And The Bear Attack

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Origin of revenant: 1820-30;  French: ghost, noun use of present participle of revenir to return, equivalent to  re- + ven (ir) to come  (Latin venīre); a person who returns as a spirit after death; a person who returns.

Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “The Revenant” is featured on a random internet list as one of “15 great movies that are incredibly boring.”

I have three words to say to that. Three times: the bear attack. The bear attack. The bear attack.

Although the Arikara onslaught on the fur traders early in the film was an uber-realistic, white-knuckle event which is captured in an uninterrupted, continuous shot without cuts, in my opinion the bear attack on DiCaprio’s character Glass was the eye-boggling winner as far as effects go. I think I’ve seen that scene at least four or five times, and each time is as horrifying as the last.

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But we can’t say a movie’s not boring just because of one scene, right?

Right. There’s action in this movie. It’s just spaced far apart, like the desolate stretches of frozen land that DiCaprio’s character traverses as he makes his way toward sweet revenge against the one who murdered his son and left him to die.

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Between Glass’s ghastly physical suffering and thirst for vengeance, the relentless attacks of the Arikara tribe who are also searching for the chief’s missing daughter, the French hunters who happen to be holding prisoner and raping said daughter, and myriad other randomly violent and demoralizing situations occurring in the story, one might wonder why the hell is it so boring then?

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On a side note, according to a Wikipedia article, a Canadian actor was “strongly critical of the movie for portraying French-Canadian voyageurs as murderous rapists.” And according to Allan Greer, the Canada Research Chair in Colonial North America, “generally the American traders had a worse reputation than the Canadians.”[49]

I would venture the difference to be in pacing and presentation; the dialogue tends to be formal and thoughtful, lacking quips and “cuteness,” the spectacular cinematography lures you into its imagined interior: you can almost feel the snow, the fire’s warmth. There is a savage beauty, and you fall helplessly in love.

And time spools out easily, almost dreamily between events, giving the viewer the space to recover, imitating, in my opinion, how time was probably experienced anyway back before our technological age: heavier, lengthier somehow, more packed with feeling, patience, even consideration of consequence. Nothing like today.  This movie nurtures time. That could be boring to some.

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In reality, the real Hugh Glass had not been holding a fiery grudge which drove him forward to seek revenge. In reality, Mr. Glass evidently only wanted his rifle back.

And the bear attack. Don’t forget the bear attack.

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Greed, misunderstanding, lack of empathy, betrayal: the makings of a good Hollywood movie (for some).

The general state of humanity.

Politics.

I wonder if a country could be a revenant like a person. If a country could, maybe the U.S. will be a revenant. Maybe slit open, cleaved in two, the odds stacked against it, it’ll dig upward, burst outward into something new.

Does a country have a voice? Maybe it does. Maybe howling, it’ll survive the journey and return, racked and scarred, like Glass, but alive, even though, in real life, Glass didn’t want revenge; he only wanted his rifle back.

And you’ll be happy to know, also in real life, that the fort took up a collection to pay him for all his trouble. A good end to a frightening, punishing quest. Could happen to anyone. Could happen to us.

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What the HELL did I just see?!

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At the premiere of 2001: A Space Odyssey, according to many sources, including The Guardian– https://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/oct/21/space-odyssey-kubrick-science-fiction  — there were hundreds of walkouts, including Rock Hudson, who asked, “Will someone tell me what the hell this is about?”

The title of this blog is an ode to Rock Hudson’s 1960s frustration and confusion. But not for 2001. Just replace Kubrick’s masterful space odyssey with Mother!, The Book of Henry, and The Lighthouse.

Mother! from 2017, starring Jennifer Lawrence. A large rambling house. A poet with a mysterious crystal object. A woman who is his muse.

Strangers with no listening skills or manners who keep appearing, invited in by the poet while his muse remains wary and struggles to keep order as chaos unfurls, slowly at first, then gaining momentum toward incredible havoc and ultimate violent destruction.

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If Rock Hudson had been at this movie, I guarantee he would have walked out at least one half-hour earlier than he did at 2001.

Not that I hated it. In fact, I admired the undertaking immensely, considering how difficult it would be to represent symbolically in film “God” and the Earth and the birth of mankind and the fall from Eden and all that ensues after our “innocence” is lost—namely our descent into petty narcissism, world wars, and the wholesale rape and destruction of the environment and Mother Earth.

But the repetiveness of certain phrases, scenes, and actions meant to build and layer tension just irked my senses and my brain. I know a lot of people who can’t stand Groundhog Day with Bill Murray from the ‘90s–probably for the same reason–although I thought Groundhog Day handled the issue of repetition well. Same with the more recent Edge of Tomorrow with Tom Cruise.

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Though the over-stimulation of Mother! was unpleasant and unwelcome for me–kind of like jerking open a door and having thousands of bats unexpectedly fly at your face–the film was courageous and innovative in its daunting mission to cover eons of (Christian) Earth history in just two hours. Probably without the religious slant it might have felt more inclusive, but I think the general story still works with anyone’s personal beliefs exchanged for the Christian lore.

The Book of Henry from 2017, however, was a bizarre cobbled-together Frankenstein’s monster of tones and plot which I can’t find within myself to compliment in any way.

Picture genius-level Henry, who’s sort of “running” everything in the family himself, a family consisting of his younger brother and single parent mother. Listen to Henry say to his mother at one point, “Stop playing video games and go to bed.”

Is that your jaw dropping open? Yeah. ‘Cause mine did. How laid-back do you have to be to not jump to your feet and say, “What did you say? WHAT DID YOU SAY?” But she doesn’t. She just does what he says.

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And then it’s devastating tear-jerker time and then a weird plan hatched by Henry is carried out by his mother to deal with the bad things going on next door with the neighbor girl and her father.

The director was slated next for Star Wars, Ep. IX, but right after The Book of Henry came out, he was no longer slated for Star Wars, Ep. IX. Although insiders say it was due to “creative differences” over the story, we know what it was REALLY about…..don’t we? Sources say the director just got “too close” to The Book of Henry and lost his perspective.

You might want to watch it just for curiosity’s sake to witness firsthand, with your own eyeballs, the crazily uneven tone and completely unbelievable plot that would never, in a million, gazillion years, ever actually happen.

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I had been looking forward to Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse because I had enjoyed The Witch from 2015. The Witch was a weird, eerie, tense, atmospheric period piece and The Lighthouse turned out to be all of those things, too.

But for some reason, The Witch felt like a mild marijuana trip compared to the salvia divinorum-infused freak ride that was The Lighthouse. I looked up hallucinogens and found salvia divinorum, an opioid-like plant with psychoactive properties, because mushrooms and mescaline–and certainly weed–just didn’t seem strong enough as words. The multiple syllables and dramatic spelling of salvia divinorum got a little closer.

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I love that Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame broke free of typecasting and has turned out to be a pretty damn good actor, and nobody can fault Willem DeFoe in that arena. They were really great in this movie. A coworker was pointing out that director Eggers focuses on isolation and what happens to ordinary people when unhealthily separated from the rest of society.

I get that. But what the hell part of it was actually happening and what was just going on in their minds? That bothered me. The same could be said of The Witch, but for some reason I didn’t come away unsatisfied. Possibly I’m just closed off to some avant-garde stuff—which Mother! definitely was—and it’s just me. I’m willing to accept that.

Or maybe I should blame my husband for slipping salvia divinorum into my tea when I wasn’t looking. Maybe not for Mother! ‘cause we saw that together. But during The Lighthouse, he made me some tea and then was suspiciously missing from the room most of the evening…

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What movies in your lifetime made you say “What the HELL did I just see?”

The Unseeming Horror of “Unseaming”

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When a story starts out, “You know he’s the one who made your beloved niece disappear,” it doesn’t bode well.

The first line of The Button Bin in Mike Allen’s collection of horror stories, “Unseaming,” is enough to raise the hair on your arms and the back of your neck. Allen, already well known as an editor and writer of speculative poetry, delivered “Unseaming” several years ago in all its luscious, spine-tingling dread and horror.

Imagine standing in front of a window. You’re holding a brick.

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You throw the brick through the window. With force.

You step close to the ragged hole and lower your hand, the sensitive flesh between your thumb and forefinger, steadily down toward a jagged shard jutting up at a crazy angle out into the open air.

That, in my opinion, is what it’s like to read “Unseaming.”

If the bizarre, mind-bending tales, often with an unexpected twist, aren’t enough, maybe the serrated, melodic writing will destabilize our repose as unnatural and chilling situations unfurl before us.

For example, we squirm uncomfortably but can’t look away as a grieving woman toes the edge of the abyss:

Soon she heard nothing else. An absence of music, an opposite of laughter, as if a throat sculpted pure mourning, emitted waves that drained away power and life as they washed over whatever they touched.

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If horror can be born somehow of lyricism, Mike Allen accomplishes that. And expect nightmares of all types: surreal and self-made. In one story, a hiker witnesses this:

The monster ascended the far side of the gully on legs like arched lightning, climbing into the murk at heart-wrenching speed.

When I go hiking, “legs like arched lightning” is the last thing I want to see. Where’s the racoon family or the friendly old man with the cane? Please don’t put the words “gully” and “climbing with heart-wrenching speed” together and expect me to visit Mr. Baldy again anytime soon.

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And then the other type of monstrosity declares THIS in the bookend of the collection:

To you I am a shriveled lump, but I speak with pride when I tell you that I’m a self-made monster, a Mandelbrot set, a Koch curve, a Menger sponge, and inside I have no boundaries.

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It’s not easy to find a book of horror, I think, that opines the state of heightened primordial sociopathy approaching omnipotence in such deliberate language peppered with an alarming and passionate undertone.  It takes talent to make the words “Koch curve” sound as deadly and sinister as “Nosferatu” or “The Mist.”

As an added point of intrigue, Mr. Allen has another collection of horror out there “The Spider Tapestries.” Spiders? Ughhh. Maybe it has nothing to do with spiders–I don’t know–but then why is she holding one–lovingly, I might add–on the cover?

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At any rate, I haven’t delved into this one yet.

Maybe you’ll get there before I do. But be careful if you do.

Don’t cut yourself….too deep.

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December Promote Your Book Party!

Thanks to Charles French again for hosting everyone’s books! Lots of good stuff in there. Too many books…not enough time.

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(http://hdcoolwallpapers.com)

It is now almost Winter, and it is time once again for a book promotion party!

I want to offer an opportunity for all writers who follow this blog to share information on their books. It can be very difficult to generate publicity for our writing, so I thought this little effort might help. All books may be mentioned, and there is no restriction on genre. This encompasses fiction, poetry, plays, and non-fiction. If I have neglected to mention a genre, please consider it to be included.

To participate, simply give your name, your book, information about it, and where to purchase it in the comments section. Then please be willing to reblog and/or tweet this post. The more people that see it, the more publicity we can generate for everyone’s books. I will continue to do these parties every few weeks.

Thank you for participating!

Promote your books!

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A Maggot…. again.

A fellow blogger reminded me of UFOs today, so I’m posting the link to one of the blogs I wrote long ago…when I had many fewer followers! If you’re not interested in the book review, just skip ahead to the paintings at the end, at least, and see if you find them as fascinating as I do. But John Fowles, author of A Maggot, is amazingly brilliant too.

https://staceyebryan.wordpress.com/2017/05/27/a-maggot-by-john-fowles-unidentified-flying-myths/

BONE FOLDER

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Writing contests.  Maddening. Challenging. Frustrating.

I haven’t had much luck with standing out in the crowd: of the handful I’ve entered, I only won one in college, and then later in life I made the second cut of a sci-fi contest but didn’t rate the final stage.

Sometimes after the contest was over I’d read the winning entry and not be overly impressed. Sour grapes much? Well, no, ’cause it wasn’t ALL the stories. Sometimes I was impressed, surprised, enthralled.

But other times it seemed like a judge’s niece or husband or BFF from high school had entered, and that judge had blackmailed the other judges with photos of marital indiscretions, copies of embezzled workplace funds, and knowledge of a history of questionable internet searches.

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This was the winner of a contest I entered in Ginosko several years ago, and I’m happy to announce I don’t think any blackmail involving underground cockfighting was involved. Not one iota of punctuation. Very short. But I kinda loved it.

 

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He was sad and angry because his friend had died in a way that made it suicide in everything but name and he sat in a place where they used to drink and talk about Japanese literature and bullshit about work in progress and he thought that his friend might be forgotten which would be unjust because he was part of the resistance whereas the living collaborated and his anger at himself coalesced into action of a sort and he went out and bought tiles and a foam brush and a sheet of acetate and gloves and a mask and fingernail polish remover and a bone folder and he made color copies of a photograph of his dead friend with the right type of ink and he pushed the mirror image button so that the image would not be reversed on transfer and he heated the tiles in the microwave and placed each copy of the photo onto each warm tile face down and coated them with the fingernail polish remover and smoothed them with the bone folder under the acetate and applied the tile sealer to fix the image forever and when he was done he took off the gloves and the mask and left the tiles to dry and he was crying but he did not notice or if he did he thought it was the fumes of the solvent in his eyes and then one night later that week he mixed up a batch of cement and went out and fixed the tiles with the picture of his dead friend to the facades of buildings all across the indifferent city and for the rest of the year he smiled seeing the tiles in secret places or being denounced as vandalism by the authorities.

– Jason Price Everett

<> on September 6, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan.

Banned Books Week and The U.L.S.

My go-to for everything that’s happening these days: Handmaid’s Tale. Cue the scene where the Commander’s wife, Serena, has a finger cut off for suggesting that women should be allowed to read. Not trying to make this about the woman stuff. Just the fanatical, tunnel-visioned, fear-driven, despotic, small-minded, unaccepting, tyrannical, dim-witted, exclusionary, anti-creative, anti-thought, anti-love, anti-possibility ethos many have had to live with and that we will have to live with too, more than we already are, if things keep inching forward the way they are………

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Banned Books Week — 9/22/19–9/28/19

And

The ULS: The Underground Library Society

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(https://pixabay.com)

In honor of Banned Books Week, I wanted to revisit this information. As the creator of the ULS, The Underground Library Society, and at the request of several followers, I have decided to put up lists of books that have been banned or challenged. If a book is challenged, that usually means there were people who wanted it removed from a school or library.  Both are forms of book censorship. It is important to note that I am not focusing only on books banned or challenged in the United States of America; unfortunately, censorship is a world wide action.

Here is my initial list of banned and challenged books:

The entire Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling;

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee;

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain;

Beloved by…

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SILENCE

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In the early 17th century, two Jesuit priests enter Japan when Christianity was strictly forbidden in an attempt to locate their missing mentor and to spread the message of Catholic Christianity.

Martin Scorsese’s “Silence,” based on Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel, was the director’s 25-year-long passion project finally brought to fruition in 2016. Across the board, the movie’s length was criticized (161 minutes) and complaints about the often plodding pace abounded amid declarations of “ambitious” and “gorgeous.”

I enjoyed the movie myself. I suppose it did tend to drag in places because it was so long. But the acting was layered and textured, surrounded by a gritty and grueling environment suffused with constant anxiety, mystery, and misunderstanding.

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After Shusaku Endo’s mother divorced his father, she converted to Roman Catholicism, and Shusaku followed suit, turning down a path not designed for the weak-hearted. During World War II, Endo was the focus of intense resentment due to his loyalty to what was viewed as the religion of Japan’s enemies. When studying in France after the war, the author suffered racial discrimination by fellow Christians in Europe.

Others have said that he is…

“almost by default … ‘a Japanese Catholic author’ struggling to ‘plant the seeds of his adopted religion’ in the ‘mudswamp’ of Japan. In the stage version, The Golden Country, an official also says: “But the mudswamp too has its good points, if you will but give yourself up to its comfortable warmth. The teachings of Christ are like a flame. Like a flame they set a man on fire. But the tepid warmth of Japan will eventually nurture sleep.”

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Sharp right turn to director Martin Scorsese. Due to severe asthma, Scorsese turned to movies (no surprise) and becoming an altar boy while growing up in New York. Tardiness and roughhousing got him kicked out of the altar boy gig, but his desire and passion for the church obviously remained. He is quoted as saying: “When one has a vocation, does it have to be clerical? Can’t you act out those tenets of whatever you believe in your own life without wearing a priest’s collar?”

That question is aimed toward the priests who apostatized in “Silence,” the act of stepping on a likeness of the Virgin Mary or Christ, or a fumie, to renounce their faith (either due to torture and/or to save others). The question arises whether or not one can take part in such an action but still retain their faith. Scorsese was evidently aiming the question at himself, too, having been ejected as an altar boy and not ever gaining any official capacity within the Church.

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Coming from a spiritual bent and not from organized religion, I still think the answer is absolutely. That the lack of a collar or robe or four walls or even announcing that you no longer believe in no way, shape, or form diminishes what the heart knows or what cultivates the soul. Easy to say today, I know, when we’re so far removed from earlier times when faith was the beginning and the end and there was no gray in between.

But what of the swamp Endo talks about, referring to Japan as a mudswamp incapable of bearing the fruit of Christianity, despite their rich tapestry of first Shintoism, then later Buddhism? The traditional missionary position of disregarding the particular beliefs of foreign cultures instead of studying them with a fascination bordering on awe that could only widen personal understanding and ultimately enrich the world at large, to me, is a tragic position, a wasteful slaughter of so much potential and promise.

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Eventually, though, Shusaku Endo, moved past the mudswamp into lighter, airier ground. As a 1995 L.A. Times article said:

“Deep River,” the author’s last novel, signals a healing of Endo’s inner split…His chief spokesman in the novel, the outcast Catholic seminarian Otsu, searches for “a form of Christianity that suits the Japanese mind” and concludes that Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists also have valid paths to God.

After God’s relentless, battering muteness in “Silence,” the message of Endo’s last novel is buoyant with inclusiveness and possibility, and so it makes perfect sense, considering the world of duality that we live in, a constant balancing of paradoxes–light and dark, up and down, good and evil–that he would be buried with two novels, and those two,  symbolic on so many levels of a strangely familiar struggle, one rife with silent abandonment, the other a deafening affirmation, were the two that were chosen.

THREE MICHAELS

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A while back, my mouth was agape as I read an article from Paste Magazine talking about what was then the new TV time travel show “Timeless”:

 “In one of the episode’s best lines, he tells the guard that he hopes he lives a long life so he can see Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson, Mike Tyson (“or just anybody named Michael”) and other notable African American figures (none of which he mentions except for Obama) because, ‘Time is not on your side.’”

Yeah, it’s a light article talking about a sci-fi TV show. We can’t expect an in-depth thesis about anything of real substance because in the end, it’s just…entertainment, right?

The jist of it is a black male character has traveled back in time to the ’30s and a racist guard in a jail cell is spewing the usual disrespectful and derogatory rhetoric at him.

But it’s the comeback that irks me.

And it’s the perspective of the article’s author that amazes me, that this person actually considered this one of the “best lines” in the episode. I thought it was one of the most offensive lines in the episode.

I don’t have anything against Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan, or Mike Tyson, but they are not a well-rounded choice for the representation of a significantly changed “black future” that the jail guard had ahead of him.

That line and perspective to me constitute in large part not only why movies and television are so lacking in interesting ethnic variety and stories but why we’re also experiencing the on-going tragic issues we have today regarding the ethnic population, often specifically the African-American population, in our country.

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Okay. Maybe the character in “Timeless” doesn’t think fast under pressure. He’s an engineer, so he’s not dumb, but maybe that’s all he could come up with on short notice and it was supposed to be light and funny and entertaining. TV. Yay! Time travel. Whoo-hoo! Entertaining.

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But what about this: what if he had said, instead, “I can’t wait until you live to see Gerald A. Lawson and Patricia Bath and George E. Alcon. And why haven’t you heard of Elijah McCoy and Henry Brown? And didn’t you learn about how Lewis Latimer improved upon the light bulb by inventing the carbon filament to the extent that it became a common household feature?”

But that would be a different TV show, wouldn’t it? And more than likely, a different world. Because none of those names rang a bell for me (except McCoy, whose name is often linked to the phrase “the real McCoy”) while Mike Tyson, Michael Jackson, and Michael Jordan…well, duh! No-brainer! The fact that a majority of us probably don’t know who any of those people are is blatantly symbolic of where things have gone wrong as far as equal-opportunity information and knowledge is concerned.

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I mean, is the average schoolchild armed with the knowledge that their Playstation, Xbox and Wii are based on a business model created by Gerald A. Lawson involving the first home video-game system that used interchangeable cartridges?

Are they aware that Patricia Bath’s cataract Laserphaco Probe, much more accurate than previous drill-like instruments, has not only helped millions improve their eyesight but even restored vision to people who have been blind for decades?

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And how much is taught about George E. Alcorn in middle school textbooks? I would have to do a survey to find that out for sure, but I can’t imagine his Imaging X-Ray Spectrometer gets equal time with the inventions of Leonardo Da Vinci. Maybe kids are being exposed more about these things today. I wasn’t, though.

Once that bridge gets crossed where education begins marketing not only African-Americans, but people of other ethnicities, with the same aggressiveness and consistency that  European and Western society in general receive–and not just by donating a month to them–then the trickle-down will happen into the greater consciousness and continue eventually into pop culture, affording us greater choice in subject matter, characters, and story.

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Although movie and TV stories like these are okay for what they are, much of it for historical interest…

The Help

The Color Purple

Precious

12 Years a Slave

The Hate You Give

Driving Miss Daisy

The Butler

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…I think there’s endless room and interest and material for Henry Brown, the man who invented the modern-day fire-proof safe, Marc Hannah, creator of 3D Graphics technology, Percy Julian, inventor of the process of synthesis (thus far only a 2007 documentary called “Forgotten Genius” documents his life) and the virtually unknown Mary Seacole, the contemporary of the endlessly-touted Florence Nightingale.

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You think Oprah’s impressive? Take a look at pre-Oprah Sarah Breedlove who founded the Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company for hair care products and cosmetics and became the 20th century’s first female millionaire. I’m amazed, in fact, that Oprah hasn’t played her yet! Actually, her story will be told in an upcoming Netflix series with Octavia Spencer beating Oprah to the punch. It’s a start!

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So, yeah, come on. You really remade “Roots”? Seriously? REMADE “Roots”? And what’s “Green Book”? A reverse “Driving Miss Daisy”?

In that arena, I give Will Smith props for trying: “The Pursuit of Happyness,” and “Concussion” are unusual topics and out-of-the-box thinking.  But although he’s improved as an actor with time, I’m not sure he was the best casting choice for those roles. And while “Hidden Figures” definitely was headed in the right direction where this topic is concerned, stories about interesting ethnic/black people still aren’t considered money makers and often don’t do well. But why is a movie about a White House butler so interesting? Why is a story about maids in the South so interesting?

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I think these other life stories that don’t involve either slavery or poverty or struggling to rise above poverty wouldn’t be considered risks that *don’t make money* if the same care and interest and excitement that’s shoveled into reboots of MacArthur and Marie Antoinette and Lincoln and Mozart were similarly shoveled into the personalities that have given blind people their vision back and revolutionized the way NASA conducts research.

In the end, that character from “Timeless” was right: time isn’t on our side. But for a different reason. How long will it take before the “safe” familiar characters and safe, familiar struggles and feel-good warm and fuzzy conclusions (Oh, look how loved and respected that butler is! Gosh, everyone eventually seems to get along when they’re driving together in a car!) are regarded as hackneyed and patronizing? How long will it take, in all reality, at this point, to mitigate, dilute and diminish the three Michaels effect?

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AN OPEN TUBULARSOCK STATEMENT TO THE U.S. HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM.

Since I’m not doing anything else constructive concerning this issue, the least I can do is share:

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An open Tubularsock statement to The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Edna Frieberg’s press release on Holocaust Analogies.

Tubularsock would say that EVERY holocaust survivor in the U.S should be ON THE FRONT LINES in reminding everyone that when a government starts putting people in “camps” like in Nazi Germany it is a step TOWARD a possible tragic and horrendous outcome.

And to demean people and treat them inhumanly and then blame them is exactly what the Nazi’s did to the Jews, homosexuals and Gypsies, so the analogy isn’t some far fetched idea it is an actual reality. And occurring in the United States RIGHT NOW!

The concentration camps on our Southern Boarder are not some intellectual abstract grammatical debate. They exist NOW!

And just to become clear, attempting to keep from any analogy the term “concentration camps” for fear that some people may have “painful memories” is unfortunate…

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