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netmouse: (Life)
One of the projects I have not posted on here about is SFbios.com -- as with many projects, this is one I have mad phases of great progress on, then periods that slow or where I am frustratingly unable to make time for it.

If you have collections of old con program books, especially ones you edited or wrote for or otherwise have digitally but even just hard copy, I'd love help identifying gems to put up on the site.

We need to know the author. Aside from that, all bios published in sf convention program books are potential fodder.

Some cons have digital archives. Most do not. If you run across something by someone you know I encourage you to go ahead and ask them if we can reprint it on sfbios.com - one of the slowest parts of the process is getting permission. If you can forward me a message from them, giving permission, we're a long part of the way there.
netmouse: (Life)
I am currently reading the 1981 edition of To the Setting of The Sun: The Story of York, about York PA, where I now live. The author, Georg R. Sheets, got to page 16 before naming a single woman (Christina Schultz, homesteader, who with her husband John built a two-story stone house). It has been so long since I read a history that so completely elides the active participation of women that I find it baffling.

For instance, his only acknowledgement that William Penn married (twice) and had a family was to mention that Springettsbury Manor was named in honor of his grandson, who was his heir, and later to name his son and two grandsons. Otherwise, he simply referred to the people who managed his estate after him as 'The Penns'. William Penn, effectively the founder of Pennsylvania, was married to Gulielma Springett in April 1672. They had five daughters and three sons, one of whom was named Springett. It seems odd to mention it was his grandson's name yet omit that it was first his first wife's family name. Gulielma died in 1696, at the age of 52. Two years later the 52-year-old Penn married 25-year-old Hannah Margaret Callowhill, with whom he had 8 children, of whom 6 lived past infancy. When William had a stroke in 1712, Hannah became the proprietor of the Pennsylvania colony, and remained so until her death in 1726 (Penn himself died in 1718, leaving her as his executor). Her portrait now hangs in the Governor's office among other portraits of people who have run this state.

As of pg 39 the book is getting into the Revolution and has named approximately 176 men (including several local historians he has cited), and precisely 7 women, including Mrs. Schultz whom I mentioned before. Two of the named women were criminals: a handkerchief thief given 15 lashes and a murderess, hanged. The other four are listed as wives or mothers, sometimes with details as to whose daughter they were or how many children they had: Anna Barbara Spangler, who married a brewer named John Barnitz and had two sons; Catherine Hay, daughter of Colonel John and Julie Maul Hay, who married Anna's younger son John during the Revolution; and Mary Dill McAllister, who was the daughter of Colonel Matthew Dill, who had commanded a regiment in the French and Indian War, and married Colonel Richard McAllister, who founded Hanover in 1763. The McAllisters had 11 children, 2 of whom commanded companies in the Revolution.

There is a 2002 edition of this book, and I note that in between editions Sheets collaborated with photographer Blair Seitz on a book called Pennsylvania Heritage: Diversity in Art, Dance, Food, Music, and Customs (RB Books, June 2001) that has a woman on the cover, so I'm slightly optimistic that the more recent edition is improved on this subject. I will have to get a hold of one at some point and see. I hope it also includes a modern-day map of York County. Lacking such, the 1981 edition is a bit confusing, since many of the places it names are only geographically described in relation to modern-day towns and landmarks. In his forward Sheets recommends giving the book to out-of-town relatives, but people who are not from here are not likely to be able to follow such references without a map.
netmouse: (Be Nice or Leave)
The other day I was explaining to Rosie that Thanksgiving, besides being a time for giving thanks for what we have and the people who support us, has a story to it that involves the settlers from a ship called the Mayflower, which came across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe, bringing people here to North America. I pointed out to her that if discussion of the Pilgrims comes up at school, she can mention that we are descended from people who came over on the Mayflower, so this is a family story for us as well as a national one.

Because of that, and because we are also of Native descent (my grandmother used to joke that she had ancestors that came over on the Mayflower, and ancestors who were there to greet them when they came, but honestly our native ancestors were probably from one of the more inland nations), it is important to me that my daughter learn an honest account of The First Thanksgiving, instead of the generic story that was invented in Abraham Lincoln's time and taught to me in school. She will learn that our ancestress, Priscilla Mullins, was from a Pilgrim family, seeking religious freedom in the new world, and also that our ancestor, John Alden, was not -- he was a carpenter hired to be a cooper on the Mayflower, who converted to Priscilla's family religion when they were wed, here in North America. (For more on them, see The Courtship of Miles Standish, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, also a relative of mine.)

So I was very interested to read Debbie Reese's recent essay, Some thoughts about Native American Month and Thanksgiving. I encourage you to go read it.

As well, I just reviewed some articles on the Wampanoag side of the First Thanksgiving story, and What really happened back in 1621, as well as what is done today by Native communities on Thanksgiving.

One thing I hope you will take out of this, in terms of telling this story to your own children, is that these weren't nameless generic Indians sitting down with the grateful Pilgrims. More than half the settlers from the Mayflower died that first winter, and more would have if they hadn't benefited from the pre-existing village in which they came to live (where everyone had died from plague brought by earlier Europeans), and in March of 1621 they signed a mutual protection treaty with Wampanoag chief Massasoit. So it was Massasoit and his men who were there at the "first Thanksgiving". Oh, and Squanto, about whom you might have been taught in school, who taught the pilgrims how to fish and plant crops here that year and was probably the reason they ultimately survived, and I am here today? His full name was Tisquantum.


"While many paintings of “the First Thanksgiving” show a single long table with several Pilgrims and a few Native people, there were actually twice as many Wampanoag people as colonists. It is unlikely that everyone could have been accommodated at one table. Rather, Wampanoag leaders like Massasoit and his advisors were most likely entertained in the home of Plymouth Colony’s governor, William Bradford."

Movies POC

Feb. 8th, 2011 10:20 am
netmouse: (thoughtful)
In the past couple of years I've been reading a lot of literature either by or about people of color, both in the US and around the world. In August we signed up for Netflix and since then I've also watched quite a few shows or movies like that. I thought I would do a quick review of what I've watched between then and now that I think are worth watching for anyone interested in issues of racism and globalism.

Note: Any film that uses foul language, including "nigger", or includes violence, I watch with headphones so the baby doesn't hear that stuff at this age.

Avatar: The Last Airbender (animated series)
Ostensibly for kids, this was an excellent program, full of lessons about self-discipline, courage, diversity in abilities and culture, and coming together to promote peace and life. I watched it while nursing during the first couple of weeks after we brought Rosalind home from the hospital and I appreciated the soundtrack as much as the rest of it. We would just put it on and relax, once or twice a day.

Outsourced
A relatively light, enjoyable movie about an American who is sent to India to train to train a call center to which all of his office's jobs have been outsourced, including his. He learns a great deal about both India and himself.

Precious
I actually watched most of this on the plan back from England but due to a technical glitch didn't see the last 7 minutes until this fall. A challenging movie to watch due to the abuse some people heap on others, it's also got tender moments of joy and sincere love, of mentor to student, of mother to baby, and of a solid and struggling young woman, at long last, for herself.

Harlem Nights
Directed by Eddie Murphy, this film is described as an action comedy, but it also has some serious tones regarding the challenges of blacks trying to do business in a corrupt 1920s Harlem. I was surprised by how much respect I felt for the performance of Richard Pryor, especially; he can be more subtle than I remembered. The movie as a whole is not that successful - it feels more like a series of vignettes than a smooth-flowing film, but I was not sorry I took the time to watch it.

Noting that the boxer character was supposedly based partly on Jack Johnson...

Unforgivable Blackness
This excellent documentary covers the life and career of the man who, in 1908, became the first black heavyweight champion of the world, and then on July 4, 1910, beat the white former heavyweight champion James J. Jeffries in "the fight of the century" in Reno, Nevada. There were race riots across the country (in some cases as whites tried to quell black celebrations) and much white anger at this proud, strong, rich black man who liked to dress well, drive fancy cars (fast), and dated and married white "sporting women" - sometimes more than one at a time. Jack Johnson was convicted two years later of violating the Mann Act (by "transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes"), despite the fact that a) the act was intended to oppose what was essentially a slave trade in women, not to charge individuals for traveling with willing companions, as was the case with Johnson, and b) the Mann Act was passed *after* the activities for which Johnson was arrested. He fled the country for some time but eventually came back and served the year and a day that he had been sentenced so he could resume living in the US. Efforts to get him a posthumous presidential pardon have so far been unsuccessful.

(As an aside I would note that writer/artist Trevor Von Eeden, who has worked on several superhero comics (Batman, Black Canary, Black Lightning, Green Arrow) produced a comics series about Johnson, The Original Johnson, in 2009. I invited him to Renovation, but unfortunately he's unable to attend.)

Babies
Another documentary, this one un-narrated, it shows scenes and moments of the first two years of life for four babies, born in Japan, Namibia, Mongolia and America. Though the settings can be very different, the commonalities between the babies are unmistakable. I found myself wishing they had chosen a fourth country that was more different, since baby-raising in Tokyo and San Francisco is very similar, but in any case, it is a sweet, enjoyable film.

La Bamba
Born Ricardo Valenzuela Reyes, Ritchie Valens had played and recorded an amazing amount of top-notch music before he died at 17 in the plane crash that also killed Buddy Holly. The film is rather romanticized but points to some of the challenges Ritchie no doubt faced as a youth, partly due to his being part Mexican, and how his family both helped and hindered his efforts to make it big.

Cry Freedom
This movie, which I quoted yesterday, was more about the experience of white editor (and writer) Donald Woods and his family than about Black Nationalist Steve Biko, but their stories dovetail and Woods was eventually banned, as Biko was, for his support of the fight for black rights in South Africa. Banned, in this sense, doesn't mean "sent away" - it actually meant they could not leave the country but, within the country, were not allowed to be in the presence of more than one person at a time or to speak to the public. Terrific performances by Kevin Kline, Denzel Washington, and Penelope Wilton. (I actually found the film by browsing Wilton's titles after being impressed with her on Dr. Who.)

Amistad
In 1839, Slaves stolen from their homes in Africa rebelled and took over the spanish ship La Amistad. When it landed in the Americas, the young Spanish queen, two spanish sailors who are all that's left of the crew, and the American soldiers who found the ship at sea all claimed rights to its "cargo" of slaves. An unlikely property lawyer and some abolitionists team up to argue that the Africans were enslaved illegally and, as such, are not property but should be free to return home. This case went to the US supreme court and was eventually argued by none other than former president John Quincy Adams, played in the film by Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins earned an oscar nomination with the role, but my favorite performance was by Djimon Hounsou, who plays Sengbe Pieh (later known as Joseph Cinqué), the leading defendant among the West Africans. Hounsou won an Image award from the NAACP and was nominated for a golden globe award for the part.

The case was a precedent for a number of later US laws and part of the lead-up to the American civil war.

The film has many sad parts, including when a mother dies giving birth on a slave ship, and a woman I took to be her sister later quietly slips overboard with the baby while the crew is distracted whipping another slave. It's an understated yet stunning illustration of the hopelessness and horror of their situation. As the mother of a baby myself I can only wonder if I might have made a similar decision rather than watch the baby starve to death without its mother. I hope someday we will completely eradicate slavery from the world.

American Violet
Also based on true events, this is about a young single mother of four in Texas who becomes the lead plaintiff in a suit against her local DA and police for drug raids in which she and a host of other black people were arrested and charged with felony-level drug distribution on the testimony of a single witness who later testified he produced that list while himself under pressure from the DA's office and in custody. With help from the ACLU, they accuse the DA's office of having a racist basis for the raid. Nicole Beharie does a terrific job as the lead.

This film notes that some 90-95 % of legal cases in the US are resolved through plea bargaining and never brought before a jury, and illustrates the conditions under which those charged can be unduly pressured to accept a plea bargain even if they are innocent of charges. It led me to wonder how many people in this country, especially blacks, cannot vote due to a felony conviction.

Undercover Brother
A very silly movie, yet the main character's stereotypical 'undercover' character of Anton Jackson helped inform my understanding of some of the problematic aspects of the black scientist character in "Better off Ted", which I've recently been watching.

Sounder
Though the title character is the name of a dog, this is not really a "boy and his dog" movie. It's a film about a sharecropping family who've hit lean times. The father steals some ham hocks to feed his hungry children, and is arrested for it and taken away to do hard labor for two years. His hunting dog, sounder, chases the sheriff's wagon as it leaves and is shot with a shotgun for his troubles. The father kicks the gun at the last minute so it's not a direct hit, but the dog disappears for a while before returning to be treated by the oldest son, David Lee, and eventually accompanies the boy on a hike to try to find his father's work camp, after his wife and children have brought in the crop by themselves. After the boy is chased off from a work camp with a damaging blow to his hand for good measure, he comes across a school and connects with a teacher. She treats his wound, is impressed with his intelligence, and invites him back to live with her and study in the Fall. Despite the challenges they face, his family is determined to see him get an education and get a chance for a better life.

This is an old movie, so the pace is much slower than what modern viewers are used to, but it has some strong moments. I almost stopped watching it a few times for boredom, wondering where the story was going, but I'm glad I didn't. I might check out the book it was based on, also named Sounder, which won the Newbury in its day.

The Color of Freedom
Again a film about the impact on a white man of interacting with one of the leaders of the black consciousness movement In south Africa, this is about the man who guarded Nelson Mandela and was the censor officer for Mandela and his cohort while they were in prison. James Gregory had grown up on a farm and played with the black "kafir" boys around him, at which time he learned their language, Xhosa. He denies he is a "kafir lover" when whites call him that, but his childhood experience has left him viewing blacks as human beings and he finds himself becoming friends with Mandela and greatly bothered by the injustices enacted by the government for which he works, including the misrepresentation of Mandela and the ANC. I found myself wishing to know more about Mandela's experience than this "white man's tears" story, but it was a pretty good movie overall.

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