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#1 wc.edwards

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 12:05 PM

I was greatly impressed by Mr. Johnson's sobering and honest presentation of the problems we face as authors after seeing him on a C-Span panel a week or two ago.  I was impressed enough to join your forum. You just cut through the bullshit and hype. It also forced me to try to come up with a solution for a number of problems. Here is one I offer up here for discussion and critiques.  

For black authors facing low literacy rates in their communities, the suggestions I make here may be the new face of writing. Not necessarily the graphic novel. Comic books perhaps could have done the job but comics can't here. Why?  Because many individual black comic artists and writers are not part of a disciplined publishing house with high editorial standards and with the socially responsible goals of producing comics to improve literacy in low income areas. Such a company would have to print comics on a  not-for profit basis to be affordable to poor people and perhaps be more like quality YA  genre fiction rather than Marvel and DC's current line of super heroic escapism. Nor would it be simply Classics Illustrated made trendy for today's youth. Economically it's not possible to bring quality comics to the poor or working class. Yet comics and cartoons can be very educational as well as entertaining but would require both a moral and artistic purpose rather than be driven by for profit motives.

The price of comics today is no longer universal. In the old days, a rich or poor kid could buy a comic, now only children with big allowances and spending money can afford to collect today's more expensive comics.  There were poor nerds in my working class black neighborhood in the Bronx.  When I was a kid in the 70s even when the price went up to 25 cents I could still buy four comics for a dollar. Maybe that was my lunch/snack money, but it's a lot more expensive to buy four comics today. Comics have become another luxury product of advertising's shift to extreme demographic marketing, not just disposal income marketing as it was before. It has over several decades become more keenly focused on race, class and money, at least it seems that way to me.  I also read a study about this shift in advertising, it is no longer aimed at just an all around American ideal customer or consumer, it's a careful manipulation of specific groups and incomes. They are aiming better at different targets. The good old days weren't all that good, but things have changed for the worse in some respects.

It's not our fault that we live in a walkie-talkie society. Remember the fun of walkie talkies. This what the cellphones and texting has become for very lonely people.  As writers we know reading requires moments of isolation. It seems more and more people are afraid to be alone with themselves or they don't have enough time.  This may be one of the reasons the internet, cellphones, and social media are destructive to traditional storytelling in which the author creates not an interactive story, two way that allows the viewer, reader choices, but for the customer to find a quiet place to open himself up to other experiences not his own and then to find something of himself in those stories. Another C-Span panel discussed interactive media as the latest trendy thing.  I don't know if any of you saw Devon Harris on C-Span talking about interactive media? If you haven't, check it out.

Mr. Harris gave a simple example with a Spiderman trailer in which the customer had choices on which storyline he wanted to follow, Spidey getting the girl or saving the world.  The studio then can also see what numbers in what demographic selected save the girl instead of the world scenes. This will then be used for further marketing purposes. The terrible thing about this process is that is tied to commercial bottom line thinking and is controlled by giant for profit companies sucking up to and pandering to audience escapism and ignorance.  

A much much easier thing to do than gently or kindly slapping them a few times to wake them up to serious and urgent realities facing the world.  I think I figured out the biological basis of escapism. The addiction to escapism is not necessarily the conscious choice of people since what is happening in action adventure and violent movies of these escapist sort is the over stimulation of the flight or fight response.  So their addiction seems quite natural to them.  I know it sounds like a crackpot idea but this is what I suspect is happening. We see people in danger, facing death, near death who always escape, now with more and more magical powers and clever wit. It's what every animal wants to do when it's trapped or attacked, triumph over its enemy to survive to win the mate. This basic scenario is repeated over and over again in every escapist film, stimulating our reptilian brains. Not even old fashioned escapist literature can beat the power and wonder of this in special effects films for many people.  And even more powerfully some prefer the simulation of violent video games. Who knows, one day they may get in our minds and replace our dreams. My dreams are still better than any special effects movie I've ever seen. But getting back to the problem at hand, what are black authors to do about the low literacy in their communities, we have to confront the loss of our status as authors.

Given this decline of the author as a way for ordinary people to get to know the world and their humanity better, distant places, strange people, and interesting subject matter, we are like the Elves in Tolkien's magical world, our time is passing and the world will be worse for it—when I was a virgin reader I picked up Andre Norton's the X-factor and Starman's son, enjoyed them—fell in love with science fiction. Read Ray Bradbury. I never thought I needed to like Bradbury or Norton personally to enjoy their fiction.  With some authors I really didn't care who they were as people.  I only became interested in them as people when I wanted to become a serious writer myself and much much later.  Now writers must define themselves in this celebrity cult of personality, mob-like sensation called the internet. An Alice's Restaurant of everything and nothing.  The irony of the glut of information is that it destroys the individual value of everything. There is too much to see, too much to know, therefore nothing has much value. If everyone has gold, gold is of no value.  Except for a few big name writers in the past writers did not make the best celebrities.  Yet life needs the writer in isolation more than ever because the for profit industry is driven by very shallow and mediocre concerns. The high ideals of literature is not based on promoting knee jerk reactions. A writer's attempt to create secondary worlds is serious magic if done well and not for low purposes of mere entertainment.  Tolkien's fiction was better left unfilmed for this reason, there is more depth of feeling in the books. There is success in mere entertainment but many of us are challenged by higher purposes.  I'm not sure I've succeed to my satisfaction but I keep trying. We are sorcerers, you know.

For the Readplay theater, the author must be able to reworks his novel into a semi-play format and use community, untrained actors to perform, in this case read and perform the work in a neighborhood or community setting, in front of this audience--either on the street or in auditorium, school yard, or gym. The author than can bring copies of the book for those who want to read the finished work.  These plays can be filmed and uploaded to an author's website for further use. These can be organized locally within the author's community or beyond.  This modern use of the traveling play read while partially being performed allows for non-trained actors to perform in a community setting, to learn as they do. By creating participation, one can instill the love of reading and writing back into the community. This direct participation of local people in the performance or reading of a work will help to develop literacy and interest in reading, performing and writing. It may also help revitalize a sense of community, even the idea of the fair. Overtly propagandist, dogmatic cultural works however risk boring the crowd just as much as work irrelevant to the lives of the ordinary people. Yet why not have genres, both high and low—why not have black people play whites in white face makeup? It could be like Shakespeare without much props or backdrops, the words will paint the scene...so in the readplay formating there is an Our Town Narrator or Chorus...with a little reworking one can break a novel down into this format.

So if the higher purpose is your calling and your not shy like me here is what you can do to get your work out there.  I'm also not culturally black so I couldn't do this.  I'm not even sure I'd have the energy it would take. Maybe younger authors are best for this.  Like Mr. Harris' discussion of interactive participatory media online, you'll have to take yours offline, and off the printed page and off the digital screen to get any result in terms of live bodies. It's what I'll call the GRIOT SOLUTION. Since black people in large numbers might not read fiction, live storytelling may still resonate in their blood because of the oral tradition. A combination of story telling and controlled psycho-drama—It will necessitate community and traveling theaters (for the readplay) block play parties, or street theater if no buildings will have you—but the big caveat, the silent elephant in the room is the class dynamics within the black community itself or rather not in the community.  That is the best and the brightest with money don't live in the slums. This idea isn't necessarily the best idea for the middle classes, more ambitious good students or the successful, you have to find your audience and actors among the semi-literate locals, working class, among the loser's, the people nobody wants, though it would be good if middle class, educated blacks can participate as teachers and actors, too, helping to direct and develop this new community based idea of theater. I think if the idea fails, it will fail because black communities are segragated not only by race but by class as well.

It will have to be a process of self-education, learning by doing, and even failing in public, it isn't meant to be perfectly professional but the goal is to try to be as much as possible.  By reading and if possible memorizing some or of all it, the stress for the untrained actor can be reduced.  Who know what great actors could be discovered this way.  Also these can be filmed and uploaded on Youtube.  If black authors are going to create a new market for their works, they can't jump on the bandwagon of the already sold, they have to create new markets. If the internet has made participation more important that reading alone or by yourself, then the artist must get more personal—not the facebook way, but by building  community involvement and finding participants in the audience itself?  

Concentrating on audio book might also work with the idea that since people talk a lot, they may also be more inclined to listen than read. Given the use of iphones and ipads, authors should skip ebooks and do audiobooks. The advantages major companies have is their demographic research which tells them who to target. In terms of movies, for example, one text book on getting your film made distinguished between for profit producers and not for profit indies willing to accept certain risks for art types films, while for profit producers want to know who your audience is by age and income before you give them the pitch. Then test audience are used to further refine this commercial purpose. Yet literary artists ought to know as well where their potential audiences are in the landscape of consumer culture not necessarily to water down or dumb down content for profit's sake but is that the rub? If Shakespeare's plays were written for commoners as well nobles then it shouldn't be too hard, I would think.

Well, I hope that helps. Let me know what you think.
   

 



#2 Troy

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 05:18 PM

Welcome to the boards WC.  That was an Interesting and meaty post.  You made many points that could generate rich conversations on there own.

 

There was a publishing company run by a Brother named Glenn Thompson called the Writers and Readers Publishing Cooperative.  They published a number of very popular comic book like books.  In fact, your suggestion sounds very much like the books they published two decades ago: Here is one on AALBC.com: 

 

Check out Herb Boyd's book, Black Panthers for Beginners as an example:

 

herb_b25.jpg

 

I'd be interested in reading why you do not believe you are not "culturally Black" (I assume you are Black).

 

I think this is a link to the Devon Harris panel you mentioned: http://www.c-span.or...logy-publishing I'm listening to it now.  The Link to the panel I was on my be found here: http://www.c-span.or...sion-publishing


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#3 wc.edwards

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Posted 18 June 2014 - 01:28 PM

Thanks for posting those C-Span links, I should've done that. You have a great website.  I checked out those links. Great stuff. Great historical works. As to why I think I'm not culturally black or rather ethnically black is a whole complicated family history.  Maybe a result of social isolation.  We're not from this country originally.  My family would be considered mixed race. As a young man I watched Gil Noble for many years.  I think Herb Boyd might've appeared on BAI, if I'm not mistaken. Anyway,  I'm not unfamiliar with a lot of this history. Even though I had differences of opinion and politics with say someone like the late Elombe Brath, I'm not a Pan-Africanist, I listened to his show AfriKaleidoscope and even shows like Emanations.  But famous or infamous BAI and race is a whole other topic.  I don't like race identity because it is an imposition of racism. Racism gave us this selfconsciousness. I didn't choose to see myself in these terms.

Yet I agree with Dr. Ben, Clark and Sertima about Ancient Egypt.  I even believe there is evidence that the Sumerians were originally also in appearance another black race.  Like with the ancient Egyptians whites are unwilling to see the truth, so “blackheaded” is a mistranslation of first blacks or chief blacks or black face or black skin. If the Sumerians were dark haired, they would've called themselves the black haired or dark haired, but there is enough leeway in translation that white scholars interpret “head” in terms of  the skull rather than the terms of “first” or “chief” two possible terms for the word head. I couldn't get a leading Near East scholar to verify my research on this, to check out what I was seeing, I used an online dictionary so it's not proven or peer reviewed and debated. And I'm not a Sumerian scholar just an amateur.  We also have the Dravidians as well. Even the question of black Asiatics.

 

 

Yet my view of race and identity might be weird given my interest in proving the Sumerians were blacks of some sort.  If only blackness, the skin, could actually unify Africans. It couldn't. It can't. Not there or here it seems. With its corrupt rulers or leaders, I don't see much unity in Africa even based on race.  Nigeria is a perfect example of the failure of race in our sensibility if not religions. Hitler's Germany, with its complex racial science, is another example--other whites destroyed the Third Reich—the master race. So I don't believe in race, though I cannot deny what others want to see in me or what I'm made to see from the racist point of view.  A white racist once said to me, "you can't see what I'm looking at".  I don't know what he thought he saw and I'm glad I couldn't see it. I guess I looked like a mongrel. Maybe it was as disgusting and as horrible as Lovecraft's The Horror of Red Hook. The only thing I have in common with Lovecraft is a sickly, bookish childhood and an interest in writing as a result of becoming a captive of my imagination, too. I'm a liberal. He'd be considered conservative, right wing or liberterain or maybe just crazy. His writing is fascinating, I must admit, like certain forms of madness.  Once down here, many years ago, a white man spoke to me in Spanish and I said I'm not Hispanic and I asked what were you saying to me. He had said I had whiteboy eyes. 

 

I think the strength of European culture resides in its intellectualism rather than its racism.  That is whiteness is essentially intellectual prowess. Black intellectuals are essentially white too in their reasoning. When they say in the ghetto you talk white, you talk like an intellectual.

 

And greed seems to infect all races of mankind.  African Americans to a certain degree are already European in mindset given the amount of intellectual thinking and discourse on race questions we do. The tools of the language we speak. I suspect to be truly black is to be pagan, before Christianity and Islam. Blackness is a search for our lost paganism.  The Afrocentrics have the right approach in some respects, though I have issues with them and find racial identity problematic in anycase. 
 




 



#4 Cynique

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Posted 18 June 2014 - 03:18 PM

That's some deep expository shit you unleashed on us, w.c. edwards.  Very articulate and informative.  Certain references I could relate to.  From childhood,  my son has always been a fan of comic books, always fancied himself a comic book artist.  He is now middle aged and still immersed in his affinity for this genre.  Somewhere along his life's journey, he found religion and now has established his own small publishing company called Kingdom Comics, the banner under which he and a dedicated staff produce a biblical comic book series  featuring superheroes on missions to stave off the apocalyptic  forces of evil.  Their demograph  includes the incarcerated population that the prison ministries of churches focus on.  There 's not a whole lot of profit to be realizied in this endeavor, but it is making inroads among the inmates languising behind bars, black males who have always been fodder for reading matter. This situation has the potential for a positive impact.  Graphic novels and comic books can serve to enrich and stimulate the idle minds of these young black men wasting away in jails.

 

Your theory about the motivation of escapist sci-fi and fantasy fiction was interesting.  Conspiciously absent was no reference to the "Game of Thrones" phenomenon that is currently enthralling a large audience.  This HBO series based on the books by the same name regularly frustrates its fans by killing off main characters.   Its gratuitious sex and violence, however,  might be  construed as escapism. 

 

Recently a friend of mind was telling me that her late mother who would've been over a 100 years were she alive had said that she was descended from a segment of Blacks who came to America but rather than being from West Africa were Moors with an entirely different history.  And no sooner had she mentioned this than another person I knew said the same thing about her forefathers.  Who knew?  Othello and his love for a white woman set a precedent for his countrymen transplanted in America.  ;)

 

As someone who dabbles in writing, occasionally self-publishing a chick lit book here, a family saga book there, a paranormal tale elsewhere, I never expected fame or fortune or did I get it.  But writers write. Readers read. If you're lucky you find your niche in the literary world. 



#5 Troy

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 03:03 PM

Cynique, I always thought your true gift was in non-fiction writing. 

 

W.C. You are more familiar with Elombe Brath than I am, I'm so accustomed to people not even knowing who he is... man you are more culturally Black than you know  ;)  

 

"I don't believe in race, though I cannot deny what others want to see in me or what I'm made to see from the racist point of view." 

 

I agree 100% with this.  Unfortunately, we live in America and if you walk around believing the artificial construct of race does not matter you'll get hurt financially, spiritually and even physically.

 

It is unrealistic to expect unity in Africa -- it is a humongous place with over 50 countries. 

 

There certainly will not be unity among the Black people in the Americas because most so called African-Americans really want to be white, or rather their success is defined by white institutions, standards and people.  Black immigrants don't consider themselves African American.  They align themselves more with their country of origin.

 

However the harsh economy has forced the hands of many Black people.  The lack of jobs are forcing many of us to work together, in the same way that we worked together during the period of forced segregation.  This gives me optimism.  Now it is becoming clear to many Black people we have to work together to grow.  The government--even with a Black president--is not going to help, and corporations damn sure are not going to help unless there is profit in helping.  We have to help ourselves, together.

 

Ultimately however, we will have to come to the realization that the race thing, like all other difference really just distract us from the larger problem of class.  But we have to go one step at a time.

 

Afrocentrics, whatever disagreement you (I) may have with them, they are the direct result of being in a hostile environment for hundreds of years.  Of all the group Black folks have created in this country Black Greek letter organizations, religious groups, the NAACP,  The democratic party, etc, I most close align myself Afrocentrism.


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#6 wc.edwards

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Posted 20 June 2014 - 09:12 PM

Hi, Cynique and Troy--wanted to reply to each post individually but couldn't find the way to do it. So Cynique first.

 

Yes, I've heard that some of the slaves were Moors, Muslim Moors and could read and write. I've got a book on Spain with Medieval paintings that depict these African Muslims. I remember this awful snobbish but smart critic (when it comes to wordplay) John Simon being so ignorant about casting a black in the role of Othello. He thought Moors were only Arabs and a black man shouldn't be cast.  That and his awful rabid dislike and demeaning of Barbara Streisand (he considers her terribly ugly) are two things I remember most about him. I didn't even know there were blacks in Irag until a few months ago. It maybe the Arab world's biggest secret?

I'm agnostic, I must tell you, very skeptical,  not quite an atheist however. Chick comics is also an interesting use of the comic strip method. Of course the art was pretty basic in some of them. Without fuss or fanfare, Chick will always turn up somewhere. On the bus on an empty seat, in thriftstore's used books, I have a few of them, there are a great way to communicate basic facts, history or ideas--these little pamphlets. Well, I wish your son luck in his good works and efforts to inspire people, though I think prisoners need to read not just the Bible. There is an interesting mix of paganism and Christianity in Africa that's very strange to me.  A Jewish author wrote an interesting book showing how much of the Old Testament Bible is really Egyptian mythology and history.

Hi, Troy, I once went to an Afrocentic meeting, only one time I'm sorry to say--I don't know if you know the gentlemen that ran a black store down here in Broward County--I think a Mr. Harrison, a nice, fine gentleman, on Broward Blvd?  I'm too much of an individualist for group think-- to be part of any culture it may be necessary to have a group mind set to have a certain level of unity and strength but that's not for me. I did find the ceremony or moment to acknowledge our ancestors very moving. I think I pissed him off though when he held a library event to discuss some Afrocentric matters and I contradicted him with an opposing view. He used Caesar’s claim that the Druids or Northern Europeans practiced cannibalism, if I'm not misrepresenting what he said, it might be a decade now since, and I quoted a Roman saying that Northern Europeans were inferior to Romans because they lived in the cold regions and the Romans lived in an ideal climate and so were superior.

I said if the Romans could denigrate other whites they were attempting to subjugate why should we take Caesar’s word for it. Maybe it was Roman propaganda, wasn't it the same way the colonists described natives of Africa and America. I used go to his bookstore looking for the latest Ivan Van Sertima books. I felt sorry that i might've offended him or embarrassed him in front of the white librarian and a friend of mine. It was just three people, the white Librarian, me, my friend a black woman. Nobody else showed up. That's the thing, the people that should've showed up didn't. I don't think I saw many young people at the meeting where we started out by remembering the ancestors. Well, as you say, maybe now that these are harder times people might join in more. It was many, many years ago.

 I read Stolen Legacy but I don't believe that it was theft but that the Ancient Greeks probably were influenced and inspired by the Ancient Egyptians.  I guess I'll always be an outsider to whites and blacks. I'm very analytical and that perhaps makes me overly critical.  I'm a contradictory person. I do believe the ancient astronaut theory is a refusal on the part of some whites impressed by these achievements to acknowledge the earliest ancient Egyptians were blacks or a mixture of blacks and Semites.  I got interested in the Sumerians for a book I was writing. And it bothered me that nobody mainstream noticed that "Blackheaded" made no sense. Given new genetic data on when whites became whites, it's more likely that the earliest peoples were blacks of some sort. I don't believe the Ancient Egyptians were perfect people but flawed as all human beings are.  You're very right about the tribalism in Africa.  There is a  great deal of irony in the tragedy of Africa today. It being the birth place of humanity. Sure, some of it is the fault of colonialism/imperialism past and present but the other half is human nature or our baser natures. 

 

Well, I hope I've not offended you, too much.


Edited by wc.edwards, 21 June 2014 - 11:22 AM.


#7 wc.edwards

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Posted 21 June 2014 - 09:41 AM

Obviously I'm not shy when it comes to ideas and my point of view. I think what I meant by shyness is the self promotion of myself, people wanting to know about me rather than my work or what my work is about. I'd rather not talk about myself. I really wish books can just stand on their own two feet without this need for people to necessarily know or like authors first or at all. But if you like that kind of engagement fine.  As to energy, I'm thinking of all the work that must be done to schedule, the people to contact, muchless doing the reworking of the novel into a play, getting the actors, permits, training unknown talents is probably more work than its worth, when trained students are out of work and need casting, meeting with the community, finding a place to put on the show. It sounded great but it is not practical.  An author would need all kinds of help to do it and organize it. It seems like too much work for a single author. It probably won't work for individual authors. We'd have to form some sort of theatrical company.  I guess I'm saying we'd have to become playwrights instead of novelists? The problem for us authors is that after we've written a book, we often want to get started on the next one. I'm actually trying to break into films right now but that's just as difficult and involve the same issues of distribution and markets.  But at least in a film production if you have the backing you have lots of help to do all this other stuff.  I'm using Screaming Bee to do all the voices for one of my novels. With a good mic you can turn your novel into a audio drama/book. Maybe that's much easier.



#8 wc.edwards

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Posted 21 June 2014 - 10:02 AM

And lastly the fact that I can't write black stereotypes or ghetto types, as to why I couldn't do it. I have black characters in my novels but they would work better on screen, in a film because you can see African types being in stories that they are not in now. They are black in appearance and history but the stories don't yet involve issues about slavery, racism or oppression.  In one book I have a black girl who is alienated from her Southern Baptist family. In this novel the race of some of the other important characters is never stated.  The heroine here is like a science geek.  I once suggested that Frodo could've been played by a black British actor playing a gentry type.  Hobbits are not neccesarily white with those brown furry feet!  Anyway, some whites were offended by the idea and of course there were no black people in Tolkien's world just sinister darker peoples from the Southern areas, if I recall correctly, who could be blacks, the ones riding the elephants. Given Tolkien's brief infancy in South Africa that may explain it and other factors of his upbringing in England later. I think the movies censored this.  I'm not even sure today's blacks are the same as the blacks that lived under Jim Crow in terms of actual sensilbities or experiences. Playthell Benjamin or Stanley Crouch or both mentioned this difference in terms of the importance of education among blacks before or during the civil rights era. One of them told the story of an excon telling him to stay in school so as to not end up like him. The point was the thug life is idealized rather than rejected now. I think black youth, working class, should've favored Jazz music over hip hop, a richer more complex genre. I'm not impressed by hip hop poetry though it is clever and slang of course always enriches languages if the words stick around.



#9 wc.edwards

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Posted 21 June 2014 - 10:11 AM

Did the Tolkien films censor it or was there some controversy about dreadlocks being used on some of the monsters, Orcs, in the film? I can't recall.  Anyway even Tolkien could've used the black elves suggested in Norse mythology.  I enjoyed the film but was also disappointed by this inability of whites to see beyond race. It was much easier since it was too much a boy's book to make changes for white female audience members than for black ones.  I favor multi-racial casting like Peter Brooks' The Mahabharata.  Peter Jackson couldn't or didn't want to do that. It was too risky, I guess. I hear Brooks was criticized for his version of the myth. Was that a case of racism, too?



#10 Cynique

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Posted 21 June 2014 - 01:01 PM

Well, wc, I'm certainly not into Christianity or religion, myself, and would agree that much of it is a "cobbling together" of fables and myths.  Which is why biblical charcters patterned after gods makes such good comic book superheroes.  They lend themselves to simple morality stories where good triumphs over evil.  Moreover, comic book dialogue is quick and simple and a painless way to introduce locked up black males to reading as a means of acquiring knowledge. These illustrated magazines could also serve as a gateway to books. The burgeoning popularity of animated movies seem to reinforce the idea that cartoons that don't tax their brains too much are a relaxing form of entertainment for the masses.  As has been said, nobody would ever go broke underestimating the taste of the American public.

 

I was a great fan of "The Lord of the Rings" film trilogy but in retrospect when I view these movies on TV reruns, I find them a tad ludicrous. Why, I don't know.  Golub was certainly amusing; false and trixy.  When Boromir is playing out his death scene in the arms of Aragon, he pays homage to Aragon as his king and expresses a kinship with him as the leader who will save "our people". I always viewed that subliminal statement with a jaundiced eye. It was not so much the context of the story as it was in the life and times of the author, Tolkien.  I am much more into "Game of Thrones" with its exquisitely evil villains and sensually-correct heroes and damsels. Who needs a wide-eyed Hobbit named Frodo when you can have a horny dwarf named Tyrion. Love was never truer than when it involves incestuous twins, leaders never more disposable than when they are indiscriminately slain, not to mention fire-breathing dragons with idle time on their hands, all of which contribute to the multi-faceted plot of this saga about power hungry people seeking to rule supreme. Life imitating art.

 

I reviewed a book a couple of years ago entitled "The Savion Sequence" written by D. Amari Jackson. This book was reminiscent of Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol" but with an Afro-centric slant.  The whole premise of its story was that the original Egyptians were black. Now, if we could just convince the present day Arabs calling themselves Egyptians of this. 

 

Black people may not be esteemed but they are ubiquitous.  I understand there are black Mexicans as well as black Koreans. These minorites are well-kept secrets existing under the radar in these countries, leading  second class lives. Can we assume since the first humans were the Blacks of Mother Africa, and all the other races were mutations of the Negorid stock that, like rebellious children, have forsaken their parents, dismissing them as being out of touch...    

 

I don't guess I need to tell you that in the course of your stream of conscious dissertations you come across as conflicted about not only your racial indentity but your racial affinity. To call you an elitist would not be an insult in my book.  But, as such, you do leave yourself open to frustration because the average person is not sophisticated enough to understand the dynamics of your angst or the importance of your goals. 



#11 wc.edwards

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Posted 26 June 2014 - 10:04 AM

Those are interesting points on Tolkien, Cynique. I think some readers and writers in the past found the whole craze for Middle Earth silly. Dune is a more sophisticated book with a similiar concern for the earth.  Was never satisified with the film adaptations of Dune, though the films are entertaining. I know there is a famous Harlan Ellison dismissal of Tolkien but Ellison is known for his bluntness if not his meanness. I think he was wrong about the books. The books are better because you get all this love of nature. Being a city boy I got a taste of it too roaming about the wilds of Edenwald or rather Seton Falls Park. Deep enough in the park one could almost feel what it was like when the Indians lived there because the city noises of trucks, cars and buses were muffled. In Winter, Summer, fall and Spring.  I don't think I could've enjoyed the books without getting a little taste of the woodland right across from the library. This was after we had moved further north. We had lived on the edge of the South Bronx and could smell the burning.

Yes, black authors and message boards are full of rich discussions on this topic. I shared my research on the Sumerians on one such site and a few whites there rejected it.  Blacks there assumed that's what "blackheaded" meant--black people.  Unfortunately some websites that deal with this issue in terms of racial identity damage the historical search for the truth while offering up the evidence. Maybe I am conflicted but I'm against black people in particular accepting something imposed on them by racism. But it's a Catch 22 situation and a political one.  How can you call yourself a human being only when the tribe or land you came from is no more.  I think native Americans feel more keenly a nostalgia for their lost reality. The African slaves brought here lost theirs completely. The Sumerians also called themsevels the People of the Land. Races as you can see with Tolkien is a white thing. Race identity is very real to whites.

 

Modern Egyptians and the History Channel don't want to or can't acknowledge it even as a possilbity that those earlier Egyptains were blacks of the negro type.  Something happened in the fertile garden of the Sahara. Then there is the Nubian connections.  Recent studies show a bias against darker skin even in very young white children, children grow up to be academics, historians etc. So the History Channel will quote Herotodus on mummification in one breath but show lily white modern Egyptians in the role of the Ancient ones despite Herotodus' descriptions of people who fit the catagory of blacks today or some versions of them.  And of course you probably have seen the Ancient Egyptian depictions of races in terms of color and physique yet is this from a later generation? The evidence in the sculpture seems not to be enough. Oprah Winfrey years ago had a show that revealed how easy it was to go from black to white in terms of mixing out, passing white. And one drop of black blood could make even the whitest person black.  Whites can look at King Tut and not see a negro type.  Amazing. And Jefferson's mix race offspring come to mind. Jefferson never acknowledged them.  I guess I'm interested in it for the sake of the truth rather than identity. I'm not sure most black working class people care all that much about it the way some whites care about accurately translating Tolkien's book to the screen. I did like how Micheal Jackson used this afrocentric point of view in one of his videos.

For modern Egyptians it is there post colonial nationalism of course and the pride that one feels for being accepted as having had a civlized past unlike the lie of Africans to the south not having any and this despite Islam's antagonism towards pagan shrines and idols.  And if we want to skip Ancient Egypt, there is the whole Medieval period of African kingdoms south of Egypt.  In some parts of Asia the Islamists have blown up pagan idols. Your point about the children forsaking their greatgreat grandparents is interesting, too, and reminds me of something Dr. Clark said about the immense age of the Ancient Egyptians and how like all powerful civilizations, even the shorter lived Roman empire, they reached a point of exhaustion.  Shelley's poem Ozymandias comes to mind.

I've not watched Games of Thrones, for various reasons I won't get into here, I'm blattering on and on enough.  I do find Tyler Perry's The Have and Have Nots fascinating despite its overthetop soap opera or operatic and Dickensian melodrama. I'm not too fond of his comedies but he is a very talented writer and filmmaker.  Cops, soldiers, and comedians are three of the standard types we most often see for blacks in mainstream films.  I like and have enjoyed some of the interesting roles given to blacks on Boardwalk Empire, though the show is unrelentingly bleak in favor of the negative side of those times, it doesn't show the positive efforts of working people to achieve a better standard of living, for example, everyone is basically corrupted, even Nucky's exwife Margaret wasn't allowed to escape untainted by corruption. In other respects it captures the sensiblity of those times in which people could enjoy fairground lynchings. Empire is powerful and well made art and anything that references the Wizard of Oz in such a subtle way--I'm big fan of Baum--is something to see.

I consider myself a humanist in the liberal arts sense, a true liberal rather than what the word seems to mean with its association with neo-liberialism now. Maybe I don't know what it means. I can't be a radical because radicals become too selfrighteous and have in the past made a terrible mess of things, the Soviet Union being a perfect example of good intentions going wrong. I don't like selfrighteousness and I must watch it in myself.  All ideologies tend towards extremism. I may be an elitist or would be one, ironically so since my origins is working class and I'm barely literate myself.

I believe most of all that people should first be able to think critically for themselves, they don't need vanguards and such--"don't follow leaders watch the parking meters."  Class and art and who gets it, who makes it is quite a question, a dificult topic. The serious literary author as some kind of taste maker is perhaps extinct.  I know I dismiss rap music off hand, partly because I think it lacks tender feelings unlike R&B, one Gladys Knight & The Pips record is worth a million rap records in my book. And why don't more ordinary working class blacks like Jimi Hendrix?  Rap throws the baby out with the bath water, though it developed in the Bronx my reactions to it was sorta of snobbish, I'll admit.  It's a modern form or a black form of the art of flyting.  The sound is the sound of boasting.  Rap seems to represent crude responses rather than more intellectual and complex ones and unlike older black folklore or storytelling it doesn't appeal to me. There is something flawed in it that I'll need to put my finger on to make sense of it here or elsewhere. No doubt about it, it's popular and seems to fit in nicely with commerical sensiblities. It and this extreme super-escapism that seems to have taken over films in particular is not healthy.   It was harmless in comics but with special effects films that can do what only comics used to do, well...Superpeople are not going to save us. By the way, for me, the best Marvel adaptation was the first Hulk film, though I would've adapted it even more against the grain.  I like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Black Panther and Kirby's attempt at the character in the 1970s, though the books are flawed for various reasons. I did collect the  Biilly Graham issues, too, and also collected Luke Cage.  Eventually novels replaced comics. But when I discovered the Comics Journal and saw that comics don't have to be just superheroes, my interest in them was renewed.  I'm one weird elitist!
 



#12 Cynique

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Posted 27 June 2014 - 11:43 AM

LOL Well, wc, maybe my calling you an elitist was off the mark.  But you are extraordinary.  The average person certainly doesn't have the superior command of language that you do. And what makes this even more compelling is that your ability to express yourself enables you to articulate your opinions and what makes this compelling is that your opinions are worthy of note.   Maybe I'm prejudiced because I mostly agree with what you say.  Especially about hip-hop and rap.  This community can't just be satisfied with being recognized as a legitimate culture and genre, it has become drunk with power and considers itself  to be a lot more special than it really is.  The hip hop/ rap crowd takes itself much too seriously. They ain't "all that".  Appealing to the common taste is no great recommendation or achievement.  The challenge of jazz is esoteric. 

 

I am curious about your age and the books you have written.  Should I google your name or will you reveal  more about yourself?  



#13 wc.edwards

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Posted 27 June 2014 - 02:09 PM

Cynique, thanks, but I think your comments on rap are well said, much more articulate than mine, shorter and to the point. I'm in my midfifties. I came to this country the same month Martin Luther King was assassinaed. It's a vivid memory because of the news reports.  You can google me if you want to but I don't think you'll find much about me online right now or anything for that matter.  I don't really want to promote myself here.  I've not written many books and most of them are unpublished except for a self published one that I am trying to get republished by an established publisher.  I figure a finished book should be better than a plain old manuscript. I've written a screenplay that I'm trying to get made into a film or a play. I like science fiction, horror, fantasy, genre stuff. I don't know if I want to reveal more. Shouldn't I save it all or my memoirs?  I'll think about it.  Yes, I am a man of mystery, an international man of mystery--the ANTI-ESCAPIST--for the weed of greed will bare bitter fruit. 

 

I was thinking about Bookmobiles to promote books. What do you think? If some one can offer the homeless showers in old buses, why not take a bus ride and read or buy a book in a mobile library or bookstore? If illiteracy is a wound--we need a sort of M.A.S.H. unit of sorts for non-readers.  A social space of some sort. We could even offer indie films on a bus ride--how much should riders give. Will the city allow parking? Should it be free?
 



#14 Cynique

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 12:51 PM

I can dig you wanting to maintain your privacy, wc edwards.  People who want to share every aspect of their life and appearance, hang out on FaceBook,  not discussion forums.   

 

Your book mobile idea has possibilities.  But I wonder whether there is anything that will turn non readers into readers. I've always suspected that  readers are born not made.  Reading is a personality trait.  All children are exposed to the stimuli of words in books but by 4th grade, the wheat is separated from the chaff. Some anthropologists have even suggested  that there is an element, who if not taught to read, would teach themselves to do so.   Those who can read, do; those who can't, don't. Those who can read with comprehension gravitate toward books; those who just recognize words, don't. The argument is made that the way to stimulate an interest in reading among young people is to supply them with matter to which they can relate. Hopefully that will be the gateway to reading books.  But, just reading what you relate to does not expand your mind, it limits it.  Curiosity about a broad specturm of subjects is what defines the good reader.  And curiosity is also a personality trait.  IMO

 

I'm long past being in my mid-fifties and I am disillusioned about the future of the black underclass and its non reading kids.  Its members seem trapped in a visual culture that perpetuates itself.  What's troubling is that it's a "ratchet" culture that they revel in.  They love the bling and the drama and the violence, and they breed indiscriminately.  The fact that they are emulalting the cult of celebrity is even more discouraging.  I've reached the point where I've given up. This world is beyond reform. It is evolving to a point where reform may be regression.  My day has passed.



#15 wc.edwards

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Posted 30 June 2014 - 06:57 PM

Cynique, that is a very eloquent, well written picture of the situation. It does look that way. Of course writing has its own pleasures and meaning beyond writing for a public or an audience.  You think, you learn. You create a world you live in. Tolkien experienced the joys of such creation years before he found a publisher. It's enough in its own way.  And I hope that in your long life you've enjoyed those rewards for its own sake, too. Some of us sorcerers crave an audience more than others. But how many Americans have read "King Bongo and Mile Zero" by the great Thomas Sanchez.

Well, to answer your question, it probably has to be good jobs first that can allow families to have breakfast and dinner with each other in the morning and afternoon.  The parents are not overworked and get paid vacations. Then perhaps...we probably need good jobs in inner cities first.  Leisure time. Black people are a small minority as well and that also makes it difficult to find an audience, if they read less than whites, spending their entertainment money fast and cheap, but if the black author bores or offends whites because the subject matter of his fiction touches on or is about racism his audience shrinks again.  It is an issue writing for whites instead of blacks or trying to get whites to enjoy black subject matter. I'm sure it must've been discussed here at the aalbc.  And given the biological basis of escapism, it's like fighting an addiction. It's probably a losing battle.  A doomed cause. Getting people to perform, however, perhaps can awaken the spirit that would enjoy reading more.

I was going to start a fictional journal or blog called the Journal of Anti-escapism to explore what escapism is or how it had come to be. I don't believe a lot of old folklore and English ballads were escapists at all.  It was to be published by Margo Lane. Only the ANTI-ESCAPIST knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men!  Here is some of the material I was writing for it.  This was to be a sort of motto:

Three wonders for the workers under the sky,
Seven for the bosses with their hearts of stone,
Nine for the soldiers doomed to die,
One for the miser gnawing his bone
In the land of Money where the sliver screen shadows lie.
True art to tell them all, true art to move them,
True art to bring them all, and in the darkness show them
That in the land of Money the silver screen shadows lie.

"There are two slave storytellers. One tells the slaves gathered around at night after a hard days work picking cotton that if they do their work--work they must do being the decendents of Ham and therefore cursed to do it--and don't complain about it, don't rebel, don't run away, when they die--they'll go to master's heaven where they won't ever have to work again and can eat all the watermelon they want to their heart's content.  The slaves cannot read the Bible so they must take master's word for it.

On another night after more back breaking work, he tells them that the Mighty Abe Lincoln, disquised as an eagle, is going to personally swoop down on the plantation and free them, bust their chains with his mighty Samson hands. Abe is a giant, ten feet tall, they say. A Dark complexioned man. President of the United States.  It feels good after a hard days work to hear this. This storyteller is popular. It cost the slaves nothing (in terms of thought or effort) to enjoy his stories and the master approves.

Some of the slaves dream about this when they go to sleep, it is as vivid as a movie would be today.  The flag is his cape. Abe beats up the whole Confedrate Army single handedly and converts a beautiful Southern girl to the Union cause. She falls madly in love with him. They get married. She doesn't go mad and his sons don't die off young. Happy ending. No mention is made of a bloody civil war or the atrocities and cruelities that will occur. Or that freeing the slaves wasn't the only reason for the war.   That the Mighty Abe will be taken down by a single bullet. Or that Reconstruction will end in Jim Crow. The Klan will ride giving them nightly terrors. And they don't have to do anything. Just wait. Good ole Abe will free them himself, personally. They stay on the planatation.

On another plantation a slave storytellers tells the tired slaves about how one of their brethren defying masters vicious dogs, overseers and the wilderness escaped up North to Freedom land. And he describes how this slave made a success of himself there working on a whale ship at sea and how eventually he was able to save enough money to buy the freedom of his wife and children.  A few slaves did in fact achieve such success, though not all of them were able to buy back their families.  Fredrick Douglas being the most famous escaped slave of his time. The Slave storyteller also told of another slave who didn't make it, that slave was caught and whipped and never got more than a mile off the plantation. Or that he made it up North but his master's men recaught him and brought him back.  Perhaps the teller of the tale is a freedman who reenslaved himself to tell the slaves this story or the very man that was recaptured.

Which one of these tales is more honest, more worthy of the teller, more worthy of the listener to hear and to understand? Which is worth believing in and imagining. Which offers the slaves dignity, which recognizes their humanity and which does not. Which is utterly dishonest? Which is more truthful. Escapism is like the first two tales.  

A real person hearing the third might be inspired to run away, not in fact escaping from harsh realities because the dogs are hounding him, but to find a higher goal and purpose. Or he might be too afraid to act. But which offers even a slim chance of a better life? Which would you choose to believe in, to imagine, to fantasize about, if you were a slave? Eating water malons in Heaven? Or finding freedom in the here and now. Anti-escapism will allow you to ask yourself these questions and find your own answers.  

I'm not telling you to write about slavery. This is not an attack on genres for a strict realism, it's an example of the values and goals involved in telling any kind of story. Is it going to be significant or superficial. Is it going to be honest or dishonest. What status quo are you defending? Escapists like to pretend that mainstream product is apolitical. But there is a lot of politics in what is omitted from entertainment, from discussion.

Keep in mind, as you read this, however, that anti-escapist values doesn't make a work great literature, fiction still must be judged on other criteria besides its good intentions. A boring morality play is still boring. But is it better to have some good intentions rather than none at all?

The wage slave complaint of escapist writers and readers is that after work, because of bad news, or because they cannot change the world, they have a right to escape from reality.  Escapsim is a measure of how powerless and weak people feel or are. Yet escapists tend to favor tough guys and gals, unrealistic stories about strong men saving the world in their fiction, while they themselves are afraid to deal with reality.  They are posers and hypocritics.  Although I love the work of Robert E. Howard, he was a gifted storytellers, his character Conan would never have killed himself, yet sadly Howard killed himself.  I don't see how escapism makes people stronger.

Escapism is only justifable in a Utopia.

Margo on the power of movies:

Because we are primed for flight or fight by our instinctive, reactive more ancient brain, escapism is often a Pavlovian process of wiring us to identify with heroes and heroines who always escape danger and never die.  Conflict and agression, sex and violence, get our immediate attention. Yet is it a good thing to be repeatedly told that only the superpeople will save you? Yet there are no superpeople in real life. You don't have to save yourselves. Is that not a false sense of security? Is a black and white world view, rather than shades of gray, much better than a medieval morality play. It doesn't encourage audiences to think for themselves. Despite its very real enjoyability, its very real power, escapist films are ultimately a dead end for society, individuals and culture."

 

I wanted to also use these lines from Dylan's man in the long black coat to suggest that people should join the Shadow-like Anti-Escapist:

 

There are no mistakes in life, some people say
And it's true sometimes, you can see it that way

But people don't live or die, people just float
She went with the man in the long black coat



#16 wc.edwards

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Posted 02 July 2014 - 10:15 AM

By the way the best book on Howard, besides Dark Valley Destiny, is One Who Walked Alone by

Novalyne Price Ellis (born Novalyne Price) (March 9, 1908 – March 30, 1999) was a Texas-born schoolteacher and writer who became close friends with and occasionally dated famed pulp fiction writer Robert E. Howard.

 

The only woman and perhaps the closet person he ever knew.  The movie the Whole Wide World censors some interesting details about race and racism at that time from this remarkable protrait of a young woman. There is a profound moment in the book on the terror of racial fear and violence in it that would've made the film a masterpiece if it could've been shot.  Yet the filmmakers avoided the topic like a hot potatoe. Even though it is a serious art film and a good one, it censors difficult or troubling matter when the original source doesn't.  I'm sure they must've read her work.  "One Who Walked Alone" needs another film adaptation, a remake. Of course Howard's escapist fans hate any psychological assessment of Howard's mental health or character and how it related to his work and Conan.  Howard's life also reveals how the creators of escapism are often people who have suffered some form of trauma. Tolkien, too, might've created Middle Earth as well because of his childhood experiences and his war experiences. Jack Kirby  is another such figure, given his World War II combat experience as a scout and being a child of the violent ethnic slums of New York.  The Journal of anti-escapism would've been my attempt to explore escapism from the creators point of view as well. Why do people write escapism and need to. Why do we need to escape? Is it really normal? Has it become a right, a privelege to escape from reality etc.etc? Not a very popular subject, as you can see. People don't want you to ask questions about something that everyone takes for granted.

 

I was also going to show how there could be anti-escapist superhero movies, Iron Man etc. Anti-escapist versions of these Marvel characters would attack and challenge the viewers need or desire for such figures. They would frame them as anti-human rather than make them acceptable fantasies--you'd want to get the viewer to think critically about such men, such powers. Now some of these movies touch on delicate matters and skirt them quickly for the happy ending and the identification with the heroes.  Iron Man is the good rich man, inventor anti-militaralist but it's all ahistorical just like how the Whole Wide World censored race from Howard's life.  Was it the filmmaker's blindness? Briefly dragging race in would've been costly at the box office?  Nobody was interested? Typical like many films that avoid realities, It flatters the audience's wish or need to feel good about the hero or themselves and avoids current unpleasant realites. The whole push for A.I. and robots is another anti-human development that is little explored realistically in films.  How it will hurt working people most of all.  Again, it amounts to good robots versus bad robots saving the day and so on.  Yes, the debate is in some of them, but it is lost in the fun stuff. The Iron Man films are very clever works of art, no doubt about it. But should art also have moral purposes or values besides the status quo, bottomline ones? Another topic to explore in the Journal. How can you make anti-esapist work entertaining? It's a Catch 22.  Entertainment by default seems to require avoidence of reality.  But figuring it was a losing battle like the futility you described, and since I'd rather create stories than write essays, I gave up on it.

 

I forgot to mention Edgar Rice Burroughs, his trauma or failure also led to the creation and the success of the unrealistic Tarzan. All of this is decribed well in "Houdini, Tarzan, and the Perfect Man: The White Male Body and the Challenge of Modernity in America" by John F. Kasson, the chapter on Tarzan.  Burrough's is another example of how the whole escapist industry evolved from "weak" men who created fictional strong men for themselves and others to bask in.  I'm waiting for the Tarzan remake movie in which Tarzan is raised by African Tribesmen who teach him to survive in the wilderness and he joins them in defending their homeland against the white, arab, and black slavers! I think the use of apes in Burroughs was the obvious avoiding of who would actually in reality have raised a white infant lost in the jungle. The apes are a substitutes for blacks and yet reflect the stereotype of the savage black.



#17 Cynique

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Posted 02 July 2014 - 02:28 PM

My screen name "Cynique" is inspired by the word cynicism.  I fancy my self an inconoclastic polemicist. I have always had a problem with maudlin sentimentality and a polly-anna approach to life. People accuse me of being negative but I call myself realistic. I don't promote the worst case scenario, but it is not ignored. Looking at the world through rose colored glasses is a perspective that invites disapppointment. 

 

I consider escapism a distraction.  It is a refuge from the trials and tribulations of those who are not LUCKY enough to lead lives that are fulfilling. You have provided some engaging examples of thinking outside the box.  Actually, thinking outside the box is a form of escapism for people like me. It calls for free thought.

 

In my soul searching,  I am not deluded but I am conflicted. The very metaphysical concepts I think have merit are the same ones that contradict my philosophy.  Can thoughts be energized into things?  Can thinking positive improve a dire situation?  Sometimes.  Sometimes not. Can visualization materialize through mind power?  Maybe. Maybe not.  When it's not degenerating into a charade, Life pretty much just happens.  Humor does seem to be the saving grace.  Laughter is good therapy.

 

I am who I am through randomness. I do find it curious that when I ask myself if I wish I had been born white rather than black,  I have no answer.  What I wish for myself has nothing to do with race. Being white does not represent an ideal status  in my outlook.  Being black, when done right, is "cool."

 

To me, religion in general, and Christianity in particular is the ultimate form of escapism. It comforts the faithful with the security blanket of a savior who knows best and promises a reward in the hereafter.  I actually think it's a necesssasry "evil".  People have to be kept within the boundaries of herds that are maintained through fear.  Humanity can't be trusted to be humane.   



#18 wc.edwards

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Posted 04 July 2014 - 04:33 PM

It must also be a play then on Joseph Cinqué? I thought it was a reference to Cinque. Well, again you've hit it on the nail here, too. I was wondering about a similiar dilemma and its relationship to what art can do and cannot do about anything.  As I said I'm not a radical, partly because all the Revolutions have sort of betrayed their own ideals in the short run or the long run. Take the Civil War, a revolutionary war of sorts, what would've happened if the South had seceded, whites like Jeffereson might've created rebels via their mixed race children eventually. Miscegenation might've destroyed the South more slowly, of course without easing the burden of the lash while it took its sweet time. Less blood shed in the long run.  I haven't read it but one of the saddest things I've heard of lately is a history of all the freed blacks who died from diseases after the war because they were no longer isolated in the South from these diseases, new research and data.  Talk about randomness and fate. 

 

And so for me the best that mankind has offered itself is the liberal arts. Of course true liberalism is weak and therefore doomed.  Reform and reason takes time.  Do we have it?  At some point, righteous, good intentioned people say enough with the talking and thinking. Let's do it. I know the liberal arts saved me and enriched my life so I'm in favor of it for everyone else from my subjective experience.  Liberalism certainly wouldn't work in Nazi Germany.  Though I'm a self taught person I wouldn't give up my intellectualism for anything. But that doesn't mean my view or conception of it means that it can or ought to enrich everyone else's life.  A white guy after hearing me say rap wasn't much in terms of culture, said but it's their culture. 

 

In that novel I was telling you about I tackle this idea of randomness a little bit.  It does seem as if everything is random but then there are some inherent contradictions in saying that something is random when there is causality for every pebble and star even if we can't see intentionality.  But let me say this, before my cranky anti-evolutionism kicks in(yes, I'm even skeptical of that along certain lines), although I reject atheism as unscientific, unbecoming of scientists and I'm agnostic--honest science says we don't know or we don't have any interest in that but even if a GOD existed it still wouldn't solve our problems. Even if the God of the Bible existed I wouldn't want to worship such a monster.  We face the same questions with a supreme being as without one. Is the diety just or unjust. Is the universe just or unjust.  How do we live in such a universe as this. The Japanese navel anthem has a line that supposedly says "There is justice in the universe", at least in the translation I read. Well, their defeat was just or unjust depending on which side of the front you were on.  There doesn't seem to be any justice anywhere, luck or good fortune yes, but given the crimes we hear about past and present, no--it doesn't seem so. There but for fortune...I share I guess your existentialist view if not angst.



#19 wc.edwards

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Posted 04 July 2014 - 05:39 PM

I'm so skeptical or analytical maybe because its my science fiction/fantasy/horror tinfoil what if hat. As a storyteller you have to imagine all kinds of things.  The difference between a serious novelist and escapist is that we have to look at the world from even the villain's point of view, so the best escapist fiction you could say are those that have this quality of shades of grey, where the hero also has some good and bad in him like a real person, for instance me. I'm certainly not perfect. We're all flawed human beings. It should make us humble. This may be cross dressing genres, realistic versus romantic. I think if television had been kept non-commercial as a public service advertising could not have debased culture so much, cheapened all our tastes.  Of course working class people would still have found things outside the domain of high culture to enjoy going to wrestling matches instead of watching Gorgeous George on the boob tube but deeper, smarter culture would be there for them when they looked that way.  In many ways television and the constant cheapening of taste has ruined us all but then snobbery never really wanted to share its riches anyway, at least this seems so if they don't attack the greed  that drove this history.  So those in the highbrow world shouldn't complain so much against the public's bad taste and dumbing down as the commericalization of art for purely bottomline purposes is at fault. They attack the people's taste but not the experts, some of them artists, who helped make escapism a boxofficehit.
 



#20 wc.edwards

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Posted 04 July 2014 - 05:53 PM

People have to be kept within the boundaries of herds that are maintained through fear.  Humanity can't be trusted to be humane. 

 

I'm still thinking about that one. I don't know if I have an answer. It's an idea priests and pastors struggled with when they began to doubt the existence of Hell.  Some of them began to doubt that a just God would create and maintain a hell.  Some of them worried that maybe they should not let the public in on their doubts and discussions. They kept it secret. Some felt so bad about it, they tempered it: it wasn't eternal, not a life sentence, but for a while until you were reformed.  Some thought even if Hell wasn't real, it might help to deter crimes.

 

Life is a sort of hell and I've often toyed with the idea...

 

Your point also I think is related to atheism and the drive for artificial intelligence and robots--atheism makes people fearless or totalitarian--there is nothing higher than us and we are the only gods so some of us anyway can do what we want because we can, because we know what's best. At one point H.G. Wells had this idea that God Men will save the "race". I suppose he meant the human race if not a superior race--species-wise.



#21 Cynique

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Posted 05 July 2014 - 01:08 PM

I read what you say, wc edwards, and I see a mind at work; one that questions and wonders. I observe how your creativity gives rise to originality. I am stimulated to consider and absorb the points you raise. I am not motivated to challenge anything you say which is rare for me. I think that's because we have managed to avoid the pitfall of ad hominem arguments.

 

I discovered that I am pretty much an Existenialist.  I didn't know it until I came across a definition of it. And I came across a definition of it while in my liberal arts mode of learning a little bit about a lot of things. When I said that whiteness did not represent what I valued in life, this is what I had in mind because you don't have to be white to be well read and conversant on a lot of subjects.  To me, knowledge is king and is, indeed, power.  It represents the gateway to wisdom, and unlike education you don't have to obtain it from the halls of academia.  It's been said that there is nothing new under the sun and I am inclined to  believe that the answers to all that we seek are right there in front of our eyes just waiting to be recognized.

 

As for religion, I was merely paraphrasing Marx's reference to it being  the opiate of the masses.  People do need something to tranquilize them in the face of life's uncertainly and death's inevitability.  They also need to be intimidated into controlling their inner lizards that can rear their ugly heads and strike out.  Power-seeking leaders were shrewd enough to recognize this and exploit it in the name of a god they created in the image of man. The Nicene council waaay back when set out to do this - and succeeded, giving Christianity its strangle hold on the western world. 

 

Apparently, people also need something to cheer for - a team to identify with and root on.  That's the explanation I come up with for the spontaneous explosion of enthusiasm for the USA's soccer team competing in the world cup tourney.  This country is so desperate to be associated with a winner that its population went overboard for a sport that previously inspired yawns by the great majority of people. Naturally, the social media enabled this phenomenon by giving all the arm chair fans a forum for hash tags. 

 

Finally, I look at the low approval ratings for Obama, at how beleagured he is thanks to the success of Republican opposition that represents the true nature of white America and its attitude toward black men, and Obama earns my support by default.  If the great majority of people are against him and these people come from all persuasions and are not actually in agreement with each other when it comes to other issues, then because Obama is pleasing nobody, he doing something right and the collective disapproval has nullified itself. Since the President is not acting in the interest of any group but following his own agenda,  the country will stumble along on the path of Obama's good intentions and  I really think that as flawed as he might be his intentions are not evil.  He is in limbo, holding down the fort for a new leader and SHE will fall heir to this wrath as America's implosion from within gains momentum.   

 

The scenario of present day America is stranger than fiction and scarier. A parallel civilization watching a TV series or movie depicting life on the planet Earth would be mesmerized by what this world has become.



#22 wc.edwards

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Posted 06 July 2014 - 11:36 AM

Again, well said. You're an excellant writer and a very smart and thoughtful person.  There is lot to think about in your posts. I tend to shoot from the hip--hit or miss.  Shoot first and ask questions later?

That's a great idea for a television series by the way. The aliens sort of comment on us while watching us like that series that used to snark on old B movies.  Mystery Science Theater 3000.  It's a B-movie world.  But that's sort of the Daily Show and Steven Colbert. I actually disliked MST 3000 because it interrupted movies, some of them I still nostalgically liked. 

 

If seriously done: we see or don't see exactly what the Aliens look like when dismayed, laughing at us, shocked, disgusted, turning off their view screens in outrage. Should they invade or not invade, should they jump into this mess or stay out of it.  That old idea from Star Trek of non-interference.  Hey, they're Martians and their fooling our roving robots they've captured and droped into miniture 3d realistic cycloramas! We think Mars is a dead world, but it isn't. They read Ray Bradbury, you see, and knew what was coming for them.  Can we be made to see ourselves from a sort of alien Other point of view?

 

I think Network pretty much summed up what we should do, turn off the damn tv! We've stopped at I'm mad as Hell and I'm not going to take it any more Now what should we do? Many us of feel swept along by forces beyond our control. I feel that way.  You're right, there are no easy answers given how mixed up and divided everyone is.  

 

As to politics, your points on President Obama's Catch 22 situation is well taken. In many ways he's the perfect technocratic manager as a fall guy.  He did all the right establishment things to correct the previous adminstration's failures and crimes but he can't get a break. Despite his attempts to compromise with the right, he's still treated with disrespect and mockery and has become a pretty ineffectual leader. They're either pretending he's a radical or it's just rabid racism. Mostly likely racism. It's really bizarre given his conservativism or pro business position the way they have treated him. It's just ridiculous.

It might not even be the fault of politicians ultimately if they reflect the values of their constituencies--the problem is class, the middle classes mostly can't or won't share what little they have with the poor and the poor can't and won't share with themselves. It's all about sharing. I kinda like that stop shopping movement but I think Rev. Billy should go door to door to people's homes now instead of the corporation offices or stores.  If people can't share, you have greed pure and simple.  And the rich mostly won't or can't share with anyone else.  Until the middle classes move into an urban inner city ghetto and bring with them their taxes and disposal incomes nothing much will happen. Even the black middle classes can't live in the inner cities. Maybe the one drawback of desegregation was the loss of the middle classes from black nieghborhoods, even if it was on the other side of the tracks like any white town divided by class.  Any future crisis is likely to just breed hysteria and the demagogues and agent provocateur will have a field day.  Yes, in the end, they'll blame it all on a black man and a white woman if the next president is a woman.  It is shocking to think that desegregation ultimately didn't do much for the masses of black people, only the best and the brightest--to hear that New York is more segregated than the proverty stricken South. Some believe the South is poverty stricken because working class whites, not only there but elsewhere, vote against their self interest because of racism--the fear that blacks will get welfare! I'm sure you've heard this perhaps from Thomas Frank or others.   

 

The left or mass movements here fall along demographic lines of activism. In some sense a smart move. But there is no unified reform movement with any specific economic goal or agenda or plan to influence or sway the powers that be. It's all identity politics basically.  What you identify with as a cause takes precedent over manufacturing jobs, decent wages etc. I think the focus on education as an out for most people avoids the need for good paying jobs for working people.  Really, it comes down to where you live, go to school and shop in most cases.  If intellectuals don't live among the poor and working class, the poor don't know any and maybe they don't know any better. I dunno. I really don't have the answers myself.  It the you know what hits the fan, I think panic is the most likely outcome rather than calm and reason. It will be too late for that given the amount of escapism.  The man on the high horse will ride into to town to save the day or swoop down from the sky or some version of that. It is scary indeed what has happened.

 

Humans do indeed need the arts to cheer them up. And the justification sometimes for escapism is that if offers hope, a respite from the daily shocks, horrors of bad news everywhere and it is also natural to human beings to enjoy sports and to participate in them as well as to hear stories. I face as I said before a contradiction in trying to combat escapism in fiction and films. And words have a harder power now that movies can realize that sense of wonder with special effects, the human imagination alone is no longer needed to do so. 

 

Just talking shop with fellow magicians.





 



#23 wc.edwards

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Posted 06 July 2014 - 07:25 PM

I'm not sure I agree now with the idea below that escapism is not a problem with genres, maybe it is. Maybe I don't want to face that it is because I like genres.  Maybe there is a real split between romantic fiction and any attempts at realism.  But most American's prefer the happier viewpoint of Steven Spielberg over the darker vision of Ingmar Bergman.  But does realism have to be as grim as Ingmar Bergman?  But Kubrick and Bergman are more honest when dealing with life and history.  Welles perhaps was the best, better than Kubrick, but suffered the worst maybe because he wanted to make a film about Rio that had blacks in it. Racism seemed to have played a part in his downfall.  I'm sorry I can't think of any black director with the stature of Kubrick, Welles and Bergman in terms of anti-escapism.  I'm not sure Spike Lee is a great director for various reasons I won't get into here. He's a good director but not a great one. Spielberg is a good director too but not as good as Kubrick, Bergman and Welles.  Here is some more from that never to be blog:

 

Perhaps there is a level of exhaustion with fiction and some writers are just repeating stories they liked and fans of certain stories are addicted to the same story being told over and over again--or liking certain characters, enjoy reading and seeing them in serials that never reach a climax like stories with a true beginning, middle and end. Thus the never ending sequals.

I think escapism is a real problem but it's not necessarily a problem of genres. I think genre writers, given the penchant for saviors, dectetives, and other strong men types, should consider being strong enough think about how they can write fiction that can make a difference in the world. Why create phony heroes when you can't yourself be heroic and do something to make the world actually better. You could at least try in your fiction to help inform, enlighten, invoke empathy for others, make some pressing issue really exciting to think about for a reader. It's very hard. But isn't that better than creating another vampire, another alien, another cowboy, stock figures? to just while away the time because you're tired of the real world.  Writers too must show some sense of social responsibility.  I don't excuse readers either. Pandering to people's desire to escape at this point in history is not right. The problem isn't genres--it's the richness of the content and how it relates back to dreams, fears, politics, states of mind and needs that are real.  In some ways Tolkien was an escapist but what the films couldn't seem to capture was his very real love of forests, the vanishing wilderness and a very real sense of the destruction of nature symbolically represented by the evil in the book. You get that in the books despite perhaps some valid criticism that it's a boys adventure book and not much else. I think it is little more than that. I certainly enjoyed the adventure as an urban kid.

I think his essays on secondery world creation is a great aguement for making imaginary worlds real and I don't think it necessarily means that the world need be escapist. I was outraged when Harlen Ellision used fecal matter to describe Tolkien or his works.  Escapism maybe a guage of how powerless and weak people really are or feel. We can explore this in terms of the writers themselves. Tolkien might've escaped the realities of the First World War but he couldn't avoid the realities of the Second.  Edgar Rice Borough might've been a complete failure in his own eyes if Taran didn't bring great sucesss.  Powerless readers and powerless writers escape together.

 

If you're doing a monster story why not involve questions of real world pollution in some new and interesting way. That is if you can find something interesting to say about monsters and our ecological crisis, real world pollution and real people and then the monster as a symbol. I'd give that as an assignment. I asked for such a story editing a monster magazine. Make the monster matter in some way that is tied to real problems. It's not that you can provide the answer necessarily to save the world but why settle for the bullshit heroics of fantasy or fake scares instead of trying to tackle something real in an imaginary genre context.  Of course horror has levels and complexity that is more than just what I'm saying here.
 



#24 wc.edwards

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Posted 06 July 2014 - 07:37 PM

I should have added to never ending sequels--television serials...but sadly maybe it's like disposal people, the millions of poor nobody seems to need, want or can care about: novels, films, music, it's all too much and superfluous and what's of true value is lost in this dragon's heap of useless gold...if gold it is. Maybe there is just too much of everything and nothing. Really, who needs another writer or filmmaker except the artist who persists in thinking what he has to say has some value...to whom is he communicating?



#25 wc.edwards

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Posted 06 July 2014 - 09:35 PM

I can't say too much because my family has not given me permisson to talk about our lives. But this is more than you'll find online about me.  I think I mentioned being of mixed race in origins. But being mixed race in appearance wasn't any advantage to us, as it might be to some now,  neither of my parents were celebrities and we didn't have money. Other than being mistaken for hispanics by Puerto Ricans and other hispanics, people would ask us what we were. A black bully didn't beat me up because he liked my curly hair!  I didn't yet know about the hair problem.

 

Yet we where fortunate to come here because the place we came from fell apart badly soon after.  We lived in an apartment near the stadium before moving into an old, old house off the Grand Concourse with a smashed up grand piano on the top floor. You couldn't take it down the steps or out the window.  It must've been put in when the house was being built.  The white man who sold the house to my parents quickly wanted to buy it back for some reason. Maybe it was nostagia for the house he grew up in.

 

Anyway, our block when we moved in was very white and it seemed overnight white folks moved out. Maybe it was partly white flight and partly the opportunity for Italians, Irish and Jewish ethnics to finally move out into the suburbs, trees--grass. I remember when the gang members at school wore their colorful jackets. But these gangs now seem pretty tame in comparison to the ones today with their machine guns. The drug problem seems tame by comparison, too.

We never heard about shootings, maybe stabbings and beatings but never the kind of gun fights today. So it was shocking to hear of that new academic study, is it Harvard or Yale, that says blacks in New York are more segregrated than in the South.  It seems nothing much has changed. Fortunately and unfornutely we came at a bad time in terms of race relations in New York, I think, that effected how people looked at us and treated us because we appeared to be mixed race blacks.  My own personal experience of serious racial violence happened when a big hulking white cop once pulled over my teenage brother, the darker one, soon after he had gotten his license and this cop was just aching for a reaction that would give him the excuse to beat my brother up. We were lucky he was a cop who needed an excuse.  He barked and fumed for no reason I could see. I was the kid brother in the back seat terrified. My brother kept his cool and we Escaped the monster.  I cannot forget the anger and or hate radiating like madness from this man. The man's face was red with upset for what reason I still don't know.

 

When my mother first took us to a park in the late 60s, a small park near Yankee stadium, all the white mothers and their children suddenly seemed to have disappeared and she wondered what was happening and became frightened. And fled the place. Earlier than that, before we came, she and her sister went into Manhatten to eat and they couldn't figure out why they weren't being served and why all these white people were staring at them. It was very unfriendly to say the least.  I think, if I recall the story, they were about to complain but decided to leave instead, insulted.

 

But to  end on a more positive if not bitter sweet note. Let me tell you of my griot experience. Maybe this how storytelling will survive in the oral sense:

People can and will listen to stories. They do already.  Maybe more so children. So stories will never die out.

 

In this Bronx I've just given you a glimpse of we lived next door to African Americans originally from the South and the mother or grandmother of this family used to tell these wonderful stories about her childhood and life down South.  I think they were living there when we arrived. And for the life of me I would give anything to remember the stories. When I sat on the stoop and listened to this toothless old lady, talking with great passion about events and people in her life, I saw vivid pictures in my mind's eye of what she was saying. I swear. It is not a false memory.  It was something wonderful. But I can't remember the stories she told, sadly. That's the terrible thing, the sad part of my story.  Maybe because I was too small.  Was it telepathy?  Of course it must be dismissed as imagination.  Why take my word for it.  Have you had any experience like that? Some years back I read Fordham University was trying to get oral histories of blacks that lived in the Bronx.  Many know something of the Jewish, Irish, and Italian communities, but blacks lived in the Bronx, too. It's a real shame, that this old lady's journey was never written down. Her daughter too passed away at a ripe old, taking her stories with her. I was so sick once, the same black Americans next door, this daughter of the old lady, made some kind of meat poultice to cover my chest. It was powerful stuff. Maybe it helped me to stay alive to tell you this story.


 



#26 Cynique

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Posted 07 July 2014 - 03:42 PM

In regard to your thoughts on escapism, wc. edwards, I earlier cited H.L. Menken's quote in regard to nobody every going broke underestimating the taste of the American public. I'd venture to say that escapism does not have to be a fantasy that represents a flight from reality; it can be a diversion that amounts to an extension of reality - be about familiar people, places, and things that the masses have things in common with, and about humorous situations or heartfelt dilemmas that common folk can empathize with. Art imitating life.
 
Entrepreneurs long ago discovered the profit and advantages of giving the people what they want. When it comes to entertainment, giving people what they need instead of what they want is a slippery slope that can evolve into paternalism. There will always be the "art for the sake of art" crowd. They are the audience for serious writers whose reward will be the praise and acceptance of their peers. Earning a place in the annals of literary distinction as opposed to instant fame and fortune is also a reward. But don't discount the fact that it also takes a lot of skill to write comedy. Writing, like any other profession, is multifacted. Of course, the pen is mightier than the sword and anyone who does write with the noble intent of making the world a better place should, indeed, be encouraged and commended but it should also be kept in mind that laughter is one of the things that makes the world a better place. 
 
I grew up during the '40s and '50s before television hit the scene and because my mother worked for the local theater, I got in the show free and I went just about every time the features changed. I never paid any attention to directors but I did have an appreciation for the black and white film noir movies and screwball comedies and lavish technicolor musicals that comprised the golden age of Hollywood which I was privileged to be a spectator of. I was also lucky enough to see the pictures with all-black casts directed by Oscar Marcheaux that at one time were run on little off beat TV channels. At first, I thought these melodramas were painfully amateurish and it took me a while to put them in their proper perspective and appreciate their merit.
 
I've never really considered myself qualified to critique directors but I've always been piqued by the quirkiness of Robert Altman and the outre of David Lynch and the whimsy of Woody Allen and the mischief of Alfred Hitchock. Black directors are surely good at what they do but, if I didn't know, I couldn't identify a movie directed by one of them on the basis that it bore the imprint of their style. From time to time, I catch a showing of Orson Welle's Citizen Kane, still gleaning it for what it is that reputedly qualifies it to be a directorial prototype.
 
As a person of color, your experience has its own niche in the racial spectrum in this country. My black experience is slightly different from others. I grew up in a small midwestern town far away from the Jim Crow south, a pleasant little village that was interracial but not really integrated. The races co-existed, and Blacks were content to stay in their place and not rock the boat because we were comfortable in our own skins and did not need the validation that mingling with Whites would supposedly provide. Things gradually changed as the civil rights movement gained momentum, however. In retrospect, the one thing I am most grateful for was the excellent education that was available at the highly rated high school we Blacks were free to attend. The opportunity to take advantage of this was never denied the younger generation of Blacks in this town. 
 
When I went away to college to the Big 10 state school, once again my experience was unique. During the semesters I lived in one of the newly-integrated woman's residence halls, we small circle of black co-eds preferred to keep to ourselves, but curious white dorm mates sought us out, wanting to befriend us to the point of making nusiances of themselves. After a while we just gave in and all became one big happy family.
 
The student body of this campus was made up from a cross section of cities and small towns and farms from all over the state of Illinois as well a sprinkling from other states. Needless to say, the education I got during my time at this diverse institution was not just from books. Being a part of this diverse environment broadened my experiences which were not always positive ones, but I learned a lot about people.
 
BTW, I certainly agree with your take on greed. It is insidious. And it is not good.


#27 wc.edwards

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Posted 10 July 2014 - 04:23 PM

I was going to stop posting for a while but your comments have triggered more thoughts. I'm sorry only two people cared to comment on my ideas and I appreciate very much your taking the time to comment and talk here. I really wanted to talk about solutions for novelists but we've gotten into an interesting conversation here even if it's a digression.

 

Again, well said on the duties of the artists. I could not have said it better.  As to your interesting and unique isolation from Jim Crow--this makes me wonder further about desegregation--would blacks have been better off separate but equal, equal schools etc.   Your experience suggests an alternate reality could've happend in the 1950s. Maybe if that famous town, in Oklahoma was it, if that town wasn't bombed out of existence. It could've served as a great model of negro success. It is sad to think this way--that it was geopolitics mostly it seems to me and not moral outrage that helped desegregate the military and the schools. The neccessities of war. The communist could have used American racism to gain support for their idealogy.  I don't think the fear of communist subversation was a joke, given Stalin and his methods. They could have used disaffected blacks as a fifth column or saboteurs. I recall reading somewhere that the Japanese were thinking about it and that some blacks identified with a non-white race standing up to whites. Given the outrages, the killing of returning blacks soldiers. It must've been shameful for America to push capitalism and democracy overseas while having Jim Crow in the South, though there were also the invisible signs of it in the North, too.

 

It seems looking back on it that some backward thinking whites can smugly feel that black people forced themselves on them by wanting to live in their neighborhoods, go to their schools etc--the controvery over affirmative action relates to this for want of a better word sense of pride--blacks had nothing of their own. It doesn't matter what the economic reasons were for their poor housing, schools etc. It  would've been better for civil rights then if whites had initiated the reform themselves. And of course, blacks could not have broken the South without the help of whites of good will and the media exposure of police brutality on non-violent demonstrators.  Blacks heroically insisted on fighting racism and the conscience of decent white people was stirred to act and they joined in.  Blacks didn't achieve it on their own however.  It is false pride to think so.  Blacks were also the underdogs. Looking at those black people now in the films, I don't see the same black people today. I don't.  I really don't know if blacks then are the same black people now.  I don't think whites have as much sympathy for blacks as the whites of the Civil Rights era. Those Civil Rights era whites are also not the same or are all of them passing on.

 

If blacks were wanted, sort of like the experience you had of being exotic haha, we might see better race relations today. Given that there is already a kind of reinstitutionalized segregation in terms of neighborhoods, inner city schools, the loss of tax revenue for them, the crime, we don't hear about white gangs shooting kids down in their own nieghborhoods. But if all things are equal, we do hear about crazy white folks going off and shooting up a school or movie theater.  I see your post on Chicago touches on this subject:

 

And the carnage continues.  There doesn't seem to be any effective tactic to combat the gun violence being dispensed by the urban terrorists in the inner city neighborhoods of Chicago.  The tragedy is that so many of the killings are random.  They are not necessarily the acts of organized gang warfare or about drug trafficking.  They're frequently about personal retaliations gone wrong.

 

Have the black working class and poor really benefited from desegregation? Of course, if you are rich you can live in the best neighborhoods which are usually white neighborhoods. When I moved here, in this city, it started out 50/50 in terms of blacks and whites but gradually whites have departed for whiter areas and black crime has increased but it is not as bad as Miami. Blacks and hispanics now out number the whites that have remained. 

 

I wonder what your thoughts are on the new version of the Planet of the Apes. I think the first versions showed how some white intellectuals related the struggle of the apes to slavery. I've yet to see the one coming out now, so I'm not sure this remake deals with slavery or racism today or yesterday.  I'm only guessing but it's more about genetic experiments, ecological questions, which species is fit to take over etc. Are those the subtexts? As humans we've certainly made a mess of things so it is an interesting theme in anycase. Yet I saw the earlier two remake movies and they are not really about the social and historical relations among black and whites, you could say the truer reality rather than the escapist fantasy. 
 



#28 wc.edwards

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Posted 10 July 2014 - 07:23 PM

To try to get this back on track here. If literate blacks such as yourself are a minority within a minority, how can black authors sustain themselves with such a small readership? Given the black genres that exists? What is the most popular black genre?  I know I don't have to write black fiction because I can't in any case because I don't have the right experiences.  Fantasy and science fiction perhaps frees the imagination to create other worlds besides this one and although I've read a lot of black history from an early age I'm not inclined to focus on it for my fiction.  Maybe the suffering is just too great and too limiting a subject matter.  I'm not sure I can make such fiction redemptive or inspiring or uplifting, you know, they survived and all that. Maybe because I'm not religious?  Too much a lover of film noir. The horror of the Middle Passage reminds me of something Stanley Kubrick said about Holocaust movies.  Shindler's List wasn't about the Holocaust really because it was about those who survived. They said he stuided it completely and became utterly depressed by the horrific atrocities and the fact that he could've been thrown into an oven himself if he had been born there instead of here.  How can you film such a thing to really capture it. You can't.  You can circle around the terribleness of it and then offer some bone of hope maybe.

 

When you read African Folktales, it isn't about anything we associate with race in terms of signaling to the reader. The subject matter is free of the suffering of slavery and its history and is about other things, moral, cultural, social, sexual, heroics, adventure etc. Unless I've read wrong translations that's my experience of African folklore and myth--it's more African and not so much American race identity.  I find this as well in the myths and folklore from other countries, there are universalities to these stories.  I'm not big on authors using archetypes like recipes for creating characters but I guess maybe folktales contain universals of that sort.  Yet there is a social context that is missing for modern readers in the ghetto--we need to know where the readers are in the ghetto in order to understand some things. But I suspect nobody is writing or can write for people in the ghetto.  Do you know of any list or data on this. I suspect that a lot of working class black readers are women more than men? Do you know, if this is true?  There was a black girl on a C-span booktv show talking to an author about her book on how everything in America was becoming ghetto (not good)  and this black girl said that when she's among whites at her job she can talk on a range of subjects but when she returns to her inner city neighborhood if she reads or thinks about anything besides black ghetto fiction she's talking white.  How many poor or working class blacks associate intellectual curiosity with whiteness?  Should we know the numbers?  And why do they think it is white to be educated?

 

Now what Tyler Perry is doing with "The Haves and Haves Nots" is really interesting in terms of IS IT for both black and white audiences together or is it just for blacks, either one is interesting because he uses white characters.  Blacks get to enjoy a black person's view of whites for a change.  That's the kinda of thing that could've been in a book but how do we know which demographic is watching it in the inner cities or suburbs or mixed up nieghborhoods with a scattering of blacks here and there. 

 

Is there anyway to get that demographics without spending a lot of money? Could we give out some kind of questioneer?   If you can get the demographic for that show, you could advertise to that market through direct mailing or something like that, say a catalogue from an online black bookstore. We really need to also know what percentage of blacks prefer white fiction or black, neutral fiction over any type of race fiction and the specific genres if we want to work toward a solution. Who reads the novels advertised in Essence and Ebony?

 

Though this site isn't about film: what would black audiences like to see in specifically black genre films in terms of representation? Do blacks like comedy more?  If the solution isn't just increasing literarcy among the working class--they might be better served by quality movies that can some how reflect their lives without pandering to gangster stereotypes or without being about the smarter, better kids or the football and basketball jocks who have a chance to make it and get out while the dope dealer is doomed to die or go to jail. Then I come back to the idea that well paying jobs would be better and entertainment really isn't in this picture at all in order to solve anything.  Where is my market then.  Does BOUNCE tv AND BET have that information? What do the people in Sweeties Pie's world read anyway?  Maybe the Bible. As an aside, when I read the Bible as a kid it reminded me of Sword and Sorcery, parts of it anyway.

 

Take the Transformers movie, the first one anyway--it could've been about a working class black mechanic with his lower middle class black girl friend, or college bound upper middle class one (she likes the ghetoo type guy)--or dare we make her poor like him, still in high school--in the white version, they reversed the class issue by making the girl the daughter of some shady excon type mechanic, if I recall right--that's how she knows so much about cars.  In this case the subject of class is tied to the tough girl and the softer, nerdy boy getting the hot girl to lose his virginity with.  So what demographics was that reversal of gender roles aimed at?  Nerdy white boys with their hands inside their parents deep pockets. Yet if the movie wasn't about profits first, it could've been a working class ghetto blackboy finding the robot inside the garage where he works. 

 

All we get of black (working class) is the transformer that listened to hip-hop and uses its colorful language to communicate.  It uses John Wayne's catch phrases, too.  Of course the middle class black or is that working class is the standard issue black soldier type.  Who would expect advanced robots to hide among the least important people in some filthy urban garage. Also the angle about the arctic explorer could've been Mathew Henson--he could've been the guy who got the coded information and it's his descendant who works in the garage. This is how I would handle the race thing. You get some real history but the story isn't tied up directly with all the suffering of racism. Maybe the girl is teaching him how to read since he doesn't need to lose his virginity.  Black people are not just victims of history you see. So why couldn't whites identify with the over all story and forget race in this context. Of course any number of blacks could enjoy the actual transformers and over look the racial aspects to enjoy its plot...maybe. Shouldn't we know how many blacks watched it and enjoyed it or didn't enjoy it?  It's a fun movie and despite my anti-escapism I actually enjoyed it myself with my nephew, though it was a little too loud and corny. It was all bullshit stuff but hell, I can't be serious all the time.  Because I love science fiction maybe that explains it. I'm fascinated by the problems of robots and enjoy seeing the latest special effects.



#29 wc.edwards

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Posted 11 July 2014 - 07:17 AM

The C-span author was Cora Daniels, talking about her book Ghetto Nation: A Journey into the Land of the Bling and the Home of the Shameless



#30 wc.edwards

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Posted 11 July 2014 - 08:04 AM

Just saw a trailer and interview about Planet of the Apes and it confirms that it is really more about rival species rather than races per se. It's interesting that the second remake, the first about Ceasar touched vaguely on race as well with David Oyelowo sort of taking the part of Hari Rhodes but without sympathy for the apes as Rhodes' MacDonald had in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes . Just learned stuff about Rhodes that I wish I had known. I was fascinated by him as kid and had no idea about the following until I looked him up to get his name right from Wikipedia.  Too bad he died relatively young. I'm in my mid fifities which is 52 or 53, for some reason my age actually escapes me. He died at age 59.
 

Rhodes first television role was in a 1957 episode of Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater that starred Sammy Davis Jr. The role came just one year after Rhodes had received a rude lesson in racial prejudice.  "I read about a training program a major studio had for grooming people for 'stardom.' Being naive about the system, I got on the phone and called the man in charge and asked if he would interview me, and he told me to come around to the studio," Rhodes told TV Guide in 1968. "I said, 'By the way, I think I should tell you that I am a Negro.' He said, 'Don't waste your time – we don't take Negroes in this program.' I hung up the phone. Almost tore the cradle off the thing."

 

Troy if I've not offended you (I hope I haven't) and you're still reading this--has anyone republished his novels?  Again from Wikipedia:

 

Rhodes channeled his anger into a novel, A Chosen Few, which was published in a paperback edition. A Chosen Few was described as "an explosive personal portrait of what (Rhodes) saw and lived through in the heart of the American South in the last all-Negro Marine boot camp." The novel's uneducated hero remarks, "Bitterness … is a consuming, cancerous quality out of which comes nothing but self-destruction, while out of an anger can come many constructive things, if nothing more than the drive to get something done."  Rhodes later penned two unpublished novels: Harambee, about a man with a plan to liquidate the world's entire Caucasian population, and Land of Odds, about Hollywood.  Rhodes told TV Guide that writing served as his safety valve. "I'd rather be writing my own than reading somebody else's. I have no need for it." Rhodes said.

Death

Hari Rhodes died of a heart attack in January 1992, a few months before the premiere of his final project, the made-for-TV feature Murder Without Motive: The Edmund Perry Story.

 

I guess I could look it up myself.



#31 wc.edwards

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Posted 11 July 2014 - 12:45 PM

I think I've found a simpler solution to our problems as novelists and I'm going to post it in a few minutes as a new topic. What I want you to all do is tell me what you think of the pros and cons of this new idea. Thumbs down or up.  A vote of confidence or no confidence. Don't be shy, speak up.  Maybe I'm reinventing the wheel, well, please tell me.  See you at the new topic soon.





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