David Janower has passed away. He was the choral director of the fine Albany Pro Musica, and I knew and liked him personally, so I am sad. He had surgery a few months back and suffered a stroke from which he never really recovered.
How much of the past can we shed, and how so, before we cross that line between lying and just moving on?
It’s true: after over 30 years of watching Woody Allen movies, I have had to limit myself to those that review well. That’s because bad Woody Allen films are perhaps more painful to me than the bad films of other writers and/or directors.
But the title Jasmine is a bit difficult to like. She’s this odd mixture of two characters, one real, one fictional. She’s part Ruth Madoff, the wife of Bernie, the Ponzi scheme king, who claims that she was oblivious to his financial shenanigans that ruined other people’s lives. She’s also part Blanche DuBois of Tennesse Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, with her suddenly needing the kindness, if not of strangers, then of her estranged, lower class, sister Ginger living a continent away.
Is it just a coincidence that the BLANCHE character is played, and brilliantly so, by Cate BLANCHETT? She will likely get some nominations, come awards season. Ginger is played by Sally Hawkins, who I enjoyed in 2010’s Made in Dagenham. She’s also fine here as a character trying to negotiate between her beau, Chili (Bobby Cannavale), and her sister.
Necessarily to the plot, the storyline goes from present to past, no more effectively when Jasmine is in a second-hand guitar shop and discovers the reason for yet another estrangement.
Also very good in their roles are Alec Baldwin (who looks a little too much like that guy from 30 Rock), Peter Sarsgaard, and a great revelation to me, Andrew Dice Clay, a comedian I could not stand in his heyday, whose character may be the moral center of the whole story.
I should say that, at the end of the film, I am sympathetic to Jasmine, just a bit. And worried.
The movie got me thinking about the process of reinventing oneself. How much of the past can we shed, and how so, before we cross that line between lying and just moving on? Movie stars used to do it all the time; Marion Morrison became JOHN WAYNE, and Norma Jean Baker, MARILYN MONROE, for good or ill. I do have some examples in mind from my circle of acquaintances, but it’s not for me to say.
As I have noted, I’m not one much for nostalgia. I don’t long for the “good old days.”
Also, I used to think in terms of time being linear. You do this; this is over. You do that; that passes. On to the next thing. I’m more likely now to see things as parabolic, with events somehow coming back to re-inform one’s life periodically.
I do have a sense of history, though. That is why my friend Steve Bissette and I tried to fix some of the more egregious errors on the FantaCo Wikipedia page a few years ago. I worked at the comic book and film paraphernalia store/publisher/mail order/convention place at 21 Central Avenue in Albany from 1980-1988; Steve wrote and drew and edited some publications in the late 1980s.
It’s been an interesting summer for me. I was putting together a part of a bibliography of FantaCo publications from 1979-1988. It’s not that someone else couldn’t have done it, though I am hard-pressed to identify who. Except for owner Tom Skulan, no one else was present during that period.
It was surprising to me to discover that I had many of the publications in my possession. A set of the comic-related stuff had gotten damaged in a flooded basement, but as I explored my attic, I came across items I did not know I owned, mostly the horror film stuff that didn’t especially interest me, yet I still had copies. When my friend Bill Anderson was seeking covers to scan, I was the one with easy access to Splatter Movies; in fact, I had two copies.
What were initially harder to find included items I actually was involved with: magazines about superheroes, namely the X-Men Chronicles, Fantastic Four Chronicles, and Spider-Man Chronicles, all of which I edited and contributed to.
This bibliography was not just an exercise, though. It will be part of the program for FantaCon 2013, which will be taking place Saturday and Sunday, September 14 & 15, 2013 at the Marriott Hotel on Wolf Road in Colonie, NY, near Albany. You’ll meet tons of guests, including the aforementioned Bissette. There are some two-day tickets available for a couple more days, or you can get the one-day tickets through the opening day.
When Jackie Robinson joined major league baseball in 1947, that did not mark the end of racism and segregation.
It’s likely you’ll see a LOT of stories about the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Every single one will marvel at how much progress has been made in America in the area of race, since 1963. Almost all will point to a black President, the current Attorney General, and two recent Secretaries of State as examples. The divergence in opinions come on this point: some will claim that we have “reached the promised land,” making sure to paraphrase Martin Luther King, Jr. from that day a half-century ago – as though he were the only speaker there – while others will suggest that we haven’t quite gotten there yet.
When President Obama suggested that we look at race again in light of the Trayvon Martin case, that Obama could have been Trayvon 35 years ago, some, such as Touré at TIME, thought it was a brave personal observation. He wrote: “The assertion that blacks are hallucinating or excuse-making or lying when we talk about the many very real ways white privilege and racial bias and the lingering impact of history impact our lives is painful. It adds insult to injury to attack all assertions of racism and deny its continued impact or existence.”
Others labeled Obama “racist-in-chief”, playing the “race card” and worse. When Former Florida GOP Congressman Joe Scarborough lit into Fox News talk-show host Sean Hannity last month for suggesting that Martin was a messed up teenager who “had it coming” when he was killed by George Zimmerman in their February 2012 confrontation, the bile cast on the Morning Joe host, Martin, his parents, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, among others, by a website I follow was toxic. The always dreadful Ted Nugent said that Martin had been ‘Emboldened’ By Obama, “the first black president as a ‘Black Panther’ running a ‘gangster’ government.”
Here are four charts suggesting Obama’s right about being black in America. Being profiled is, more than anything, disheartening, I can tell you. After George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon, Lavar Burton, the original Kunte Kinte of Roots fame, noted how he had taught his sons to keep their hands open and out of the car. Meanwhile, a white guy on the same show noted that he had once locked his keys in the car, so he tried to break in; a New Orleans police officer stopped him, saying, “No, you’re not doing it right.”
There’s this show on ABC called What Would You Do? It’s a hidden camera show that looks at human psychology. I don’t watch it, but I find it interesting that several of their experiments involve race. A most powerful one involved actors pretending to be bicycle thieves. From this story: When a white young man appeared to be taking a bike, most people didn’t question it. Yet when the African-American actor took his place, “the reactions were more pronounced. At one point, a crowd assembled around the purported thief and confronted him directly. One man pulled out a cellphone and said he was calling the police, which he was about to do until the cameramen filming the event stepped forward.”
When Jackie Robinson joined major league baseball in 1947, that did not mark the end of racism and segregation. It took over a decade before every team had at least one black player. It was 1987, when Al Campanis, general manager of the DODGERS, which was Jackie’s team, rationalized on national TV why there weren’t more blacks in baseball management; I watched it live, stunned. As a direct result, the sport was far more aggressive in making sure minority candidates at least got interviewed for a management position. They took an AFFIRMATIVE ACTION to rectify a system, not of overt racism, but merely cronyism, hiring the guys one already knows.
And speaking of which, the US Supreme Court seems destined to gut the Voting Rights Act and affirmative action, under the mistaken belief that everything is all better now. The economic inequities would otherwise. Almost 400 years have passed since blacks came to America, and that there is still work to be done does not negate the progress. Nor does the progress suggest that Martin, if he were still alive, and his colleagues, some of whom still alive, and their successors, would be resting on their laurels, satisfied that the work is done. *** Leonard Pitts: Living in a time of moral cowardice.
If you could somehow magically bring [Martin Luther King, Jr.] here, that tomorrow would likely seem miraculous to him, faced as he was with a time when segregation, police brutality, employment discrimination, and voter suppression were widely and openly practiced.
Here is tomorrow, after all, the president is black. The business mogul is black. The movie star is black. The sports icon is black. The reporter, the scholar, the lawyer, the teacher, the doctor, all of them are black. And King might think for a moment that he was wrong about tomorrow and its troubles.
It would not take long for him to see the grimy truth beneath the shiny surface, to learn that the perpetual suspect is also black. As are the indigent woman, the dropout, the fatherless child, the suppressed voter, and the boy lying dead in the grass with candy and iced tea in his pocket.
James Gadsden was a lieutenant from South Carolina who wanted to expand slavery westward into California, perhaps by splitting the state into two, one slave, one free.
I swear I went to bed one night, wondering, “What should I write about for the letter G?” Then I woke up in the morning thinking about the Gadsden Purchase.
You can see from the map above that the western expansion of the United States had already been achieved by the time the US purchased this relatively small section of the country, shown in orange. After the Revolutionary War, the US territory reached the Mississippi River. The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 from France nearly doubled the landmass. Florida was acquired in 1819 from Florida.
Getting Texas, the Oregon Territory from the British, and fighting the Mexican War, all in the 1840s, achieved what many at the time called the United States’ Manifest Destiny, expounded by, among others, John Quincy Adams: “The whole continent of North America appears to be destined by Divine Providence to be peopled by one nation, speaking one language, professing one general system of religious and political principles, and accustomed to one general tenor of social usages and customs. For the common happiness of them all, for their peace and prosperity, I believe it is indispensable that they should be associated in one federal Union.” If the US ran “from sea to shining sea,” then why the acquisition of the Gadsden Purchase? “It was largely for the purpose that the US might construct a transcontinental railroad along a deep southern route [which was not built]. It also aimed to reconcile outstanding border issues between the US and Mexico following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican–American War of 1846–48 … [it was] thought the topography of the southern portion of the Mexican Cession was too mountainous [to build a railroad]…”
Franklin Pierce was President when the treaty was signed on December 30, 1853, and ratified, with changes, by the U.S. Senate on April 25, 1854. A huge supporter of the agreement was his Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, who later became President of the Confederacy.
James Gadsden, BTW, was an army officer from South Carolina, a railroad official, and eventually the American ambassador to Mexico, who wanted to expand slavery westward into California, perhaps by splitting the state into two, perhaps at 36°30′ north, one slave, one free. “Gadsden considered slavery ‘a social blessing’ and abolitionists ‘the greatest curse of the nation.'” The politics surrounding the acquisition, which some parties wanted to include much more of present-day Mexico, is a largely unknown precursor to the American Civil War.
The Gadsden Purchase was the final piece of what became the first 48 states of the Union, with only Alaska (1867) and Hawaii (1898) to follow. ABC Wednesday – Round 13