Three TEDx videos: acknowledge your biases

America works overtime to create a colorblind society, but does this colorblindness perpetuate, rather than resolve, racism?

biasesFriends of mine, a couple at my church, have shown, just in the relatively few years I’ve known them, how amazingly aware they are of cultural biases. It was they who led the adult education discussion at church about Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race and other discussions about white privilege.

There are few discussions more dreadful than black people discussing white privilege. No matter how sensitively presented, hackles are almost always raised. But when white people talk about white privilege, it can be a very different conversation.

Did I mention this couple was white? They moved from a very nice suburban home to a lot in the “inner city” of Albany, where they built a very nice house. When asked about that, they waved it away saying it was no big deal. They’re wrong, but they’re so right about other things, I let it pass.

They had been attending some workshop recently and emailed these three TEDx videos. The first two were cued to a specific point in the presentations, but you should listen to all of them in toto as your time permits.

The Exceptional Negro: Fighting to be Seen in a Colorblind World – Traci Ellis

America works overtime to create a colorblind society, but does this colorblindness perpetuate, rather than resolve, racism? Despite a growing racial divide, attorney, activist and author Traci Ellis says the time is now to have the courageous conversation about the damage done in the name of colorblindness.

Is My Skin Brown Because I Drank Chocolate Milk? – Beverly Daniel Tatum

When her 3-year-old son told her that a classmate told him that his skin was brown because he drank chocolate milk, Dr. Tatum, former president of Spelman College and a visiting scholar at Stanford’s Haas Center for Public Service, was surprised. As a clinical psychologist, she knew that preschool children often have questions about racial difference, but she had not anticipated such a question.

How to overcome our biases? Walk boldly toward them – Verna Myers

Our biases can be dangerous, even deadly — as we’ve seen in the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner, in Staten Island, New York. Diversity advocate Verna Myers looks closely at some of the subconscious attitudes we hold toward out-groups. She makes a plea to all people: Acknowledge your biases. Then move toward, not away from, the groups that make you uncomfortable.

The intrinsic value of blogging

That pale gray box looks slightly sad.

For Ask Roger Anything, Arthur the AmeriNZ asks a couple meta questions on blogging:

I sense that (like me) you also believe that writing has intrinsic value for the writer, even without any financial reward. What’s your take on those who dismiss blogging (for example) done without any pay? Similarly, why do some people also have to belittle bloggers who DO make money from their blogs? Is there any validity to those criticisms in your opinion?

Some people dismiss those who write without pay as fools. But there are very many well-known folk who blog either for nothing or for PayPal tips. Initially, I blogged to write about the Daughter and JEOPARDY! But it was also a sense of addressing my feeling of powerlessness in the midst of a Republican administration engaging in a war of choice that I thought was unjustifiable. I wasn’t sure I would actually write about it, but I COULD. I could also get Fast WordPress Hosting.

Now I blog because I pretty much have to. It’s therapy. All the crap going on and I can vent a little. At the same time, I have found it a useful reference tool for my own existence that I’M likely to forget. AND it is my vehicle to have dialogue, in a way Facebook simply cannot be for me. Something I wrote about my grandfather or Spaulding Krullers I can find again. Moreover, OTHER people find it and comment on them, occasionally years after I wrote the pieces. This gives the exercise a sense of being less ephemeral.

Bloggers who get money are considered as not “pure” by some, not of the “tortured artist”. But in that piece you linked to about New Zealand, it mentions a professional travel blogger with thousands of hits. Do I wish I had thousands of followers? Some days, yes.

But my reach blogging on the Times Union newspaper site was far greater than it is here; guess which one I all but gave up? It was too much grief, too many schmucks; it wasn’t worth it.

I’ve gotten offers to do advertisements, and I’ve resisted, so far. If something is really in my wheelhouse, I might change my mind, but I’m not cashing the check just yet.

Why do you provide links to YouTube videos, but not embed the videos themselves?

Initially, I was afraid that it might be taking up too much bandwidth and would load too slowly. But mostly, it’s pure aesthetics.

This is an odd phenomenon I’ve only seen on Blogspot/Blogger blogs (yours, Mark Evanier’s), sometimes, the videos appear to be under the wrong description. If I reload, it rectifies the situation, but it’s distracting.

Also, the videos make the posts appear too long for my taste. And when a video, almost inevitably, goes offline, it leaves that pale gray box that I always find looks slightly sad.

Incidentally, I was looking at a post on SamuraiFrog’s Blogspot website on my tablet, and a post for which he merely provided the link, rather than the embedded video, the video showed up anyway. Doesn’t always happen, but it interested me.

Video review: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Miss Pettigrew sneaked into the cinema and watched a scene from a film before being tossed out.

In anticipation of what turned out to the only snow day I’ve ever had from work, I went to the library and took out seven DVDs. The Wife, the Daughter, and I voted on the picks, and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day was the consensus.

My spouse was surprised that I didn’t select the film higher since it features Amy Adams, who she seems to think I have a bit of a crush on. (Well, maybe…)

From the IMDB:
Guinevere Pettigrew [Frances McDormand], a middle-aged London governess [in 1939 London], finds herself unfairly dismissed from her job [without severance pay]. An attempt to gain new employment catapults her into the glamorous world and dizzying social whirl of an American actress and singer, Delysia Lafosse [Adams].

Miss Pettigrew was initially aghast with the actress’s lifestyle and many suitors, but soon she becomes indispensable in helping her get out of jams. Moreover, they discover a commonality.

It’s an OK, likable, not great but not awful movie, yer basic 2 and a half stars out of 4. I enjoyed seeing Lee Pace, who was the star of a 22 episode TV show I watched called Pushing Daisies from 2007-2009.

What was more interesting was watching the deleted scenes and recognizing why that shot was trimmed – the elevator scene originally was WAY too long. Oddly, though, there’s a scene totally removed and I think it was a mistake. It involved Miss Pettigrew sneaking into the cinema and watching a scene from a film before being tossed out. Not only did that explain how she could fake it in Delysia’s circles, but it also explains the line Miss Pettigrew delivers, which seems to come out of nowhere in the finished product.

The other interesting extra was learning how the book was optioned three times to be a movie, once shortly after Winifred Watson’s novel was published in 1938, once in the 1950s, and again in the 2000s, with Miss Watson getting paid each time. Perhaps she was the real survivor like Miss Pettigrew.

Video Review: Muppet Treasure Island

I think Kermit the Frog is better suited playing himself or a variation of same.

The Daughter went to the library and got out the video of the 1996 Muppets movie adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson novel Treasure Island. She really liked The Muppets (2011) in the theater, as did The Wife and I. I’ve also enjoyed some of the early Muppet movies and that classic TV program, The Muppet Show.

Tim Curry as Long John Silver was great. Yet this story seemed to meander. Partly, it was difficult to find the tone of the film. Fairly early on Rizzo, the Rat’s character complains that there’s a dead body in a movie geared toward children. There was a lot of grungy, unappealing, and, for my nine-year-old, somewhat frightening stuff in the first third of the film.

The late Roger Ebert made an interesting observation about the source material: “Stevenson is a splendid writer of stories for adults, and he should be put on the same shelf with Joseph Conrad and Jack London instead of in-between Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan.” Maybe that’s an issue.

Captain Smollett I thought was miscast. I think Kermit the Frog is better suited to playing himself or a variation of the same. He was believable as Bob Cratchit in the Muppets’ adaptation of A Christmas Carol because they have a similar persona. Here, the joke IS that this purportedly mean seaman is in fact, an amphibian, and until a late duel, it’s a largely untapped plot device.

Kevin Bishop as Jim Hawkins grew on me as a character after that first third of the movie. Miss Piggy, playing a variation of herself, was more relatable in a smallish role. Indeed, Frank Oz plays most of the interesting characters here, including the strict Sam the Eagle, and the more addled than usual Fozzie Bear, though his jokes about his constant companion wore thin over time.

There were a lot of songs, and I watched this video twice in two days, yet I can’t remember most of them. The second viewing, though, made me more forgiving of its flaws; go figure.

Meanwhile, more recently, we were away on a business trip and managed by chance to catch much of The Great Muppet Caper (1981). Now THAT is a fun movie, especially the Esther Williams-like scene. And the bicycle scene was quite impressive, though they didn’t wear helmets in those days, I guess.

Muppet goodness from SamuraiFrog: A movie blooper reel;
commercials for the new movie; Jim Henson: The Biography.

VIDEO REVIEW: The Sound of Music

Two new songs, I Have Confidence and Something Good, were added to The Sound of Music, written by Rodgers, after Hammerstein died.

One could reasonably make the case for movies one ought to see that came out this century. But there are SO many that I have never seen from the 20th Century that I don’t worry about the current stuff as much as I used to. Somehow, prior to this fall, I had NEVER seen The Sound of Music in its entirety. Oh, I’ve seen scenes, of course, but that’s not nearly the same thing.

It’s odd too because my mother had the LP soundtrack going back to nearly when it was released in 1965. I’ve had the CD of same for at least a decade and a half, and I love it dearly. I have great affection for the Morning Hymn that the nuns sing early on, and it’s in my Top Five movie soundtracks ever, along with West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof.

Still, I had not seen many of the songs in the context of the film. Is there a more stunning opening of a movie than the background of the Alps while Maria (Julie Andrews) sings the title song? I didn’t realize Maria’s outdoor excursion was going to get her in trouble back at the abbey.

I knew somewhat of the clash of child-raising styles between Captain von Trapp (Christopher Plummer), a Naval officer widower with seven children, and the free-spirited new nanny, Maria, but I’d miss many of the particulars, such as the whistle. Do-Re-Mi is shot all over Salzburg, and the extra disc for the 40th anniversary let me know that the city is now a destination for movie buffs, largely for that song.

Of course, Maria and the Captain end up together, but somehow I was totally unaware of the subplot involving the Baroness (Eleanor Parker) that briefly bring Maria back to the abbey. And bringing the movie to the intermission. Yes, it’s included on the disc, and we went to bed at that point to finish the movie it the next night, because it is a LONG film.

The real story of Maria and the Captain was compressed in time, and the escape from Austria after the Nazi appeasement was far easier in real life than in the cinematic version. The real family feels that the Captain in the film was far less flexible than the father they knew.

Other features of the extra disc featured the REAL story of the Von Trapp singers as they settle in Vermont and become an international sensation. It also contains a reunion of the seven then-child actors remembering the goofs they made here and there that ended up in the film, a misstep here, a fall there.

Seeing the movie has given me a greater appreciation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein score, which changed from the Broadway version that Mary Martin and others had commissioned. At least one song was dropped, and two new songs, I Have Confidence and Something Good, were added, written by Rodgers after Hammerstein died.

There’s going to be a LIVE version of the STAGE musical on NBC-TV on December 5. I MUST watch.
A Complete Curmudgeon’s Guide To ‘The Sound Of Music’. On the other hand, a study suggests that Singing show tunes helps fight off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.