with people who have traced the spread of white supremacy through different aspects of internet use. I would like to see him talk about seeking out people who have faced online harassment. Many of those people will be women, and women of color, and Black women, and they will be queer and non-binary and some will have disabilities and knowing all of that WHY IS THIS A PARADE OF WHITE MEN?

No offense, white men. I am fond of many of you. I also know that society has prioritized you in a way that can make it very uncomfortable for you to have to consider the opinions of people who are not white and male. I have seen levels of offense taken at some questions that should be really surprising (because the questions are actually pretty mild), but then it happens often enough that it loses the ability to surprise. No, it doesn't mean that everything is easy for you; but that was never the point. When you won't listen to that, though, and when you won't allow a point that doesn't have you at the center, well, then you suck.

And when a subset of white men - and mind you, they are frequently not poor white men but raised in affluent areas and getting good educations with connection to capital - controls the conversation around technology, there should be nothing surprising about the technology reflecting and exacerbating patriarchy. It would require effort and awareness to change that.

Therefore, it is also completely logical that these are not the best people to solve the problem.

I mean, I guess it's nice that some of them acknowledge there is a problem. When we say "If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem", I can see how they think they should become the solution. Great. It's going to require de-centering. It's going to require listening to people who do not look or sound like you, and paying them and crediting them. 

"Disrupt" is a very popular word in tech, but if the only disruption is that some new white men become rich, it's not that big a disruption, is it? 

To be fair, The Social Dilemma focused on the bad that is done, while briefly mentioning the good in the beginning. There is a lot of good, and people from the margins have used that bandwidth effectively, and then been targeted for it. Listen to them.

And because I think a lot of people have heard that we need to listen to Black women but don't really understand what that means or why it is important, that is what I am going to try to address next.

Friday, October 09, 2020

Horror un-fan

When I was a child I did not understand why anyone would write something with an unhappy ending. If you were in control, and could choose what happened, why would you make bad things happen? It's not that I objected to there being conflicts for adventure, of course, but it should all resolve in a positive way.

Decades later, I guess my first answer was that you are not really in control. I found that on my first novel; it did not end the way I had been planning on. My mind was doing all of these leaps and somersaults to try and make it come out right, and then it was clear that it wasn't right. For those people and circumstances, they were eventually going to end up together but it wasn't going to happen then.

Later, I would read short stories by novelists I loved and be kind of appalled. It turns out the sometimes the short form makes it fun to experiment with the dark side of things, whereas with the longer commitment of a full work, that would feel very different. I have written some dark, short stuff.

The thing that hasn't changed, though, and I hope it doesn't, is that I still fill my work with good people who try and do good things. Not everyone is like that, but I try to still see the humanity of those who aren't even trying. Ultimately no matter how frustrating people are (and that can be a lot), I still love people and am good at liking them. There have been books that I should have liked in terms of plot and everything, but where I was ultimately held back by the contempt for humanity that I felt coming from the writer. That is my sensibility.

When I don't like horror, it's not that I get scared, or grossed out, or anything obvious. I just don't enjoy it.

This was not true of old classic horror; I have a real fondness for old B movies, especially when they are getting mocked by late night hosts. There have been a lot of movies that are as terrible as they are fun. I love those. 

I don't love movies that fetishize how lovely women's bodies can be as you kill and dismember them, especially when they deserve it for having sex, or for being beautiful but out of reach for some guy. 

I don't love movies that have a group of people that you care about dying one by one, until finally the last one gets to kill the monster. Making them people you don't care about doesn't help it for me. Also, making the last character die instead of surviving doesn't help.

Based on my basic objections to horror, things like the surge in popularity of "torture porn"  or the more nihilistic movies where no one overcomes anything aren't going to solve it for me.

For the record, I think when I remember questioning why people would make movies like that, it was probably due to my father's fondness for Clint Eastwood movies. Whether they were the Westerns or the Dirty Harry movies, those were bleak, from a humanity standpoint. Maybe I am not surprised that Clint turned out the way he did.

I read some pretty bleak non-fiction, but I want my movies to be fun. However, if someone makes a really good point about something via horror, then I may feel like I need to watch it.

Get Out  and Us had a lot to think about. I don't regret seeing them. I kind of got the points they were making by reading about them, but watching is different.You feel it more.

I could never enjoy a Purge film, but I get why they might be important. I might get something out of Bird Box or A Quiet Place, but I don't think I want to.

If I give in and watch more horror, it will probably be for Bong Joon-ho, with Parasite and The Host. If I don't want to, it is because of Ki-jung and Hyun-seo, but I suspect their respective losses are deliberate. I think he is making a point; if I do watch them it will be for that.

I would probably still be happier watching those than watching the Bad Idea movies.

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