Thursday, August 31, 2017


I went to the Textile Center last week to choose wool roving for my auntie to spin into yarn--she wanted earth tones, to knit a hat for her brother, my uncle.

Yesterday she sent me a photo of the roving I'd mailed her, on the floor on the right––(actually, it's batting--I am just learning a little of this wool jargon)––and of the spindle of yarn she has spun so far. 

I've asked for regular photo updates. 
I want to ask for a hat too! (She already spun and knit a pastel-colored hat for me. I think I'd like these colors even better.)

P.S. I wanted to add that the Craftivist movement I wrote about yesterday (when I first heard of it! and didn't know to say) isn't about taking up sewing as a hobby, anymore than non-violent resistance is about staying home so you don't hit anyone. 
It's about tactical, active plans for social change.

Sarah Corbett, founder, in her TEDx talk "The Art of Gentle Protest" describes organizing an activist group to use hand-embroidered messages on hankies to get Marks & Spencer to enter into talks on providing a living wage---amazingly (or maybe not), it worked!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Slow Work

One of my neuroses is worrying that I am too slow. 

I wish I didn't, but I worry even though I don't believe that speed is a virtue;
even though I know "slow" and "fast" don't exist, objectively, they are only comparisons; 
and even though my heart loves and I embrace the philosophy in this graffiti from Camino (photo by bink):

My speed is comparatively slow, and in my American culture, slow is definitely seen as the loser.

I'd say that's the case not just in corporate culture but in many social-change movements too. There are powerful arguments for the need for speed, of course, when we're facing something objective like global climate melt-down:
Stop Driving NOW! or facing Nazis: "Punch Them!" [not my advice]

While instant change would be best, exhorting people to radical change doesn't work very well, so far as I can see---people may feel bad but after a short time, we go on driving our cars, buying new clothes and too much food, joining groups that promise power and meaning at the cost of peace, and whatnot (until we can't).

Changing hearts and minds is soooo slow. 
Maybe we can't afford the time? 
Maybe we'll all be swept away? 
I don't know, but it could pay forward.

The other afternoon I was sitting in the community garden and I overheard this snippet:
"Look--this patch is a children's garden."

"That's good: teach kids to grow food so they'll know how after the apocalypse."
(Isn't it weird that this is a normal modern conversation? At least in my neck of the [urban] woods it is.)

Sewing is one of those slow-change things.
Darning and repairing clothes, for instance, would reduce the need for new clothes now,  (per the Economist: "making 1 kg of fabric generated 23 kg of greenhouse gases on average") and it's definitely something that would be useful to know how, post-apocalypse.

Also, it's empowering––it gives a sense of agency: 
 to see something you've made, something useful and even attractive or interesting: I made this! I exist!

I feel like in modern life, basic human actions can seem so unnecessary, it can cause depression. 
That's part of the attraction of post-apocalyptic stories, right? Like the Boxcar Children, they're stories about how we could survive on our own, with just our wits and a spoon. Everyone and their little skills would be needed.

Today I was excited to see this post "The School of Gentle Protest: Inner Activism" (from March) on the blog Tom of Holland: The Visible Mending Programme: making and re-making.

The School of Gentle Protest promotes tough-minded, tender-hearted craftivism: activism through sewing and other crafts. 
Led by Sarah Corbett [her TEDx talk on craftivism], the School offers a free a 6-week curriculum on YouTube ["Lesson 1: What is Gentle Protest?"]. 

Corbett says
"I became a Craftivist because I had become a burnt out activist. I grew up in a low-income area of Liverpool, and aged just 3, I was joining my parents and community in their campaigning. I went on to become a professional campaigner but I’m an introvert, and so many traditional forms of activism drained me. And I didn’t like demonizing people or telling them what to do.

"One day I picked up a craft kit for a long train journey. Stitching immediately calmed me down. It helped me think more clearly and it felt empowering. People asked me questions about what I was making. I began to leave small pieces of provocative street art in my area, and those pieces started conversations on and offline. I embroidered a hanky as a gift for my local politician with a personal message. It felt much more respectful than shouting at her. We became critical friends rather than aggressive enemies. "

This sort of thing is accused of being the province of privilege, and it sure can be [ohgod, so precious...], but the School points out:
"Gentle protest has been used effectively throughout history for long term change by people like Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela - they never demonised anyone and not only helped change laws but also hearts and minds."
But even if it's a pipe dream that repairing cloth could repair the world, if you have the choice it's a lot nicer thing to do than joining a nasty group.

At any rate, I am my own material; I can only work with who I am and what I have, at the speed I go. May as well see the virtue in that.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

"Taking the opportunity to uplift..."

I'm late seeing this, Mahershala Ali's SAG speech in January 2017 for the amazing movie Moonlight, but this 2-minute speech is timeless.
"We see what happens when people are persecuted--they fold in on themselves. ... I was so grateful about in having the opportunity to play Juan was playing a gentleman who saw a young man folding into himself as a result of the persecution of his community. Taking the opportunity to uplift him and to tell him he mattered, he was okay and accept him. I hope that we do a better job of that."

Via blog Slowed Up, Slowed Down

Monday, August 28, 2017

Sewing in Public

Every Sunday morning this summer, bink & I have gone to a certain coffee shop.  I was there sewing leaves (sunflower leaves) on the lion puppet yesterday when a barista asked if she could feature me on their Instagram.

I made sure the lion was facing the camera:

I'm really pleased: the photo shows the sort of person I would want to be.

I got a small payment from my father's life insurance last week. I've spent almost no money on sewing, so I'm giving myself a grant to focus on it a little more seriously--which includes spending money on some supplies. 

I have plenty of scraps of good fabric that I got free or cheap, but I've been making do with inferior sewing notions and thread. 
Did you know thread deteriorates? Old thread breaks and snags more easily.  I bought a bunch of new skeins of embroidery floss (74¢ each) to replace the ancient stuff I'd bought at Steeple People thrift store: the new thread is amazingly smooth to sew with.
Good supplies & tools are worth it.

And classes. I signed up for two one-time classes on September Saturday mornings at the textile center. Sixty dollars each seems expensive to me, and I could learn most everything I need from YouTube, but I'd like to meet other sewers. I learn more when someone is present to guide my hand, too.
I'm especially looking forward to the class that teaches beginning embroidery through stitching Mod Flowers:

My mother taught me to embroider when I was ten, so I remember the stitches but am unskilled. I still have my unfinished sampler from 46 years ago. Maybe I'll redesign and finish it. But probably I'll focus on embellishing toys.

I'm not sure what to do about paid work. 
Even though I'd like to work around people again, maybe I should look for freelance work since every job I've had in a workplace has ended with me leaving in outrage at the awful, incompetent management. 
I've complained here about the nursing homes and thrift stores I've worked in. Good management has not been the norm in the more professional settings I've been in either

The only reason I lasted twelve years at the art-college library was I worked alone in the evenings. The directors were unbelievable. When one of them quit,  she left her pit of an office for staff to clean out--a half-eaten sandwich was layered among library materials, brochures, and revealing personal papers relating to her divorce. Her moods were mercurial, but at least she'd taken care of the library, a little.
The next director was the opposite--a control freak who wouldn't let anything change or any money be spent. When I left in 2001, the library catalog still hadn't been computerized.

In my next job as an in-house proofreader for a publisher, the editorial director used her old, outdated college textbooks as reference material. I would point out slight factual errors in manuscripts, and she would say, "Don't worry about it--this isn't an academic press."

She wasn't the only one I met in children's publishing who had the attitude that nonfiction books for kids didn't really matter. One editor told me, "They're just for kids to write reports from."

(Humans. How have we lasted this long?)

Luckily there's been a big turnover since then, and the editorial staff is pretty great. But I still wouldn't want to work in-office. 

I am better suited, overall, to sitting in coffee shops sewing on stuffed animals.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Hat from Auntie

My auntie took up spinning wool last year. She sent me this hat she knitted me from yarn she spun herself. It's wonderfully soft and chunky. 
I'd told her to make it extra big so I could roll it down in wicked windy weather.

I've been looking at Sicilian embroidery for sewing ideas.
Here's part of the royal robe made c. 1134, probably by Arab artisans, in the Palermo workshops of Roger II, a Norman king of Sicily. 

It's Nice to Stay Home

The idea of conserving resources––"use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without"––as patriotic for a people at war seems old fashioned. (Remember how after 9/11, George W. told Americans to go out and shop?)

And yet, look how nice it would be! The dog would thank you. What's in that pitcher, anyway?


1945. Mailing label on back of poster:
Miss Mabel Wilkerson,
No. Texas S.T.C. Dem. School,
Denton, Texas 
from the US Office of Defense Transportation. 

Via U of North Texas Digital Library (Thanks for the link, Michael.)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Words I Can't Stand (Do You Have Some?)

[^ Edward Gorey, you know---never a wrong word]

I was talking to Michael in a comment on his blog post "Zillions" about words that make you shudder.

He also posted about certain words here:  
"Words I can live without".

I don't know why, but I just cringe at the word munch.
I guess it's partly the usage, not just the sound---it sounds like cutesy advertising to me. But it's also the sound, even when it's written, it makes me want to scream! 

I don't mind crunch though. Hm, maybe a little I do. 
Let's see. 
"She crunched on an apple"? 
Yeah, this annoys me. But nowhere near as much as munch.

Sometimes it's the sound + the meaning.
I remember film director Mike Nichols hated the word smegma.

Words for slimy things sometimes sound icky themselves.
Michael volunteered mucilage. [I originally spelled this "muscilage", which Michael commented would be a good name for really strong glue. Heh, yes: "For Muscular Jobs".]

And there's also the squicky mucilaginous.
And yet I don't mind the word slime... or even slime mold.

But moist
That tips toward icky again.

Some neologisms just drive me nuts. Some are really clever (can't think of an example!), or fun or generally nonannoying to me.
Hm... this is a newer usage, not a new word, but, like, I like using like (like there). (Is that a Valley Girlism? Too much of it can get annoying, but whatever.)

But I hate staycation and gi-normous.

Staycation also has a meaning I dislike: 
it implies the normal thing to do when you have time off is to travel. You only stay home because you can't afford to go to Disneyland or something. This is an American view of life I dislike: that it's better to be in motion than at rest, and it's more prestigious or valuable to do things or have things that cost money than not.

[The departed commenter who defended the Confederate statues used in their defense that "someone paid good money" for them. The commenter was English, but this is a common US pov too.]

Sometimes it's the usage of a word that annoys.
I don't mind most grammar variations, but for some reason I cringe when I hear "I" and "me" mixed up, as in,
"Come along with Mikey and I."

(Tip I learned from an English teacher
when I was a kid
To decide whether to use "I" or "me," take the other person's name out of the sentence. You wouldn't say, "Come along with I.")

An innocent variation that grates on my ears:
"Anyways" for anyway.

It also bugged me when I lived in Chicago and heard people commonly pronounce Illinois as Illi-noise
But they were natives! So it was a correct usage (following the rule that people who live in a place get to call it whatever they want--ditto for personal names---once someone told me I capitalized my Italian last name wrong, and I wanted to punch her). I just had to accept it. BUT I DIDN'T LIKE IT.

Sometimes it's the rules of grammar that annoy me.
I don't hold with the rule against split infinitives, for instance, where you aren't supposed to put a descriptive word between the "to" and the verb.
This is a useless holdout from Latin.
Like, following that rule, Star Trek's "to boldly go" [where no man has gone before] is wrong:
"to go" shouldn't get a word in between "to" and "go". But who cares? In fact, often an adverb works best tucked inside the infinitive like that.

So I sometimes feel resentful if someone too blatantly avoids split infinitives or corrects them, like "to go boldly," with an air as if they feel morally superior for not splitting infinitives. [I confess I am thinking of a certain someone I used to know.]

And that gets at a thing about language:

Some of this is far more about class than about right and wrong, grating or graceful usages. Grammar as a social gatekeeper. 
Granted, sometimes there are too many words inserted after "to," and you get lost before you get to the rest of the verb, but that's just bad writing.

Nonetheless, however you munch and crunch it, some words are just icky!!!

Do you have any words that bug you?

Bugs of Summer

It's monarch butterfly season.

Almost twenty years ago, I produced a collaborative artists' book, Bugs of Summer, with artist Jody Williams through her press Flying Paper Press, in 1998. 

We invited 14 other artists to supply a piece of line art about a bug, and we (mostly Jody, who is a printer) screenprinted them, and then we bound them into this accordian book. It was an edition of 125.
The cover is Chiyogami dragonfly paper. 

Mine is the first illustration ^ above--it's about how we kids used to collect monarch caterpillars and keep them in jars, hoping they'd turn into butterflies. We didn't know to give them the necessary milkweed, so, alas, they just died.

To the right of mine is Lucinda's firefly-eating bat; 
and then Jody's "I did kill two kaydids.... and now I am sorry."

I like working on group projects--it helps me get stuff done! I would like to do more... maybe, sometime. (They also involve working with other people, which can be a pain.) 

Last week I saw this public-art mural across the street from Stephen Be's yarn store:

The text reads:
Monarch butterflies are symbols of free migration in North American, but their numbers are in decline and they need our help.
Mural by Roger Preet and Barry Newman
Sponsored by the Center for Biological Diversity

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Portrait of Daniele

Another photo from my sister--this painting of our father was always in the house--it was painted by a friend in the 1950s. 
I always liked it (though I don't want to own it now).

Dad & Dog (Pop & Bop)

It's funny how we take against certain words, isn't it? 
My father hated being called Dad, or even referred to as a dad.  I think he thought it was a tacky Americanism, and he wanted to appear ... cultured, I guess, to distance himself from the poverty of his childhood.
We called him by his first name, Daniele.

But "Dad & Dog" sounds good to me, and I'm using it.

This is one of my favorite photos of my father. He's with Bop, the dog Lucinda and I got as a puppy when we lived in Chicago in the late-1980s, when Lucinda was getting her MFA in painting.

Hm. I could have called this Pop 'n' Bop.

(I call Lucinda bink now, but back then she had a different nickname, which she didn't much like so I won't mention it here*---anyway, that's why I call her Lucinda here---also, when she's being an artist, I think of her that way.) 

*But I will here. It was Babs. I loved it, but she didn't.

Monday, August 21, 2017

My Father's Biscotti Recipe

From my sister, photo and recipe of our father's biscotti  (which she served this weekend at her memorial party for our father)

 Other recipes for Sicilian cookies from my family: 

Tu Tu Cookies Recipe 

and  SOS Cookies, (or biscotti di Monreale)

Daniele’s Biscotti

Mix Together:
1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp ground anise
½ cup chopped nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, or pecans)
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

Blend Separately:
½ cup sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
¼ cup honey, room temperature
2 tbsp melted butter

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture. Blend thoroughly.

Split dough into halves. Roll each one into a log to fit your cookie sheet.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until firm.

Cool so you can cut. Then slice into ½-inch diagonals.

Return to the oven for 10-12 minutes.

Optional: When the biscotti are still warm, brush with Grand Marnier or another liqueur of choice.

King George III Statue = 42,088 Lead Bullets

OK, I was hot under the collar when I wrote yesterday that the Confederate statues should be melted down. Yeah, I'd vote for that, and the creative re-casting of the bronze (or whatever), but in fact, I still strongly believe it's best if local groups decide what to do with their statues.

I'm curious. What have other nations and times done with their deposed statues?
Lots of things. 

The Allies ordered all Nazi symbols in German territory to be destroyed after the war:
"Every existing monument, poster, statue, edifice, street, or highway name marker, emblem, tablet or insignia .... must be completely destroyed and liquidated by 1 January 1947."
--from "How Did We Treat Monuments to White Supremacists When They Weren’t Our White Supremacists?" Slate, 8-13-17

GZ helpfully pointed me to Hungary's Memento Park:
"an open-air museum in Budapest, dedicated to monumental statues and sculpted plaques from Hungary's Communist period (1949–1989). 

The park was designed by Hungarian architect Ákos Eleőd, who said:
"This park is about dictatorship. And at the same time, because it can be talked about, described, built, this park is about democracy.
After all, only democracy is able to give the opportunity to let us think freely about dictatorship."
Grūtas Park is the same idea in Lithuania, nicknamed Stalin World. "Many of its features are re-creations of Soviet Gulag prison camps: wooden paths, guard towers, and barbed-wire fences."
Ha--it won the 2001 Ig Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to “honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.”

Another option: melt down and reuse the metal.

Revolutionary Americans melted this lead statue of King George III into 42,088 musket balls. 

No, no more bullets! but I like the idea of reuse. What catches my imagination here is that someone bothered to count and record them. So human.
"Pulling Down the Statue of George III" (1859)
Artist John C. McRae based this engraving on a painting by Johannes Adam Simon Oertel.

INFO ADAPTED FROM Teach US History site:

On July 9, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read for the first time in New York in front of George Washington and his troops. In reaction, soldiers and citizens went to Bowling Green, a park in Manhattan, and pulled down the lead statue of King George III on horseback there. (It was originally commissioned to celebrate the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766.)

This art is a romanticized version of the event. According to the eye witness accounts, the mob included soldiers, sailors, blacks, and a few lower class citizens, not the women, children, and Native Americans pictured here. Also, descriptions of the actual statue say that King George was sculpted wearing a Roman toga. 

This incident showed that Americans were ready to be independent and free from tyrannical rule, and by pulling down a statue of the King, it symbolized the from a monarchy to a democracy."

Former Neo-Nazi on Statues & Life After Hate

When I saw the faces of the white supremacists marching in Charlottsville, I got the sense that for many of these hate-filled guys, this is not about specific ideology so much as it's about belonging to something that will give them meaning and purpose. 
Violent ideology can be very attractive--I get that.

When I was a young lesbian-feminist, I dabbled (not for long) in some pretty violent views, like those of Valerie Solanis, who wrote SCUM Manifesto
[excerpts, where I got the screencap below].

Hm, looking at it again, I see she does raise some good talking points about a certain kind of male, one we've been hearing an awful lot from, one who thinks Confederate statues are "Great Art":

Yeah, but I always leaned more toward the "we will heal hatred with essential oils" kind of Piscean, Peace & Patchouli, let's-revive-Mother-Earth-with-menstrual-blood branch of feminism.

I'm still a little sad that didn't work out.

Anyway, former Neo-Nazi and founder of the Life after Hate group, Christian Picciolini, explains how the recruitment of vulnerable young men into white supremacist groups works
in an interview (with transcript) on Democracy Now.

Picciolini's memoir >>
Romantic Violence, Memoirs of an American Skinhead

The group he founded, Life After Hate [] 
"works to help white nationalists and neo-Nazis disengage from hate and violent extremism. It is dedicated to inspiring individuals to a place of compassion and forgiveness, for themselves and for all people." 

It's not just a matter of compassion, though, to want to rescue people who've joined hate groups, it's preventative.
From an article in Newsweek:
"The FBI explicitly says in the briefing that white supremacists are to blame for the majority of domestic extremism. They 'were responsible for 49 homicides in 26 attacks from 2000 to 2016…more than any other domestic extremist movement,' the document states."
Some extracts from the fascinating interview with Picciolini (which also includes the close relative of a fascist who marched in Charlottesville):
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: I was recruited at 14 years old in 1987. And I spent—

AMY GOODMAN: Where did you live?

CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: I was in Chicago, and that was the home and the birthplace of the American neo-Nazi skinhead movement. In fact, I was standing in an alley at 14 years old, and a man pulled his car up as I was smoking a joint, and he came over to me, and he said, "Don’t you know that that’s what the communists and Jews want you to do, to keep you docile?"

At 14, I was a marginalized kid. I had been bullied. I didn’t know what a communist or a Jew or even what the word "docile" meant. But this man brought me into a family. He gave me an identity, and he fed my sense of purpose.
While it was all misdirected, being marginalized and disaffected and feeling abandoned, I was willing to trade in the feeling of power, when I felt the most powerless, for something that was evil and eventually swallowed whole.

AMY GOODMAN: What was it that started you moving away and questioning what you were doing?

CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: I started to meet people who I had kept outside of my social circle, who I hated: African Americans and Jews and gay people.

But the truth was that I had never had a meaningful interaction with them. But when I started to, I started to receive compassion from the people that I least deserved it from, when I least deserved it. They could have attacked me. They could have threatened me. They could have broken my windows.
But they didn’t.
And they knew who I was, and they took it upon themselves to show me empathy when I deserved it the least. And that helped me humanize them and dispel all the stereotypes that I had in my head. And suddenly, I couldn’t reconcile my hate anymore.

GOODMAN plays a clip of a white supremacist at the Charlottesville rally

CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: This gentleman is an insecure—has no self-confidence and is clearly broken. There is something broken.
I’m a firm believer that ideology isn’t what radicalizes people. I think it’s the search for identity, community and a sense of purpose. And if there’s some sort of brokenness, a void underneath that in your life—and it could be trauma or addiction or mental health issues, anything that would hold you back or deviate your path from the intended one that you were on—you tend to look for acceptance in negative pathways.

"CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI:  Well, first of all, the monuments don’t really mean anything to these groups. They use them as an excuse to gather. You know, they don’t care. They’re egotists. They only care about themselves, their agenda and how it moves them forward.
And they’ll use, you know, the term "free speech" to hold a rally, or they’ll use an excuse to protect a statue to hold a rally. So, let’s just dispel that myth. Those statues really don’t mean anything to them.

 Let’s take the statues down, however we need to take them down. Let’s put them in Confederate cemeteries, so people who do genuinely believe in the heritage, even though I disagree with that, can still pay homage to their idols and to their family members who lost their lives in the Civil War.

However, I think we need to replace those statues with civil rights heroes, true Americans, who did give their lives to fight for justice and the American dream. And especially the Robert E. Lee statue that is in Charlottesville, I would propose that a statue goes up in its place to honor the three people who died that day, you know, because those are true Americans."
END OF EXCERPT: Read or watch full the interview: "Life After Hate: Full Intv. with Nephew of Fascist Who Marched in Charlottesville & Former Neo-Nazi"

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Melting Down

NOTE [five days later]: I wrote this post partly in response to a commenter from England who kept saying the Confederate statues are beautiful and should be preserved in a museum, for teaching purposes.

I can see the teaching angle, but I can't see statues that communicate such an ugly message as the defense of slavery as beautiful, and her insistence on that without ever saying a word against neo-nazi violence made me wonder where she was really coming from...

The commenter and I couldn't find any common ground, and she has since gone away.
[End of note]

I. Melt 'Em Down, I Say

I fear that by trying to blog in a calm and reasonable voice about race in America and the history of Confederacy monuments, I'm starting to sound like Donald Trump who says "both sides" are to blame.

So let me say clearly:

I cannot fathom putting 1 ounce of resources (money, space, staff) toward housing in a museum statues of people who owned, raped, tortured, and murdered other people––or who, at "best", treated them like valuable livestock––or who, if they didn't do any of that personally, actively supported a culture and a State that did. 

Like Robert E. Lee did.

Especially––especially––if people are carrying ACTUAL NAZI FLAGS––the red ones with the tilted black crosses––and calling for a return of this culture's values... today.

Which they are.

I don't think we Americans need a whole lot more education about how awful slavery is. Or about how Nazis are bad.
I think we need systemic change in how we fund and provide education, health care, and housing.

The vice-mayor of Charlottesville, VA, Wes Bellamy, said:
It’s not enough to just move a damn statue. . . 
 I think symbols matter. But you move the statue, and then what else? It’s cool to, quote-unquote, move the statues. But don’t try to pacify black folks or people of color.”

The same day [Charlottesville] voted to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a park — a move that white supremacists descended on the city to protest — the City Council did something that got much less publicity. 
It unanimously approved a $4 million spending plan [proposed by the vice-mayor Bellamy] to address racial disparities.
Over the next five years, about $2.5 million is to be used to redevelop public housing; $250,000 will go to expanding a park in a black neighborhood; and $20,000 a year will pay for G.E.D. classes for public housing residents."

Yes! Melt the statues of Confederates down, I say, and put the money toward housing, education, and health care.

[NOTE: I was hot under the collar when I wrote this four days ago. What I truly believe is that the local communities should decide the fate of the statues. If it were me, I'd vote for melting and/or reusing them (could the horses be playground equipment???), but it's really not up to me, a northerner thousands of miles and half a culture away.]

Please stop telling me the statues should be in a museum.
I would never suggest to people in former Soviet-ruled nations that they save their statues of Stalin, or to Germans that they give museum space to statues of the SS.

If they choose to do so, that's their choice--but it's not for me to say.

And––I'm not saying this is exactly equivalent (history IS complicated)––I can't imagine telling English people that they should erect high on marble plinths handsome bronze statues of Irish Republican Army bombers (terrorists or freedom fighters) to be argued about in 100 years, the way the United Daughters of the Confederacy a few decades after the Civil War erected the Confederate monuments that we are arguing about now.

Let's give museum space to artists who have not been fully represented instead of more powerful, white, racist men.
Really. They're practically enshrined on every street corner already.

["At least 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy can be found in public spaces across the country."--from "Stonewall Jackson's Great-Great-Grandsons Call for Removal of Confederate Monuments"

"WARREN CHRISTIAN, descendant of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson:

I don’t feel like it should matter too much, you know, how we feel about the statues, but I do understand that it does—it is important to some folks how we feel about it.

And, for example, this statue at the University of North Carolina, when it was put up, the speaker, Julian Carr, who is a prominent local businessman, talked a lot about how the Confederate soldiers were working to save the Anglo-Saxon race.

And then, really kind of disgustingly, at the end of his speech, he bragged about having the—his quotes—"pleasant duty of horsewhipping a black woman in front of a hundred federal soldiers and leaving her clothes in tatters."
So I think the racist and white supremacist intent of these monuments is clear. And I think it’s past time that they’re all removed from the public squares of our country."
...As cities all over the South are realizing now, we are not in need of added context. We are in need of a new context—one in which the statues have been taken down."

II. Slavery Museums
 There are museums about slavery in the United States.

The United States has an excellent museum in Washington D.C., our national capitol, the National Museum of African American History & Culture, run by the Smithsonian.
One of its ten galleries is titled “Slavery and Freedom.”

Their founding director, Lonnie G. Bunch III, says, "The African American experience is the lens through which we understand what it is to be an American."

Maybe we need more?
But many African Americans say they do not want always and only to be seen in terms of slavery. Among other issues, white people can get off on a kind of tragedy porn or "I'm not racist" righteous groove around slavery.

From African American writer Kara Brown's article "I'm So Damn Tired of Slave Movies":

"It’s obvious at this point that Hollywood has a problem with only paying attention to non-white people when they’re playing a stereotype. Their love of the slave movie genre brings this issue out in the worst way. I’m tired of watching black people go through some of the worst pain in human history for entertainment, and I’m tired of white audiences falling over themselves to praise a film that has the courage and honesty to tell such a brutal story. "
III. Indigenous Americans and  News Coverage

As for indigenous people's rights, it's true, white America has screwed American Indians every which way, including giving their issues less press than African American issues and many other issues.

It's not right or fair, no, but some of this is a numbers game--the mainstream press pays more attention to bigger numbers.

6.6 million = The US population of American Indians and Alaska Natives, including those of more than one race, in 2015. 

46.3 million = The US black population, including those of more than one race, in 2015.

Anyone interested in American Indians has to take it on themselves to pay closer attention and to follow Native news specifically.
Luckily, it's online.
One could start... I don't know––here: Native News Online

Still, there's been some international press coverage of Native issues just recently that'd be hard to miss. I posted on this blog, for instance, about the protests against the Dakota Pipeline going through Native lands that mobilized Americans across the county, and which got international coverage.

It's still going on.
"Native Americans Bring Dakota Pipeline Protest To Trump’s Doorstep" March, 2017:

And this June 2017, there was a ton of press coverage of the awful, awful piece of art erected in a museum one (1) mile from where I live. It was dismantled, the New York Times reported in their article, "Dakota People Are Debating Whether to Burn ‘Scaffold’ Fragments ...after Native American groups denounced the insensitivity of the piece in recalling what they regarded as an act of genocide."

Or, you know, just google it, stuff you're curious about.
I just now googled "Charlottesville Sherman Alexie" (read his books!) and found this, A New Poem by Sherman Alexie wrote and posted on FB on August 16, 2017:

Excerpt from "Hymn: A New Poem" by Sherman Alexie

Who will you be? Who will I become
As we gather in this terrible kingdom?

My friends, I'm not quite sure what I should do.
I'm as angry and afraid and disillusioned as you.

But I do know this: I will resist hate. I will resist.
I will stand and sing my love. I will use my fist

To drum and drum my love. I will write and read poems
That offer the warmth and shelter of any good home.

I will sing for people who might not sing for me.
I will sing for people who are not my family.

I will sing honor songs for the unfamilar and new.
I will visit a different church and pray in a different pew.

I will silently sit and carefully listen to new stories
About other people’s tragedies and glories.

I will not assume my pain and joy are better.
I will not claim my people invented gravity or weather.

And, oh, I know I will still feel my rage and rage and rage
But I won’t act like I’m the only person onstage.

I am one more citizen marching against hatred.
Alone, we are defenseless. Collected, we are sacred.

We will march by the millions. We will tremble and grieve.
We will praise and weep and laugh. We will believe.

We will be courageous with our love. We will risk danger
As we sing and sing and sing to welcome strangers.

Read the whole poem: "A New Poem" ©2017, Sherman Alexie

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Very Nice Horse

For Art Sparker*
A Very Nice Horse that just happens to be trotting riderless through Emancipation Park, Charlottesville, Virginia

*inspired by our discussion in comments on post below

Can We Work Together on Better Public Art?

Cathy left an intriguing comment on my post "Toppling Scarlett's Red Dress". Being from Yorkshire, she doesn't have the same emotional reaction to the topic of removing Confederate monuments that I do, an American and a Yankee. She raises a couple interesting points that deserve a fuller response than I could leave in the comments.

TO address her points:

1. I [Cathy] don't think [the statue of Robert E. Lee] should be destroyed, but moved to a corner in a museum that tells the whole story of the war and of slavery, in other keep it but place it in context.

I think something like that is a great idea:
a creative response!
I imagine a series of community meetings---each local community deciding together what to do with these monuments. 

That's hard to do, especially when people are already at such loggerheads...

I'm sure there are many examples of how that might work.
Not art related, but NPR reported in 2010:'The international peace-making organization Search for Common Ground is honoring three descendants of Thomas Jefferson for "their work to bridge the divide within their family and heal the legacy of slavery."'

One successful public art-making effort I know personally comes from a neighborhood group here, near me, who modeled how such a thing might work. 
In 2012 an all-white group of dog owners proposed the neighborhood alliance use grant money from the city to establish a leash-free dog park in a section of the large Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

Seems harmless, perhaps.
But a group of black neighbors strongly opposed it, saying that to them, dogs are associated with white people's violence  against black people (you've seen the famous photos of police dogs attacking black people in the Civil Rights era). 

Oh--searching for those images I found this new (2013) monument! a good example of ADDING to the representation of history, adding monuments to tell the full story [via "Obama Designates Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument"]:

Yeah, so, you can imagine tensions ran high in this neighborhood group.

But the leaders set up a series of talks, (with mediators, I think), so everyone could express themselves and to brainstorm a project everyone could get behind.

Eventually they came up with a public art project: 
a series of mosaic panels made by volunteers of all ages, to be mounted on the park building incorporating designs from the textile arts of different ethnic groups in the neighborhood.
I wrote about the making of the mosaics in 2013, which look absolutely stunning in place. Image via Sharra Frank, mosaic designer.

2. The statue was for "all the ordinary chaps that fought and gave their lives; the state may have helped the families grieve."

You'd think so, right? 
Here's the surprising (to me) thing about these Confederate monuments: 
they're not actually from the Confederacy.
Most they were erected during the era of Jim Crow, "the name for official segregation and state-sponsored racism.” [via "Who Was Jim Crow?"
According to Karen L. Cox, professor of history at the U of North Carolina, in a recent article in the Atlantic :
The vast majority of monuments date to between 1895 and World War I. They were part of a campaign to paint the Southern cause in the Civil War as just and slavery as a benevolent institution, and their installation came against a backdrop of Jim Crow violence and oppression of African Americans. The monuments were put up as explicit symbols of white supremacy."
Cox explains who was behind their erection, raised the money, etc. (the United Daughters of the Confederacy), and she also notes, "The bestselling book of 1936 and 1937, Gone With the Wind, which also became an international film sensation, [was] essentially [a] popular celebration of white supremacy and Southern civilization.

The Confederate battle flag came into popularity even later. According to historian David Goldfield, author of Still Fighting the Civil War:
"In the 1950s, as the Civil Rights Movement built up steam, you began to see more and more public displays of the Confederate battle flag, to the point where the state of Georgia in 1956 redesigned their state flag to include the Confederate battle flag."
Mayor Singer of Charlottesville, Va, today (8/19/17):
"All of a sudden these statues of Civil War generals installed in the Jim Crow era, they became touchstones of terror, the twisted totems that people are clearly drawn to, trying to create a whole architecture of intimidation and hatred around them that was visited around our town. It was evil."
I think white southerners who truly want to honor their dead and acknowledge the complexities of our heritage could find a better way than resurrecting symbols of oppression.

3. Robert E. Lee was presumably good at his job.

Yes! He was. He was exceptionally good at military things. 
But which of his jobs are we talking about?

For most of his career, he was an officer for the army of the United States of America, to whom he swore his loyalty. 
And then when his home state of Virginia seceded from the Union, he went with it and became a great military leader for the Confederate States of America. Which makes him a traitor as defined by the Constitution of the USA.

But Northerners don't usually tend to think of him as a traitor, and neither did Lincoln, who said that since the South had no legal right to leave the Union, its attempts to secede was just a failed attempt and let's move on and say no more about that... There were not treason trials after the war, and Lee is still often "revered as a southern gentleman who gave his all to the 'Lost Cause' of the Confederate States of America." [via A Patriot's History]

It's hard to get the emotional tone of another country's symbols right, but maybe Lee is a little like Oliver Cromwell??? 
Also "good at his job," depending on what you think his job was.
King-killer? Ethnic cleanser of Ireland? Key player in the establishment of Western democracy? All of the above?

Anyway, I was surprised to see there's a statue of Cromwell outside the Houses of Parliament in London.  

OK, so--those are my responses this Saturday morning. Now to go take the dog for a walk and clear my head!

Oh, no--wait! 
One more example of public art monuments in a literal face-off: The Fearless Girl and the  Wall Street Bull!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Toppling Scarlett's Red Dress

"For more than 150 years, the exaltation and defense of Confederate memory have been maintained with remarkable persistence in everything from town square monuments and state flags to seminal expressions of American culture like the films The Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind."
--"In Monument Debate, Calls for an Overdue Reckoning on Race and Southern Identity", New York Times, Aug 18, 2017

Every time I've mentioned Gone with the Wind on this blog, I've pointed out that it's racist: it romanticizes slavery and the Confederate cause. [I always liked my post comparing Star Wars' Jar Jar Binks to GWTW's Prissy, contending they are both doing the "subversive shuffle"--pretending to be dopey while undermining the Empire.] 

But in one post from October 2008, I'd mostly raved about the amazing red dress the protagonist, Scarlett (Vivien Leigh), wears to a party, and I included screencaps and behind-the-scenes images of the costume.

After what happened in Charlottesville, VA, this week [white nationalists rallying in support of Confederate monuments attack and murder counterprotestors], I've deleted that post. 
I'm sorry I didn't do it sooner. 
I confess to wanting it both ways---to being able to point out the racism while admiring its trappings. 
I wrote it during Obama's presidency, when though it was clear we were far from post-race, it seemed such things might just start to be possible.... Sadly, not.

The post got a ton of hits over the years from people searching for the dress. While I point out that the dress is sign of power at all costs, I know that political analysis is not what people came for nor what they take away.

What I'd written in the red-dress post:
Scarlett? Sure she's racist. The only white character in GWTW who suggests slavery is wrong is Ashley Wilkes, and he's shown up at the end as a boob, a useless intellectual. Even the characters who are slaves, like Mammy, are presented as if they approve of their lot at the hands of Scarlett O'Hara's family, grateful to be owned by "good" white masters.
Ashley and his gracious world view will not survive.
Scarlett and hers will.
She doesn't care who she screws or who she exploits--race is only part of it. The only thing she respects is strength.
She is a pure American industrialist, the ancestor of Dick Cheney. 
GWTW is billed as a romance.
It is one, but not primarily about the famous passion between Scarlett and Rhett. She doesn't even want him until the very end, after he rapes her (i.e. finally proves he's stronger than her). Gone with the Wind is about the love of power (represented by land and money) and the security it brings, and the length people will go to get and keep it.
Americans worship success, and we're suckers for glamor.
I suggest we love GWTW because it is success garbed in red velvet. Or green velvet, if you prefer the dress Scarlett makes out of drapes. Or rather, as an astute reader points out, that Mammy makes--a character who doesn't even have a name of her own.

The red dress is too effective, too seductive. Some people can't see past it to the movie's racism--it's part of what sells Scarlett's world view (white supremacy). It's like one of those beautiful monuments of Confederate heroes that Donald Trump laments the loss of. 

Why do some people love Gone with the Wind? I'd asked in an earlier post.
And a commenter had replied:
"The costumes! Scarlett in her red velvet party dress, wearing too much rouge, Melanie in her gray watered silk gown with a cerise sash, Scarlett's voluminous white batiste with embroidered emerald silk leaves scattered across the skirt. Not to mention the memorable Drapery Dress!"
So, down it comes.
There are plenty of fantastic costumes in the world that aren't clothing an infectious corpse. 

P.S. Interesting article in the Washington Post, "Why We Should Keep Reading GWTW" (July 2015):
"Gone With The Wind is a rich, complicated book. And while we can and should argue about a story that’s achieved such a hold on the American imagination, I’m struck anew every time I read it by a basic idea that drives the story from start to finish: Romanticizing the South has a deforming influence on its characters’ lives." 

Mock a Nazi!

Oh, I'm so pleased to see this article "How to Make Fun of Nazis" in today's NYT---you know I've been worried about the "punch a Nazi" rhetoric from the beginning (signs saying that were posted around my neighborhood on the day Trump was inaugurated as president).

Antifascists put forth some thought-compelling arguments for violent tactics against neo-nazis "before it’s too late":
"Antifascists argue that after the horrors of chattel slavery and the Holocaust, physical violence against white supremacists is both ethically justifiable and strategically effective.
We should not, they argue, abstractly assess the ethical status of violence in the absence of the values and context behind it. Instead, they put forth an ethically consistent, historically informed argument for fighting Nazis before it’s too late. "
I see their point, but, among other problems, "In the past, antifa activists have engaged with people who were clearly something less than outright neo-Nazis, raising questions about who, if anyone, deserves to be punched and whether there is such a thing as legitimate political violence." [NYT article on Antifa]

For that [who decides?] and many other reasons, I side with nonviolence--not passive "niceness" but politically active, tactical nonviolence, warrior nonviolence, as taught by Gandhi & Martin Luther King. 
Tactics which include mockery!
(I've already posted "Springtime for Hitler" and "Schicklegruber Doing the Lambeth March".)

It turns out places in Germany have been using subversive humor to turn neo-nazi marches into something like the Ministry of Silly Walks meets Confuse a Cat.

And in 2012, a Clown Counter-Protest met neo-nazi marchers with mockery in North Carolina too, among other things, tossing handfuls of white flour at white power.

What happened in Charlottesville went waaaaay beyond anything this sort of tactic could have stopped. 
But there's room for mockery in the arsenal of the Resistance. 

From "How to Make Fun of Nazis" :
"Humor is a particularly powerful tool — to avoid escalation, to highlight the absurdity of absurd positions and to deflate the puffery that, to the weak-minded at any rate, might resemble heroic purpose.
"By undercutting the gravitas white supremacists are trying to accrue, humorous counterprotests may blunt the events’ usefulness for recruitment. Brawling with bandanna-clad antifas may seem romantic to some disaffected young men, but being mocked by clowns?
Probably not so much.

"Those I spoke with appreciated the sentiment of the antifa, or anti-fascist, demonstrators who showed up in Charlottesville, members of an anti-racist group with militant and anarchist roots who are willing to fight people they consider fascists.
“I would want to punch a Nazi in the nose, too,” Maria Stephan, a program director at the United States Institute of Peace, told me. “But there’s a difference between a therapeutic and strategic response.” 
"The problem, she said, is that violence is simply bad strategy.
Violence directed at white nationalists only fuels their narrative of victimhood — of a hounded, soon-to-be-minority who can’t exercise their rights to free speech without getting pummeled. It also probably helps them recruit.

"And more broadly, if violence against minorities is what you find repugnant in neo-Nazi rhetoric, then “you are using the very force you’re trying to overcome,” Michael Nagler, the founder of the Peace and Conflict Studies program at the University of California, Berkeley, told me."
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