Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

I’ve just seen the 2008 movie “Skin,” based on the life of South African Sandra Laing. And what a life she has lived! Born in 1955 to two apparently Caucasian parents in Apartheid South Africa, Sandra has decidedly non-white features and a skin color several shades darker than her Afrikaner parents. At a time when DNA testing was not yet developed, the parents lived with rumors that the mother had slept with a black man, which, of course, would make the Apartheid-supporting, politically conservative father an especially insulted cuckold. (We now know that 11% of Afrikaners have non-white ancestors.) Rather than acknowledge his daughter’s clearly non-white looks, Leon Laing—who apparently loved his daughter very much—insisted on her whiteness and insisted on white society treating her as white. He successfully challenged the nation’s racial classifications and managed to get his daughter officially designated as white in 1967, but his daughter’s actual experience didn’t improve. People’s responses were based on what they saw and what they saw was a light-skinned black girl—a mixed race child. (more…)

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Sounds carry historical and political significance, even when they are intended as pure entertainment. Alternative meanings shimmer just beneath the surface as accepted meanings—safer meanings—give way to the attentive listener. Consider the sound of fireworks. According to Wikipedia, fireworks “were originally invented in ancient China in the 12th century to scare away evil spirits, as a natural extension of the Chinese invention of gunpowder.”

In the twenty-first century, fireworks and other forms of explosive entertainment continue to fulfill their ancient mandate to scare away “evil spirits.” When we pack a blanket and join our family and friends on the beach to experience the fireworks, we banish loneliness, depression and tiredness, as well as our anxieties about the economy, our worries about the country’s values and the concerns we have about the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (more…)

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jjustillPresident Obama brings out the best in everybody! (Well, almost everybody.) This is especially evident in the creative community. It’s no secret that visual artists have been particularly captivated by Obama’s message and visage. But they are not alone. It seems that writers, poets, composers and musicians have been inspired as well.

I was happy to hear “Praise Song for Day” read by poet Elizabeth Alexander during the inaugural ceremony yesterday. It wasn’t the strongest poem I’ve ever heard but she did take up the limitations of language itself — a worthy topic for any self-respecting poet. It certainly was stronger and more well-crafted than Maya Angelou’s poem for President Bill Clinton. (more…)

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