Topics For Discussion (Weekend Edition)

Image result for burning sneakers

I don’t know if I’m a smart person. I’ve been told by various individuals that I am, (my brother would refer to me as a forgetful bobblehead), but I have spent my whole life trying to find out as much about the world as I can. To know as much as I can find out. So, to see the world descending into the real life version of the movie Idiocracy, is incredibly galling. I watched that movie a couple of years ago, thinking it would just be a stupid comedy, but I had a real emotional reaction to watching a movie about the decline of the human mind into… well, whatever that was in the movie, and I had to stop watching it, about halfway through. If you have never seen that movie, and your head contains brain cells that work, BY ALL THAT IS HOLY, DO NOT WATCH IT!!!! That will only end in tears.

Watching that movie will eliminate any and all faith that you had in humanity, and send you into a hell of depression and anger, as you recognize which version of the universe we are all now living in. People destroying property they have already bought, in protest of some corporate disfavor, is surely one of the signs of the apocalypse.

And don’t think this is just a problem of the Right. The Left has engaged in this sort of thing as well. Its the kind of behavior that people engage in when they have perhaps heard of protesting but aren’t quite sure how the process works.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/from-nike-to-keurig-conservatives-keep-blowing-up-things-they-bought-to-own-libs?via=newsletter&source=DDAfternoon

The stunts aren’t really boycotts at all, but attempts to channel political impotence through consumption. One American can’t change much with a vote, but she can easily set fire to her sneakers, in accordance with her political leanings.

 

 

 

Actually this article was both terrifying and hilarious. Also, it really just cements the idea in my head that bigots are people who simply lack any real imagination. Such people cannot imagine the world in any other  way other than one where they aren’t masters of everyone else in it. The only dynamic they seem to be able to  understand is one in which they are dominated by some other group, (which utterly terrifies them), or they dominate everyone else (which largely consists of bullying, terrorizing, and murdering those others.)

Being an effective artist, (especially a writer), capable of expressing nuanced ideas, requires a level of self examination, and people-knowledge that such bigots are wholly ignorant of. It requires an understanding of complexity. Anything that comes out of their imagination can only be simplistic, often appropriated from elsewhere, or pulled from their truncated understanding of  how the world works. They don’t know enough about people to write them well. They don’t know enough about the world to be able to imagine it in any  way  outside of their terror of it. These stories are full of the authors imagining the worst for stand-up, straight, morally righteous, White people, like themselves, or the worst for everyone else.

 

 

If you visit the website, linked in the article, you will have to sit there for quite a while. The author says he managed to sit through 19 minutes of it and couldn’t fastforward, go back, or pause. If you leave the site, you will just have to start  at the beginning, watching you don’t know how many minutes of a montage of videos illustrating the White Savior narrative in movies. There’s a part of me that finds that deeply funny.

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https://verysmartbrothas.theroot.com/terence-nances-whitepeoplewontsaveyou-org-and-the-never-1828809698

The Blind Side is just one of many white-savior films Terence Nance skewers on his sublime WhitePeopleWontSaveYou.org—a website that just plays scenes from them on an endless loop while a chorus sings “White people won’t save you.” Also, the website doesn’t allow you to pause, rewind or fast forward. You just have to sit and watch and wonder when it ends. (I watched 19 minutes of it last night, so I know it’s at least that long.)

 

 

This article asks the age old question: Why don’t people ride bikes during or after the apocalypse? The answer is that’s something that only works in books, and looks a lot less cool than wearing BDSM gear on a motorcycle. We are so used to the Mad Max version of the the end of the world, I think we would have a hard time grasping the image  of people riding bikes during it.

We Westerners also  seem to think that that would be a global phenomenon, too. It just  occurred to me that huge parts of Asia would not be entirely up-heaved by the end of the world. People in Japan, India, and China already regularly use bicycles right now.

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https://www.thedailybeast.com/where-are-the-bicycles-in-post-apocalyptic-fiction

Bicycles don’t break their legs, they don’t need to be fed, and on a modern road, their gait is a lot smoother. The bicycle was a radical transportation breakthrough, especially when combined with the paved road, which is why millions and millions of people in poor countries still use them.

 

 

 

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This article discusses how science fiction gets racial allegories wrong. The writer points  out how the people being feared and despised by the populace  (mutants, aliens,  orcs), are almost always given enough power that  makes the fear of them entirely justified. Racial allegories written by White writers really just end up justifying real world racism. Basically saying, it’s okay to police the bodies of Black and Brown people because they really are dangerous to the dominant group. This was the major problem with the movie Bright.

http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-cringe-worthy-way-sci-fi-fantasy-deal-with-prejudice/

So, in the least-racist way you can, please imagine black people are hideous violent monsters who are physically stronger than humans and have large protruding fangs. Then understand in your kind human heart that we should accept these hideous monsters as equal to us normal, beautiful humans.

 

 

 

I thought this was especially interesting. One of the reasons I didn’t make any effort to watch Crazy Rich Asians is not just because I’m not a fan of romantic comedies, but because of the presence of Awkwafina, a female Asian rapper, who traffics in the usual tired appropriation of whatever African American tropes are floating around in her head.  She needs to find a way to express herself that does not involve stereotypes of Black culture.

I have met (and befriended) both Asian Americans, and White people, who grew up in Black culture. They lived in the ‘hood, went to school with Black kids, and all their friends were Black. They dressed, spoke, and acted just like the Black Americans around them. I do not think this is what’s happened in the case of Awkwafina. Is this some form of minstrelsy when engaged in by Asian Americans, and what does it say about them, as a group, that they  feel a need to choose between being Black or White?

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https://www.colorlines.com/articles/performing-blackness-wont-fill-our-asian-american-culture-deficit-op-ed

“If first-generation White European immigrants…could use minstrelsy…to not only ensure their status as White people, but also to distance themselves from Black people, can Asian Americans use hip hop (the music, clothing, language and gestures, sans charcoal makeup), and everything it signifies to also assert their dominance over Black bodies, rather than their allegiance to Black liberation?”

 

 

 

 

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The people fighting against diversity in publishing are fighting a lost battle, I think. The Hugo Awards are probably trolling the Alt- Right at this point.

https://www.vox.com/2018/8/21/17763260/n-k-jemisin-hugo-awards-broken-earth-sad-puppies

But as we’ve also seen, these pushes for social change have led to backlash tinged with racism and misogyny — most notably through Gamergate, the unfortunate 2014 movement that essentially underpinned the rise of the alt-right, codified harassment campaigns against women and people of color for years, and helped give rise to the ideological polarization of the internet.

 

 

I’m always fascinated by the ideological differences between Eastern and Western approaches to technology. This article reminds me that I’ve seen very few movies and TV shows out of the East that make robots the bad guys. I’m sure there are some, but none come to mind for me. Asians have a very different approach to thinking about technology, than Westerners do. For Asian people robots and AI are friends, or allies, or happy tools that perform specific purposes. For Westerners (i.e. White people) there’s a tendency to think of robots as rivals, or enemies.

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https://www.wired.com/story/ideas-joi-ito-robot-overlords/

Technology is now at a point where we need to start thinking about what, if any, rights robots deserve and how to codify and enforce those rights. Simply imagining that our relationships with robots will be like those of the human characters in Star Wars with C-3PO, R2-D2 and BB-8 is naive.

 

 

This article is about how music (and musical styles) have degraded over the years. I still say that the 20th century was the time of the Great Vocalists, and although there are people who are good vocalists today, that an unprecedented number of them were born in the last century, and we will probably not see something like that again, (unless its an era that repeats itself later this century).

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https://www.intellectualtakeout.org/article/tragic-decline-music-literacy-and-quality

Music electronics are another aspect of musical decline as the many untalented people we hear on the radio can’t live without autotune. Autotune artificially stretches or slurs sounds in order to get it closer to center pitch. Many of today’s pop musicians and rappers could not survive without autotune, which has become a sort of musical training wheels. But unlike a five-year-old riding a bike, they never take the training wheels off to mature into a better musician.

 

 

 

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An interesting article about what it’s like to navigate an environment in which your hair is a source of fascination and political rebellion. I started wearing my hair in its natural state about three, maybe four, years ago, not for political reasons, but because I got tired of trying to keep it straight. None of the White people I know has evinced an ounce of interest in my hair. So far they are keeping silent about their thoughts. Black people however are willing to ascribe all manner of political motivations to me wearing my hair the way it just grows out of my head.

Even in Africa, Black people are fighting battles about how and where they can wear their natural hair.

https://qz.com/africa/1215070/black-hair-myths-from-slavery-to-colonialism-school-rules-and-good-hair/

This is one of the first dilemmas that black people face: do I let people touch my hair and under what circumstances? The question, “can I touch it?” becomes one of the most awkward social moments and can break relationships before they even start.

 

 

This was the topic that got to me though. Mostly I was just intensely baffled by it. The very first image that came to my mind was a scene from the book World War Z. There’s a chapter where one of the interviewees describes something called “Quislings”. He says its a French word for turncoat or something like that. Well, anyway he says that certain types of people ,when confronted with some emotionally overwhelming horror, try to appease that horror by becoming it, and that’s what quislings were trying to do, by pretending to be zombies. Of course, the zombies know they’re not zombies and promptly ate them. He describes a scene where zombies ate a quisling, but the person was so wrapped up in the delusion of being a zombie, that they were eaten alive while not making a sound, still pretending to the end.

Make of that description what thou wilt.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/why-young-men-of-color-are-joining-white-supremacist-groups

Tarrio and other people of color at the far-right rallies claim institutional racism no longer exists in America. In their view, blacks are to blame for any lingering inequality because they are dependent on welfare, lack strong leadership, and believe Democrats who tell them “You’re always going to be broke. You’re not going to make it in society because of institutional racism,” as one mixed-race man put it.

Black Panther Selected Readings 3

*Since this movie blew up the theaters there have been a metric ton of think-pieces and examinations about it. I’ve tried to collect as many of these as I thought were interesting, leaving out all the contrarian negative stuff. I know I promised to write a review, but there’s nothing I would say in it that isn’t already covered by the three lists of think pieces I’ve collected. (Maybe later, I’ll jot something down about my feelings for the various characters or something.)

*But first up, I thought this essay was related to the idea of Wakanda having never been colonized, versus how we are all taught by popular media to think of the continent of Africa. You can read this first ,and then play a drinking game of how many times the writers do these things in the following articles:

Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title. Subtitles may include the words ‘Zanzibar’, ‘Masai’, ‘Zulu’, ‘Zambezi’, ‘Congo’, ‘Nile’, ‘Big’, ‘Sky’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Drum’, ‘Sun’ or ‘Bygone’. Also useful are words such as ‘Guerrillas’, ‘Timeless’, ‘Primordial’ and ‘Tribal’. Note that ‘People’ means Africans who are not black, while ‘The People’ means black Africans.

Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.

—-   https://granta.com/how-to-write-about-africa/

 

Politics:

Black Panther has a lot to say about politics:

Image result for black panther movie politics

https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/2/27/17029730/black-panther-marvel-killmonger-ir

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/02/the-provocation-and-power-of-black-panther/553226/

https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/black-panther-and-the-invention-of-africa?

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/02/black-panther-review/553508/

https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/2/26/17029572/black-panther-marvel-politics

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/richard-brody/the-passionate-politics-of-black-panther

The Revolutionary Power of Black Panther

https://www.theroot.com/when-wakanda-was-real-1822745590

https://www.theroot.com/america-wakanda-for-white-people-1823224399

https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/movies/a18241993/black-panther-review-politics-killmonger/

*I didn’t agree with this review but I’m including it here because some of you will find it interesting, and the author does make other salient points. I have to admit, I was a bit taken aback by the depiction of the lone African American in the movie. I was deeply saddened by Killmonger, while agreeing with much of his philosophy. I get why he was angry. I was also saddened by the fate of the only African American woman in the entire film, and I wish the director had put more thought into it. I get the point he’s trying to make, but it still felt pretty bad to watch that point being made.

http://bostonreview.net/race/christopher-lebron-black-panther

 

View at Medium.com

5 Lessons from Black Panther That Can Save Our Lives — and Transform Black Politics – Medium.com

Dear Fellow White People: Go See “Black Panther” – Medium.com

Here are six reasons. Do it this weekend. Seriously, just go.

 

*This article is about people who are trolling the movie. As the movie began to take off last weekend, there were a number of alt-right trolls who posted fake tweets demonising the movie’s fans, and claiming that white people had been beaten up at theaters. 

I put this here to point out the utter futility of their efforts in trying to disparage and destroy this movie. Their efforts will always meet with failure, not because they’re awful, (because yeah,  they are) but because, by the time they are resorting to  efforts to sabotage these movies, it’s already too late. These acts are purely defensive, and only illustrate how little control such people have over mainstream media.

All they have in their arsenal to combat progress is more of the same lies and vitriol against black people that they’ve always espoused. Their messages are not new, and not effective.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/02/black-panther-loved-by-the-world-hated-by-trolls/

 

Psychology:

*Not all of these essays were written by Black reviewers, but even so, I thought the reviewer, regardless of race, had interesting things to say about the philosophies of, and psychology behind, the film’s characters. Just becasue White reviewers can’t (or won’t) talk about race,  doesn’t mean they have nothing worthwhile to say on other topics.

https://www.theroot.com/on-the-duality-and-double-consciousness-of-black-panthe-1823260321

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/02/black-panther-erik-killmonger/553805/

https://www.theroot.com/killmonger-was-wrong-and-ya-ll-know-it-1823134207

https://www.aljazeera.com/amp/indepth/opinion/black-panther-pilgrimage-180218151402202.html

https://io9.gizmodo.com/director-ryan-coogler-explains-the-identity-issues-at-t-1822937410

https://melmagazine.com/what-black-panther-teaches-us-about-when-fathers-lie-to-their-sons-183113d95520

http://birthmoviesdeath.com/2018/02/13/the-fleshing-out-of-black-masculine-archetypes-in-ryan-cooglers-films

One Tribe: Black Panther’s Altruism

 

The Women:

Let’s face it, women are the backbone of this movie, holding it down and keeping it 100. I was surprised to find that my favorite female character was Nakia. (I thought it would be Okoye.)

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I was watching and after Okoye was called the general a boy next to me said : “I didn’t know girls can be generals!”
That’s why representation matters

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One of the best things about was definitely the women. Shuri, our princess is cheeky, charming and a fcking genius. Okoye could kill me and I’d gladly thank her. If I have even an ounce of Nakia’s compassion, I would be a better woman that I am now.

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https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/02/black-panther-who-plays-shuri-letitia-wright-profile

https://verysmartbrothas.theroot.com/another-reason-why-shuri-is-the-greatest-disney-princes-1823136306

https://io9.gizmodo.com/black-women-are-black-panthers-mightiest-heroes-1823205912

http://blacknerdproblems.com/blackpanther-movie-review/

https://io9.gizmodo.com/wakandas-indomitable-culture-is-why-the-women-of-black-1822923859

 

From Tumblr:

 

The Making of:

*Everyone wants to know everything about the making of Wakanda, and Ruth Carter’s  major influences on her designs for the film.

Ruth Carter is a Hollywood costume designer who grew up in Springfield. Her career spans a long list of major motion pictures, and she is best known for her work on Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X” and Steven Spielberg’s “Amistad,” receiving Academy Award nominations for both films. Carter’s most recent work can be seen in “Selma,” a film about the trio of marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965.

Image result for ruth carter

Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’ is a broad mix of African cultures—here are some of them

https://pitchfork.com/thepitch/how-black-panther-composer-ludwig-goransson-found-the-sound-of-wakanda-interview/

 

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 darkdamiaknight

“The PanAfrican flag is red, black and green, so when you see Okoye, T’Challa and Nakia in their covert looks, you’re seeing the PanAfrican flag.” – Ryan Coogler, director of Black Panther.

 

 

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Oh, yeah. The hair thing:

 

The Fans:

*This essay was originally written as a response to Beyonce’s Lemonade but many of the writer’s arguments can be equally applied to any media that is made by, and speaks to, a Black audience, including Black Panther.

Beyoncé’s Lemonade: A Lesson on Appreciating Art That Wasn’t Made for You

 

*This is what Tumblr fans are saying about representation:

*Took my african dad to see Black Panther

theghostwasblue

*no spoilers*

He does not like superhero movies and normally he falls asleep in the cinema. But not this time, he was on the edge of his seat and he said that he didn’t wanna miss a single moment. He absolutely loved the movie, the first thing he did when we got home was to call his african friend, yelling at him to go watch it as soon as possible. The second thing he did was ask me when the sequel will be out.

I asked my dad what he liked about the movie and he said everything. He loved that almost everyone was black and that they spoke Xhosa. He was so happy that they captured what life is actually like in many african cities in those scenes when they were walking around in wakanda. Seeing the people sit in cafes, buying food from food stands, kids running around with school bags, just people living their everyday life all the while being unapologetically african. He said he felt as if he was back home. And he was so happy that there finally was a movie where africans weren’t starving, or warlords, or dealing drugs. He told me that this is the kind of movie he has wanted to see for years, not alluding to the superhero stuff but the fact that they portray africans the same way that most if not all movies portray white people and not criminalize or dehumanize them but uplifting them. He loved every single character and especially M’Baku but his absolute favourite was the Queen mother Ramonda because she was so calm and collected while simultaneously being this strong queen. My dad, coming from a culture that really uplifts and value mothers and holds them above all, felt like the movie really captured that in Ramonda and that’s why he loved her.

He loved the soundtrack and how they mixed in djembe drums and traditional african singing with modern western music and he loved the costumes because a lot of the clothes look like the things people are wearing at all the african parties we go to.

The only complaint my dad had was that the sound was to high, which was his own fault for insisting that he sit at the end of the row right next to one of the speakers.

So yeah, representation do matter. I’ve never in my life seen him so happy about a movie. And he wanted to talk about it after it had ended which never happens normally. We joked around with the idea of him being a wakandan wardog stationed here and we did Shuris and T’Challas little handshake saying that is the only way we will now greet other africans. This movie gave my dad pure joy and happiness and it gave us a bonding opportunity because we finally have something that we both could geek out about.

Source: theghostwasblue
*Hollywood needs to start getting itself together:

*This needs to be said…

After Black Panther, and Coco, and all the other great films that have come out and boasted great representation (and great Box Office returns) I hope all movie studios are aware that nothing can every go back to the way it used to be.

Like, you know how when you’ve had something high quality, and you just can’t go back to the bargain brand again because you know what this product is supposed to be?

Well, Black Panther and Coco just introduced an entire generation of people (young and old alike) what positive representation is supposed to feel like.

People aren’t going to stand for “This character couldn’t be X because it’s a stereotype.”

People aren’t going to stand for “This character had a small role but it’s fine because X”

People ain’t gonna stand for “Finn can’t be written well because there’s no place for his story to go”

People aren’t going to stand for “Iron Fist couldn’t be Asian-American because it perpetuates a stereotype.

People aren’t going to stand for “We couldn’t find the right type of actor so we just went with a white person.”

People aren’t going to stand for “Let’s make the black woman a frog for the entire movie.”

People aren’t going to stand for “There weren’t any people of color in this era. It wouldn’t be historically accurate.”

People aren’t going to stand for “Well…it’s close enough, isn’t it? Why’re you complaining?”

Movie studios  thought it was bad before? Honey. Buckle up.

 

*The Alnur African Drum and Dance Troupe as The Dora Milaje

The Fans

 

In Africa:

I loved the African reaction to this movie:

 

*And the windup:

https://bidoun.org/articles/how-to-write-about-africa-ii

 

 

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