Sunday, July 26, 2015

Don't Be Shy!

I just saw I had quite a few page views recently.  But no comments??? Don't be shy! I don't bite - much :-)

It would be great for me to hear a bit from you - to let me know if you like the posts, find this valuable, have things to say, or debate... almost anything.  I do put some effort into the posts, so knowing they might be of even some value would mean so much.  Hearing from any of you and the view from your place would be valuable, too! So - let me let me hear from you. Please.  Pretty please?

Been a bit discouraged, but have tried to hang in. And if you visit my other blog - Daisies and Diamonds (there's a link on the right) you can read my poem about the New Horizons mission to Pluto (who has shown his heart!).  Yes, as are so many around this globe I've been very fascinated.  That very recent backlit shot with the aura is simply stunning. And my parting shot for now:

"Yes, Pluto should be a Planet again, and always will be in my heart, regardless!!! "


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Creative Nonconformity

I found this quote from choreographer Twyla Tharp to be so telling:

"Creativity is an act of defiance."

Wow!  Who would  have thought that creativity was subversive?  Well, I think Chris Hedges has mentioned that (although he may see it in a slightly different context from Twyla Tharp).  I viewed his recent appearances on BookTV and on Tavis Smiley (both discussing his latest book, The Wages of Rebellion).   I think it was during the BookTV appearance he said something to the effect that totalitarian states "go after the artists..."; maybe it was Noam Chomsky who said something similar.  Anyway, BookTV transcripts are pretty bad so I wasn't able to find what I was looking for but I did find this from a Chris Hedges article:

"The resistance needs a vibrant cultural component. It was the spirituals that nourished the souls of African-Americans during the nightmare of slavery. It was the blues that spoke to the reality of black people during the era of Jim Crow. It was the poems of Federico Garcia Lorca that sustained the republicans fighting the fascists in Spain. Music, dance, drama, art, song, painting were the fire and drive of resistance movements." 

I did also find that the urge to censor or repress art has roots that go back - way back.  For example, it seems as though good ol' Plato advocated censoring art:
‘Then the first thing will be to establish censorship of the writers of fiction, and let the censors receive any tale of fiction which is good, and reject the bad.’  (The Republic, Section 377b)   and:

'Is it, then, only the poets that we must supervise and compel to embody in their poems the semblance of the good character or else not write poetry among us, or must we keep watch over the other craftsmen, and forbid them to represent the evil disposition, the licentious, the illiberal, the graceless, either in the likeness of living creatures or in buildings or in any other product of their art, on penalty, if unable to obey, of being forbidden to practise their art among us...'  (The Republic, Section 401b)

That last snippet was pretty harsh, wasn't it?  Many online commentaries suggest Plato saw the arts as potentially 'dangerous' ----  no wonder so many states seem to want to control them.  I found a great essay exploring the idea of the arts as dangerous.

Yet in the face of censorship and repression, art and artists still often find ways to thrive, as notes Guillermo Cabrera Infante: "I know that many writers have had to write under censorship and yet produced good novels; for instance, Cervantes wrote Don Quixote under Catholic censorship."

I also found this great snippet from The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu:  "Every era puts invisible shackles on those who have lived through it, and I can only dance in my chains."  What a wonderful statement of artistic resilience!

My feeling is that we've always needed the arts, and now is certainly not an exception.  I may be a STEM'er, but I love music, poetry (I'd better as I write it!), art...  And there's no reason we can't have arts as well other disciplines.  After all, wasn't Lewis Carroll, a fine poet and author, also a math teacher?  The arts have been proven to be wonderful ways to reach and engage students, so as an educator (retired), I feel we must continue to support arts education.

I think it's also very valid to tie in the arts with resistance.  In addition to Rev. Hedges' examples, I would ask where would the Sixties have been without protest music?  To me, the key thing about the arts (and maybe this is why being creative may be an act of defiance as Ms. Tharp postulates) is that they connect us to our essential human nature.  Creative works can show us that we are more than objects to be subjected to continual sales pitches, more than commodities whose data and personal information are for surveilling or for sale.  Maybe creativity is indeed a form of resistance. 

So to all readers: unlocking your creativity can be more than just expressing yourself - it can be an act of defiance and resistance in the face of dehumanizing forces.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

AT&T: Image Fail (New Notes Added)

The first time I saw the commercial, I didn't really take notice of it.  Nor did I the second time.  I think it was the third time, though, that it hit me - as though it were a slap in the face from racism itself which seemed to say: "See, it's 2015 and I'm still around."

It was the AT & T "Life Simulation Facility" commercial to which I refer.  I could hardly believe it when I first became taken aback, but when I've seen it since, it still strikes me that the robot is a "blackface" one.  I even called AT& T; I can't say my experience was very satisfactory.  My concern seemed totally brushed aside and I was informed that my feedback wouldn't even be passed on. (One might ask why I even bothered to call.  If you visit their website, the only way to contact them online was to choose one of their products and I'm not an AT & T customer.)

Questions? I suppose the first one is this: "Is there doubt that the robot is blackface?"  Well, to me it sure looks as though that is indeed the case.  Note the oversized white mouth and huge white eyes. And what about the hat? Also, having seen it twice recently on tv again (to the same negative reaction), I believe it's more noticable on the tv screen (where we're not so close) than on a monitor or smartphone. Here's a primer on blackface if anyone needs a refresher.

The second one might be: "At & T - really?"  I did some online searching and found that this isn't the first time AT & T commercials have been suspect.  I found this blog post from 2013 which discusses their series of 'more is better'/'faster is better' commercials.  I'd totally forgotten about them, but do remember feeling at the time that the African-American children in them were not showcased on the same basis as the other children.

There also seems to be some evidence that the corporate climate of AT & T isn't all that friendly toward diversity.  The company is being sued by Knoyme King. 
There is also another lawsuit being brought by National Association of African American-Owned Media (‘NAAAOM’) and Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios.

The third question would probably be: "Why is this such a big deal anyway?"   Maybe it's not a question of say, war or peace, but the images that we're subjected to (and things like ads can affect us even when we're not paying full attention) can be offensive, hurtful, and even harmful.  I found a good article from 2009.  From this article by Mark Sawyer:  "Whether it is the original white "Amos and Andy" or white fraternity/sorority girls and boys, blackface is always about mocking black skin and presenting stereotypical black behavior. Minstrels always clown around, sing and dance and otherwise dehumanize the individuals they represent."  I think that sums it up. 


1) For some reason, the video of the ad in question at the previous link was made private.  I put in another link.

2) I called and sent an e-mail to Lifetime network about this commercial as I had seen it airing there.  I also called NBC as it's been airing during episodes of "Dateline."

3) I believe the ad was done by agency BBDO.  Shame on them!!!

4) Folks - am I the only one that sees a problem with this???