I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
January 24, 2016 - 1:35 p.m.
I did not get venture outside yesterday or even get dressed. I feel bad about that, I love snow. Yes, there was an alert and it was a matter of public safety but I could have walked to Lincoln Park, taken some pictures, and come home without inconveniencing or endangering anyone. Oh well. Now to see if I can get myself out of the house today. I really have to, I'm out of nasal strips and if I want to sleep well tonight I have to buy some. Before I started using them the first thing I would do every morning before I went to the bathroom even, was drink water because mouth breathing made it taste terrible.
So what did I do yesterday? I failed to even binge watch. I should have at least watched a movie. I watched Friday the 13th: the TV Series but that's about it. I did listen to a good deal of music, Tannhäuser on WQXR, the complete Bobtown oeuvre, and I ripped and listened to al albums by Isle of Klezbos and Metropolitan Klezmer. Just noticed I listened to Wagner and Jewish music. Goes to show that the music is not the composer. A nice atheist Jewish boy can still love the music of the anti-Semitic Wagner. I also cleared out my recent photo backlog though I still have some from 2014 I have to get through. I'll show you what I posted.
Bobtown at Spiral Sounds
Free Dirt APAP Showcase with Dori Freeman, Anna & Elizabeth, Kristin Andreassen, and Teddy Thompson
EVA at Rockwood
Klezmer Brunch with Isle of Klezbos and Metropolitan Klezmer
I take a lot of pictures. Someone once said that I'm a documenter, I take pictures, videos, and write about what I experience. Too bad the word used wasn't documenter. I can't remember what he or she actually said. But it's the right idea. When they write the history of the Northeast folk scene I will be a primary source.
I really wanted sweet garlic chicken and plantains but I'm out of fresh garlic and plantains. I also have no cash so I couldn't walk a block and buy some if the produce place was open. This was the main reason I wanted to go out. I decided that discretion is the better part of valor. I made jerk chicken and Shai-Hulud potato. The chicken was great and the potato was the best I ever made. I think the difference is timing. I cook it the same every time but the potatoes are different sizes. Perhaps I should weigh them before I cook them and discover the ideal times. Whatever it is the potato melted in my mouth. It was a heavenly tuber.
There are two stories in the news now that are leading my thoughts once again to the issue of race in America, Flint Michigan's water and the Academy Awards. I'm not going to say, "racism is bad." That's pointless, not only do you know that but most racists know that. Writing that sentence made something else click in my head that makes sense of my other thoughts and is very much in line with my general philosophy of people and morality. Writing helps me think.
Let's start with the more important story, Flint. It is a poor largely black city in a financial crisis due to the loss of its biggest employer GM. The City is essentially in receivership run by a manager appointed by the state. The City government is still there but they have to do what the manager says. To save money they switched from the Detroit water system to using water from the Flint River. The water corroded the city's pipes. When they made the switch they were told to add anti-corrosive agents to the water but didn't to save more money. The corrosion let lead leach into the water poisoning the population of the city. The state was notified about this and not only did nothing but insulted and derided the black citizens of Flint for complaining. When the initial tests came out showing the high lead level the state didn't release them. The governor himself was part of the process. When it the story exploded in the news the governor did a mea culpa, though he did not resign or fire anyone. And to the point that I'm getting to, denied that race was a factor. I'm sure he thinks that. I am confident he didn't say, "look it's just a bunch of black; they aren't as important as money." While there are people that think that way it's not what happens most of the time and I'm sure not by the governor of Michigan today. Prejudice is subtler and more complex than that. When he was weighing what to do he unconsciously discounted their complaints. He underestimated the dangers. I'm sure in his mind he wasn't poisoning people. But I'm also sure that if it was an affluent white suburb that he'd have seen things differently. When the complaints rolled in he'd have investigated. When he was told of the dangers he'd have done something about it.
You might be saying what difference does it make? The difference is that when you call someone a racist they get defensive and defend their decisions. They know that it's a bad thing to be a racist. And it's too Manichean, dividing the world into good people and bad people. The reality is that there is prejudice in all of us and people are more willing to change when they are approached that way. Start by examining your own actions. Do you put yourself in the other person's shoes? Do you identify with the other person? Do you make an effort to do so? Clearly Governor Snyder did not do that. His Mea Culpa is not a true taking of responsibility. This was such a huge mistake he should resign. But he's not the only one. What of the Obama appointee in the EPA that didn't make the findings public? He did resign as he should have. Is everyone in the EPA going to examine their motivations in the future? I hope so.
Now on to the Oscars. In some ways this is more interesting and more food for thought. The complaint is that no African Americans were nominated for best actor or actress. 13.2% of Americans are African Americans and there are five nominees in both categories the odds of their being no black nominee is 24%. If there were no racism anywhere it would happen once every four years. That's far from proof of bigotry. But this is where it gets interesting. African Americans don't get 13.2% of the good parts, they get less. Some of this is no doubt due to prejudice in the film industry but it's more due to prejudice in general. Most filmgoers are still white and whites like everyone but especially the majority identify more with people like themselves, so they go to more films about whites than about blacks. So the bottom line men, they are overwhelmingly men, who are looking just to make money will fund more films about whites. Not because they dislike blacks but because they want to make more money. But, this is all about the buts, but this isn't a science. Nobody knows what will be a hit (except for Star Wars of course). If the decisions were made by African Americans or Women different choices would be made. But different doesn't mean better, at least in terms of the bottom line.
What it all comes down to is that I think it's unfair to blame the Academy, the prejudice is there but it's spread throughout society. Spend the political capitol fighting the Flints not the Academy. Of course a reminder to keep race in mind when making the decisions is good, It should be done most of all by the viewing public. The men who complained that Mad Max was about women should just be asking, "what's wrong with that?"
I said earlier that people like watching films about people "like themselves." That's the key. Who do you consider like you? We're all giant bags of mostly water. Can we learn to identify with everyone? Is that something that can be taught? I think history has shown than it can. Bill James pointed out that before Jackie Robinson people were very aware of baseball players' ethnicity, they thought of them as Italian or Irish or German. Once the color line was broken they were all simply white. One form of prejudice drove out another. I'm sure more benign forces can do the same thing. As I always point out the place to start changing the world is yourself.
OK now I have to eat. It's too late now so I'm not going to make pancakes. I'm going to go for quick and easy, a breakfast sandwich.
Brother Brothers in Arms - October 01, 2017
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