Lydster: telling me stuff I didn’t know

I never bothered reviewing Love Yourself in Seoul here because it would be like reviewing Beatlemania

Lydia CaseyMy daughter was having a particularly good day. She had seen Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-nominated documentary 13th (2016), about the loophole in the 13th Amendment (1865) banning slavery.

“Did you know,” she asked me, “that there weren’t cross burnings by the Ku Klux Klan until the movie Birth Of A Nation (1915) came out?” Why, no, I didn’t” – and if I did, I had forgotten that detail. It’s true.

“I told you something you didn’t know!” She LOVES doing that. And she realizes that for it to have an impact, it has to be something I care about.

While she knows a LOT about K-pop music, and can name songs and artists ad nauseum, she knows nothing (yet) about Hendrix or the Pretenders. I play the “yeah, but” card. “Name a song by XO”, and I can’t. “Name a song by Twice.” “Yes or Yes.” (I read Dustbury.) “Name a song by Talking Heads,” I say, and she can’t. Which is a bit my failure, I suppose, but whatever.

Then she shows me her geometry homework and shows me how to draw equilateral triangles with just a line segment and a compass. I was good at math in high school, but I never learned this trick. “I taught you TWO things today!”

She somehow got the number up to five, with other geometric magic. It’s not that she’s actually TAUGHT me these things, but she did show me them, which is good enough for her.

Her mother and I are not beyond bribing her to get her AP World History done on time, as opposed to staying up all Sunday night. In February, I told her she could see a BTS concert movie, one of those Fathom events, if she finished her homework by 6 pm Sunday EASTERN Time. (Her lawyerly definitions required the time zone inclusion.)

I never bothered reviewing Love Yourself in Seoul here because it would be like reviewing Beatlemania, including from my daughter. Closeup shots of the band, great dancing and decent singing, solo segments for each of them.

The photo was posted seven years ago by the little boy’s father, and is probably a year or more older than that.

Limousine accident, October 6, 2018

Shahed “Malik” Hussain testified in several high-profile terrorism cases.

NOT the actual vehicle
You may well have heard about the limousine accident in upstate New York in October 2018 that killed 20 people.

Seventeen were friends and family including four sisters, young parents, and newlyweds, celebrating a birthday. One was the driver, and the other two were pedestrians struck by the vehicle as it careened off the road.

The terrible accident on the intersection of routes 30A and 30 in Schoharie, about 20 miles from Albany, was national, even international news.

A couple of narratives have emerged. One is that the vehicle should not have been on the road. It had failed a state Department of Transportation inspection the previous month. A total of five inspections were done of the company’s vehicles over the previous 25 months, and four were taken out of service as a result.

One of the victims texted the limo was in ‘terrible condition’ minutes before the crash. The driver in the fatal crash was ticketed in August for having improper license, driving 11 people in that same vehicle.

Other “major issues cited were rear emergency exits that weren’t operating properly, and the fact that the modified Excursion didn’t have the proper federal certification label that should have been affixed after the SUV had been altered by a third party.” The brakes were also problematic.

For a time, National Transportation Safety Board investigators were frustrated over their inability to fully examine the limousine, first because of the pending criminal case, and, for a time, because of the 35-day partial government shutdown.

The insurer of the stretch Excursion, Global Liberty Insurance of New York, canceled the insurance policy on the limo six times between January and September. Prestige Limo tried to sell vehicle days before the fatal crash, listing it on Craigslist for $9,000.

The other narrative was that, while day-to-day operation of Prestige Limousine day-to-day operation of the company was run by his son, the owner is Shahed “Malik” Hussain. Malik testified in several high-profile terrorism cases. Malik “became an F.B.I. informant after being charged in 2002 with a scheme that involved taking money to illegally help people in the Albany area get driver’s licenses” and other crimes.

The “con man and career criminal” was given the kind of second chance most criminals only dream of. By his own telling, Shahed Hussain’s journey to upstate New York began with a murder charge.

The elder Hussain worked in an undercover role, posing as an arms dealer, to help federal authorities snare two immigrants with no criminal backgrounds at the time: Yassin Aref, an Iraqi refugee and imam of a Central Avenue mosque, and Mohammed Hossain, a Bangladeshi immigrant who owned a pizza shop.

“Aref and Mohammed Hossain were both arrested in 2004 and accused of laundering money in connection with a fictitious terror plot set up by the FBI’s informant. They were convicted in 2006 and both sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. Aref was recently released from prison and is being held in custody pending his deportation to Iraq.”

“During the Albany trial, there was testimony that the informant’s recorded conversations with the Albany targets were in Urdu. The informant would then translate those conversations for FBI agents, who later learned that the translations were not always accurate…” And there were other irregularities.

Critics said that the FBI and Hussain entrapped Muslims who otherwise would never have been involved in terrorism in other cases as well, one highlighted in “The Newburgh Sting,” an HBO documentary.

How can we ensure stretch limos are roadworthy? How does one prevent an owner from circumventing the state’s inspection process repeatedly?

In January 2019, Gov. Andrew Cuomo wanted to include a ban on “stretched” or remanufactured limousines in New York, as well as sweeping measures to expand regulation of the limousine industry. Limo firms wary of Cuomo’s plan.

As of March 2019, New York lawmakers are only now talking about holding hearings on what further regulation limousines might need.

For ABC Wednesday

myTrueIdentity: benefits of “membership”

myTrueIdentity is a PITA to type,

mytrueidentityI got this email recently:

“As a benefit of your myTrueIdentity membership, this is a notification that there have been no reported changes in your credit file(s) during the last 30 days. To view a complete history of your recent credit alerts, log in to your account now.

“myTrueIdentity will continue to monitor your credit file daily to ensure that you’ll always have an up-to-date snapshot of your credit.

“Thank you for choosing myTrueIdentity.”

A few thoughts:

1. I didn’t remember that I had a membership with myTrueIdentity, because I didn’t choose myTrueIdentity. It was chosen for me by one of my credit card companies, or banks, or some financial entity, after a breach of confidential information of some sort/ Moreover…

1a. I have, at this point, no idea which entity it was, which is sad. This is at least the third time I’ve been given “protection” after the fact.

2. I have no idea what my login is for myTrueIdentity. It might be one of the eight or ten I usually use. Or, I might have to do that thing when I have forgotten my password to get it back through some two-step verification. It usually involves my cell phone, which I invariably need to charge, or my work email, which I’ll have to remember how to log into.

3. I hate the name myTrueIdentity. I especially dislike how it starts with the lower-case m. It’s a PITA to type, which is why, except for the first time, I’ve cut and pasted it every time it appears in this post. I suppose I should add it to my spellcheck because of all the red underlining in my text bugs me.

I suppose I could write this off as a First World Problem, but it still bugs me. Credit is so essential to the American Way of Life.

Underplayed vinyl: Reflections – Gil Scott-Heron

The first song I remembered from Reflections by Gil Scott-Heron, before playing it again, is actually the final track, B-Movie, mostly about Ronald Reagan.

Gil Scott-HeronGil Scott-Heron would have been 70 on April 1, 2019, reason enough to bring back a category on this blog. Underplayed Vinyl means records I used to play a LOT as LPs, but as I got into CDs, haven’t played nearly so much.

His “collaborative efforts with musician Brian Jackson featured a musical fusion of jazz, blues, and soul, as well as lyrical content concerning social and political issues of the time, delivered in both rapping and melismatic vocal styles by Scott-Heron. His own term for himself was ‘bluesologist’, which he defined as ‘a scientist who is concerned with the origin of the blues…’ Scott-Heron is considered by many to be the first rapper/MC ever…”

I have some other music by him. We Almost Lost Detroit appears on the No Nukes album. He co-wrote and sang on Let Me See Your I.D. on the Artists United Against Apartheid album Sun City. Most importantly, I have the epic The Revolution Will Not Be Televised on a compilation of 100 Years of Black Music.

Reflections (1981) is the only full Gil Scott-Heron album I own. The first song I remembered, before playing it again, is actually the final track, B-Movie, mostly about Ronald Reagan. It’s astonishing how relevant the lyrics still are. Just change the names of the players.

The idea concerns the fact that this country wants nostalgia
They want to go back as far as they can…
Even if it’s only as far as last week
Not to face now or tomorrow, but to face backwards

Reflections features:
Storm Music (Gil Scott-Heron)
Grandma’s Hands (Bill Withers)
Is That Jazz? (G S-H)
Morning Thoughts (G S-H)
Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) (James Nyx, Marvin Gaye)
Gun (G S-H)
‘B’ Movie (Intro, Poem, Song) (G S-H)

Gil Scott-Heron, born April 1, 1949, died too early, on May 27, 2011 at the age of 62. I have found no cause of death, though “he disclosed in a 2008 New York Magazine interview that he had been HIV-positive for several years, and that he had been previously hospitalized for pneumonia.”

Pieces of a Man album (1971), the first cut being The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
Winter In America (1974)
We almost Lost Detroit (1977 studio version with Brian Jackson)
Reflections album (1981)
Artists United Against Apartheid: Let Me See Your ID (1985)
Several National Public Radio pieces

ARA: Does Green Book feature the Magic Negro?

African-American filmmaker Spike Lee popularized the term, deriding the archetype of the ‘super-duper magical negro’ in 2001 while discussing films with students.

Green BookMr. AmeriNZ himself, Arthur asked:

What do you make of the criticism of “Green Book” that it’s basically “Driving Miss Daisy”, with roles reversed, but still the Magic Negro “saving” the white person making them better. Spike Lee was apparently very angry about their award.

I suppose I should discuss what the Magical Negro/Magic Negro/Mystical Negro is. Wikipedia notes: “The Magical Negro is a supporting stock character in fiction who, by use of special insight or powers often of a supernatural or quasi-mystical nature, helps the white protagonist get out of trouble.

“African-American filmmaker Spike Lee popularized the term, deriding the archetype of the ‘super-duper magical negro’ in 2001 while discussing films with students at Washington State University and at Yale University.” Spike said, specifically to some British reporters, that Green Book was “not my cup of tea.”

TVtropes adds: “In fact, the Magical Negro really seems to have no goal in life other than helping white people achieve their fullest potential; he may even be ditched or killed outright once he’s served that purpose.” Key and Peale famously had a comedic Magical Negro Fight.

“Lee’s grumbling about ‘magical Negroes’ came amid a spate of films that included The Family Man, The Green Mile, and The Legend of Bagger Vance, all of which featured black characters with mystical powers that were employed entirely for the benefit of white leads.”

I don’t know the former, but I saw The Green Mile and I know enough about the latter to put them both in the category.

I don’t have room to address all the possible films considered in the category, but I think the consideration of Morgan Freeman in either The Shawshank Redemption or Bruce Almighty (where he plays God) as a magic Negro is absurd.

As for Green Book, I think Don Shirley was hardly the docile, helpful black person to make white person Louis Lip’s life better. It seems that they learned from each other.

To that end, some critics complain that Green Book is a “‘but also movie, a both sides movie’ that draws a false equivalency between Vallelonga’s vulgar bigotry and Shirley’s emotional aloofness, forcing both characters — not just the racist white dude — to learn something about themselves and each other.” That’s a different complaint, possibly a function of Vallelonga’s son co-writing the screenplay.

Oddly, Green Book sort of reminded me of – and I haven’t seen it since it was first released – Rain Man (1988). Charlie (Tom Cruise) has one sense of his brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), but has seen the light by the end of a six-day trip.

Read how Mahershali Ali changed a pivotal scene, saving the movie from falling into the “white-savior” trope, sort of the variation on the magical Negro.