Saturday, March 18, 2017

Who They Cast...isn't a big deal...

I was in my favorite Japanese Market buying random sushi when a kid who works there and I started discussing Hollywood's adaptation the manga/anime "Ghost in the Shell". Neither of us wanted to see it as we felt it was yet another instance of Hollywood "white washing" someone else's art. A stereotypical "Fan boy" who was eavesdropping on our conversation chimed in and pointed out how since MOST anime characters were so western in appearance, that the race of the actor playing a particular character didn't really matter.
          I held my tongue and didn't engage the guy further, but it's easy to think that way when the hero in 90% of films looks like you.  Despite how "multicultural" Hollywood claims to be, certain sad truths about the entertainment industry remain barely changed.

        During Hollywood's "Golden age" the only roles for blacks, Latinos and Asians (if at all) were as crude stereotypical ancillary characters.  If there was a lead role for a character of color he or she would be played by a white actor in stage makeup. Most notably the Charlie Chan films of the 30s and 40s. Recognition was very rare as evident by the fact that during Hollywood's "Golden age" the only actor of color to receive a major award for a performance was Hattie McDaniel in 1939's Gone with The Wind" in which she played a loyal slave simply known as "Mammy". During her acceptance speech McDaniel thanked the academy and said how she wished to be "a credit to her race."
        Hollywood has changed since the 30s, but the roles for actors of color seem to always be drawn from the same tired well. If you're a black actor in Hollywood and receive recognition for your work you've played one of the following roles:

Obsequious negro: This character is usually a slave or yes man who doesn't want to rock the boat and tells others to follow his lead, but usually is made an example of by the same power structure he spoke out to protect. His character is generally selfless and noble and his dressing down (or even death) usually inspires a white character to some noble calling. In literature "Uncle Tom" in Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin", in film too many to mention.

Master Criminal: This character is generally intelligent; however, he tend to rise to power on the streets though violence and criminality and generally serves two cinematic purposes: 1. White liberal statement about educational opportunities for people of color and the bias against them in corporate America. 2. An Object lesson proving that crime doesn't pay. Example: Frank Lucas "American Gangster"

Redeemed Buck negro: he is a sullen  rebel who fights authority at every turn but somewhere near the end of the film "gets with the program" and dies for a worthy cause. Example: Denzel Washington's Silas Trip in the film "Glory"

Magic Negro: This is the character who isn't a "stereotype" but rather possesses a strange wisdom of the world around him, but whose only purpose in the film is to aid the growth and development of one of the film's white characters on his/her journey. Example: Will Smith in the film "Bagger Vance"

Noble Martyr: The martyr may or may not die during the course of the film, but he or she will suffer to expose an ugly truth.  Best Examples: Any film about the life of Martin Luther King OR Silas in the film "Twelve Years a Slave".

Coon: A coon is the ridiculous comedy relief who seems to embody a wealth of black stereotypes for comedic effect. He has little if any depth and generally angers blacks who see the film in question. Example: Rod Tidwell "Jerry McGuire"

For black actresses the roles for which they receive notoriety are fewer as are the stereotypes, among them are:

Mammy: she is the loud sassy but nurturing character who holds all characters regardless of their race or station together. Best example Hattie McDaniel "Gone with the wind"

Hoodrat: The hoodrat is the uncultured  female character who embodies negative social stereotypes of black women she is the female equivalent of the "buck negro" given that she rebels against the power structure and the character is rarely given any real depth or even back story.

Magic Negro, Martyr and Coon can all be female but the last  character seems not to be going anywhere.

Jezebel/Vamp: She is the black temptress whose purpose seems to be gratifying the lusts of various male characters. She is more sex object than sex symbol and is oft portrayed as amoral. Example: Too many to mention.

Sadly Latinos have barely fared any better. Roles for Latin actors are slim and sadly stereotypical.

Latin Lover: This character seems more positive than he actually is. On the surface the character is a polished, sophisticate with a way with the ladies. The downside, he rarely ever has a moral compass and seems obsessed with his own gratification. He is the negative stereotype of the Latin male as oversexed, callous and womanizing. Example Antonio Banderas in ANYTHING.

Cholo/Bandito: This character is the lawless rebel. He's selfish, self destructive and has little regard for anyone or anything. In early Hollywood he rode a horse and wore a sombrero, now he's simply a gang banger or convict.  He usually winds up dying in a blaze of glory or dying in a prison cell.
Example: Carnal "American Me".

Overly Passionate Latino: This character can be male or female. He or she takes anything "no matter how big or small" and blows it comically out of proportion.  The character is a bit of a take off on the "coon" (Latin version) as he or she is generally in a film for comedic effect.

Master Criminal: (same as black master criminal. Example Tony Montana "Scarface"

Spitfire:  (female) The Latin Spitfire is an odd combination of hoodrat and Jezebel. She's intentionally uncultured and primarily there as a sex object

Asian Americans are one of the least represent groups in American cinema and their representation always seems to be in a light many see as stereotypes:

Sage: A wise man or woman who seems to possess great knowledge and attempts to give a warning which falls on deaf ears. Example the shop keeper in "Gremlins"

Scientist/Nerd/Geek: He or she is supposed to be great at math, science, computers or something else that resulted from strict parents putting his/her nose in a book at birth. Character generally can save the day, but defers to assist leading white character who is destined to. This character is generally portrayed as asexual.

Shop Keeper: This character is a take off on immigrant stereotypes and generally is crude and lacks sophistication. He/she is rarely cast in a favorable light and is generally a rude ancillary character of a shooting victim.

Martial Arts Master: This character is either a young martial artist with incredible abilities on his journey to mastery or a wise sage who is attempting to spread his/her knowledge.  Example: Jet Li in anything.

Evil Genius: This character is a take on the master criminal, but usually is attempting to take over the world or something grandiose in a take on the 19th century "yellow peril" paranoia which lead to the Chinese Exclusion laws. Example: Ming the Merciless

Dragon Lady: She's the Asian equivalent of the vamp. Her character uses sex as a tool and a weapon. She's seen as having a mean streak and is generally cunning and evil. Example: Too many to mention.

Lotus Blossom: She is the Asian damsel in distress in need of rescue preferably by a "white knight". Example Suzy Wong "The World of Suzy Wong."

          If I may summarize, leading roles in most Hollywood films don't fall to actors of color even when they're written by and with persons of color in mind.  Ghost in the Shell is just another example of a positive character of a given ethnic group vanishing into a pale oblivion as those who've never read source material enjoy it unaware of the source material. It's oddly reminiscent of Bass Reeves. Bass Reeves was a black law man in the "Indian Territory" that became the state of Oklahoma. He was legendary in his exploits as a peace officer. Books were written about him as well as a popular comic strip. However the strip came out in the 1920s and some thought the idea of a black lawman might upset some so instead of his being black, he became "The Lone Ranger" a white man with a black mask.
       Reeves was a hero to generations of Americans who never had any idea that he was a man of color.  He has been portrayed on television and on the silver screen dozens of times, but has never been portrayed by an actor of color. But in retrospect, I guess that's not a big deal.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

It's JUST the Chinese...

On Thursday, president elect Trump accepted a phone call from the President of Taiwan. They discussed business and Trump later publicly spoke of the call. PROBLEM. Since 72 when Nixon recognized China it has been the practice of the U.S. Government NOT to acknowledge the elephant in the room that is the fact that there are TWO Chinese governments. Every American president since Nixon has recognized this fact. The People's Republic of China doesn't accept the sovereignty of Taiwan and regards them as an autonomous territory.
            P.E. Trump while he has never held an office presumably HAS picked up a newspaper or seen a newscast since 1972 and had some inkling that U.S. Sino relations are to say the least complex. Mr. Trump's predecessor has not been friendly to China trade wise and they welcome the change in American leadership despite Trump's angry campaign rhetoric labeling China a "currency manipulator." Before even taking the oath of office,  Mr. Trump has offended a country which has the world's largest military and boasts of having air craft carriers and Intercontinental ballistic missiles.

            Many American firms rely on Chinese manufacturing and oft use China as the economic model they would love to see in the U.S.  I.E. a country with no minimum wage,  Food and Drug administration, Environmental protection agency or workers rights of any kind. It is an Ayn Rand wet dream come true and the end result is shoddy and in many cases toxic products which occasionally have to be confiscated by AMERICAN regulatory agencies when intercepted.  China in recent years as taken pride in corporate espionage and cyber terrorism.
           President elect Trump is offending a nation who when they last fought us directly in Korea agreed to a cease fire only because it was the only way in which both sides could save face.  The Chinese have fought wars of attrition for longer than many countries have existed and if Korean war vets I've spoken to were telling me the truth, Chinese troops attack in human waves. Mr. Trump doesn't like receiving daily security briefings and apparently doesn't like keeping up on global events. Well Mr. Trump I've bad news for you sir, the American people didn't kidnap you at gunpoint and FORCE you to become our president. It was a choice YOU made and after an UGLY and divisive campaign in which you played every low card in the deck you received the honor of being our president. Guess what Mr. Trump what happens in the rest of the world is now YOUR problem now. THIS is the job you wanted.  This is why your predecessors age rapidly while in office.
          Mr. Trump needs to understand that foreign policy is the difference between war and peace and if  he doesn't understand that then he's in for a LONG four years.

Friday, November 18, 2016

"Strong Leader"

In 1953 generals and diplomats left a room with a deal in hand. It wouldn't end the war, but would end the shooting.  Both sides agreed that neither would cross the 38th parallel.  We had agreed to a cease fire effectively ending action in the Korean war. The North Koreans with the aid of the Chinese and war materials from the Soviet Union were responsible for the deaths of 33,686 Americans. That number doesn't include South Korean, Greek, British or Australian soldiers who died in that conflict.
        In 1975 a helicopter leaves the rooftop of the U.S. embassy in Saigon. South Korean Marines and the Australian army had left two years earlier along with most of the The North Vietnamese with aid from the Soviet Union  had killed 47,424 American servicemen and women in some of the ugliest fighting this country had ever seen. The casualties we suffered in those wars were a result of the cold war which we fought against the Soviet Union. Generations of Americans lived in fear of Russian nuclear strikes and the late President Ronald Reagan went so far as to call the Soviets an "Evil Empire" bent on imposing it's will upon the world.
      In the year 2000 the Russian people in an election many poll watchers thought to be rigged elected former head of the KGB Vladamir Putin their President.  He had seen the Soviet union dissolve and made no secret of the fact that he wished to see every satellite which had gained independence returned to mother Russia.
      In response to dissent in the Ukraine his assassins poisoned Ukrainian president Vicktor Yushenko and later were responsible for the non fatal poisoning of Ukrainian presidential candidate Alexander Litvinenko. In 2014 Russia invaded Ukraine and assumed that because they weren't in uniform, that the world would believe that it was merely an uprising by the Ukrainians themselves who wished to be part of Russia again.
       Putin has spent the last 16 years hacking American government computers and spying on the governments of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, but Donald Trump when running for president called this vile thug and assassin a "strong leader."
         Russia makes no secret about the fact that they desire to rebuild their empire and our newest president elect wants to not only abandon our allies in the North Atlantic Treaty organization, but also wants to "Normalize" relations with Russia. I harbor no animosity towards the Russian people. I know and have known Russians and regard them as a fine people. My issue is NOT with the Russian people, but with the  dictator who currently runs their country. Becoming chummy with a nation whom Reagan called the "Evil Empire" will be to our detriment.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

You're Fcuked...

It's 11:00pm on a Tuesday in November and a sociopath who ran a campaign eerily similar to one a demented Austrian ran in 1932 to become chancellor of Germany has just come to an end with with the exact same conclusion. The health insurance my employer was forced to make affordable to me by law is about to vanish by an act of a congress which ignored infrastructure improvements for eight years.
       A man who feels the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) should simply sit back and allow Russia to annex any country smaller than itself has just been elected president. What does this mean?

         If his campaign rhetoric is to be believed, IF you are a Republican who publicly spoke out against him, you're FUCKED. During the primaries he swore revenge against defeated opponents who refused to endorsed him. IF you're a Republican who didn't fall in line he has said he would exact revenge.

        IF you are're FUCKED! Any grievance you have against ANY authority figure will result in your having to prove your innocence rather than someone else having to prove your guilt. The terrorist organization which IS the Ku Klux Klan OPENLY embraced the candidate in question and he quietly pretended not to know who they were. If you're not a professional athlete or entertainer prepare to have the words "Yas suh!" introduced into your vocabulary. You are now a thug and a stereotype despite your level of education. Deal with it.

       If you're Latino YOU'RE FUCKED even harder than anyone black.  The President elect started his campaign by stating that Mexico sent its murderers and rapists and drug mules here and that he "assumed" that some were good people. You're a Latino who is NOT Mexican? Guess're Mexican NOW. if you have dark hair eyes and skin and speak Spanish congratulations you're NOW Mexican. Here's what that entails, YOU are now an illegal alien. No, you're NOT an "Undocumented Immigrant", you're an illegal alien and will be treated like you're here to steal jobs, break into homes and sell drugs.
      If you are woman. You will not receive maltreatment, but you will be marginalized. You attempts to assert yourself will be treated with patronizing tones from a boys club the likes of which you've never seen. Your intellect will be largely ignored. Welcome back to the 1950s.

The group to whom I offer the biggest condolences? IF you are an American Muslim OR a person of middle eastern dissent,  YOU'RE PRISON RAPED! If you are a law abiding citizen and an upstanding member of your community consider that your past. You are NOW a defacto terrorist or terror suspect. Your mosque is now being watched. Do NOT be surprised if someone attempts to burn it to the ground or inscribe hurtful epithets on your place of worship. From this point on whenever ANY act of evil occurs ANYWHERE on earth and the perpetrator is a Muslim you will be treated with a rancor which you've NEVER seen and from which your non Muslim friends will NOT be able to protect you without fear of persecution. Hopefully the President elect will not live up to his campaign pledge to require you to wear crescent moons on your clothing to make you easier to identify.

IF you belong to one of the groups I've mentioned and you DIDN'T vote in this election, you fucked yourself.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Milwaukee gets Trumped

On August 13th in Milwaukee, Wisconsin  a young man died in an officer involved shooting. The official police report stated that the deceased had been armed and refused to comply with repeated orders to  drop the weapon. What followed were riots beginning at the scene of the incident which lasted an additional two days.
           In the midst of all of this, presidential candidate Donald Trump decided to speak to the black community. On the surface a good idea until one considers the way in which Trump had gone about it. Trump went to West Bend, Wisconsin a suburb or Milwaukee and gave a speech in which he told African Americans that their every assertion about law enforcement was "incorrect" then told them that the problems within the black community were the result of "failed democratic policies". He then asked blacks to vote for him.
          I sat back watching and simply couldn't believe what I was hearing.  This display proved to me that Donald J. Trump had no political instincts whatsoever.  He stood in an auditorium in a suburb of Milwaukee whose black population was 1.2% and spoke "to" African Americans.  I thought this is exactly why being a businessman DOES NOT qualify one to be president. Businessmen on Trump's level are used to giving orders and having them followed. They're not used to working with committees or listening to dissenting opinions.
         If Trump wanted black votes, what he should have done was going into Milwaukee itself and arranging a closed door meeting between himself, local law enforcement, and black community leaders and activists with no journalist in attendance.  He could have simply sat there and acted as a mediator between hard working cops and members of a community with whom they have friction. He could have asked both sides what needed to be done to make sure that Milwaukee never had riots shake her. In other words, he could have talked TO black people rather than AT us. There may be some who are swayed by his spin doctors as they appear on television saying "Trump went to Milwaukee" but I for one am sad that he skipped out on an golden opportunity to at least appear as if he gave a damn about something other than his own ego.
         A closed door meeting with civic, leaders clergy and cops would have made it known that he was more concerned with problem solving than with a photo op and that he actually cares NOT about winning an election, but with actually making America greater.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Stupid Statements from Classrooms

There's an old cliché which says: "There are no stupid questions." I would have to vehemently disagree as I've heard questions and statements in classrooms that were so excruciatingly stupid that I wished I had some sort of telekinetic ability to either blow up the idiots who uttered them or at least sterilize them so that they couldn't pollute the gene pool. Some of these things I heard directly others were repeated by colleagues.

"What's the difference between an 'oxymoron' and a regular moron?

"Do we have to do work today? It's MONDAY!"

"Report cards come out next week and I got a zero? Can I get some make up work?"

"It don't matter If I work in here or not. You GOTTA PASS ME!"

"How come I got a F? I was HERE every day!"

"Why do we have to do class work? It's FRIDAY!"

"I know I aint did nothing today, but I gotta leave early for football practice."

"Why you giving us work today.  It's the last day before Thanksgiving!"

"You gave me a zero for copying? He copied off me!" (the person saying this had a 37 average)

"You lucky I don't kick your ass!" (kid half my size)

"Why we gotta work? They gettin' ready to let us go on Christmas break!"

"How come I got a 37 in your class?" (he turned in two assignments during a grading period)

"Man I don't need this class! I'm going to the NBA/NFL/My dad/uncle's construction company!"

"Me and my girlfriend gettin' ready to have another baby! I don't know why, but her mama act like she don't like me."

"You aint from the hood, you wouldn't understand." (I'm from the hood)

"I thought you couldn't get pregnant your fist time having sex!"

"I want a baby! They so cute!" (said by a 15 year old)

"Why we gotta work today? We gettin' ready to go on Spring break!"

"No,  it's only offensive if it ends in 'er' not if if ends in 'ga'. " (explaining the difference between "n:883r" and "n:88a")

"I don't give a (bleep) if I flunk this class it's just (fill in name of ANY CLASS)"

"She my daughter, but I try to be her best friend."

"Man. I just come here to meet girls and sell drugs."

"I don't come to school to mutha-(bleep)in' READ! I come here to PASS!"

"Mr./Miss _______ failed me  cause  (he/she don't like me/ is racist/don't like blacks/Mexicans)"

"I don't feel like doing my work, can I go to the liberry/gym/random location?"

"We wutn't smokin' weed!" (when you walked in and caught them and they were the only ones there)

"My son/daughter doesn't lie."

"My son/daughter said this woman is flunking her because she doesn't like Mexicans." (90% of the students in the class are Mexican and many are passing)

"Why don't you just give us the answers?"

"Can we leave early?"

"Can we go to all three lunches?"

"Hey Miss ______ what's your number?"

"You aint tell us we had a test!" (When you've given them a review sheet with the answers TO the test)

"Man I don't do no homework!"

"What pages the answers on?"

"Why don't you just give everybody 100?"

"You can't flunk me just cause I aint do no work!"

"Can you show me how to make meth?"

"Can you show me how to build a bomb? I won't tell nobody!" (yeah because I'm not telling you dumb ass)

"How come we can't go in the teacher's lounge? That aint fair."

"Give me a dollar."

"I'll just take this class in summer school." (kid doesn't know that you're the only one teaching the class in summer school) 

Monday, July 18, 2016

3 Days.

"Went back home to the refinery. Hiring man said 'Son if it were up to me...'. Went down to see my V.A. man. He said 'Son, don't you understand?"

:Bruce Springsteen "Born in the U.S.A."

I remember it like it was last week. I sat on the other side of this guy's desk in a freshly pressed suit. I was wearing the spit shined D.O.D issued oxfords that every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine had been issued but only Marines ever seemed to keep and maintain. My hair was still so short that  if you were standing behind me you could clearly see the coin slot scar at the crown of my head that I got when I was seven which has always caused me to be a bit selfconscious.
          He held my resume in his left hand as he extended his right to shake mine and thanked me for coming in for an interview.  He told me it was always an honor to meet someone who'd been in the service and that I out of respect for me he would be up front and tell me that I wasn't getting the job. He didn't think I'd be a "good fit", he went on to say that given how disciplined and focused I appeared to be, he doubted that I would be looking for work for very long.
           I have friends who are veterans who've told me similar stories.  Many soldiers, sailors and Marines leave their branch of service and seek employment only to be told they're "unqualified". Some re-enlist others elect to use their G.I. bill benefits and get an education only to be told they're "over qualified" when seeking work. At what point was the veteran qualified "enough"?  This problem is hardly new.  Many vets feel as if they're on the "fringes" of society as if they are alienated by society as a whole. In 1932, 10,000 veterans of world war one marched upon Washington because they'd been given certificates for "cash bonuses" which had yet to be honored. This lead to the G.I. Bill of rights.

     At the end of the second world war many called ex soldiers and sailors living on unemployment "drains on society" and many struggled to adjust to post military life.  Korean war vets fared slightly better, but Vietnam seemed to change the rules.  Veterans of the conflict in Southeast Asia were often ostracized and treated with hostility.   In 1972 David Morelle wrote the novel "First Blood" which chronicled Congressional Medal of Honor recipient and prisoner of war John Rambo who after the war couldn't keep a job parking cars and became a drifter who gets into a small war with a small town sheriff in Oregon who arrests him and roughs him up for "vagrancy."  In the novel Rambo takes on the sheriff's department and seriously injures the sheriff and several of his men. The conflict ends when Rambo's former commanding officer arrives to take him into custody and hand him over to we assume State Police.  The Rambo character is portrayed as a sensitive soul who became a killing machine who felt discarded by a nation he loved and saw his friends dying to protect.
    I'm mentioning the Morelle  novel because in my lifetime I've turned on my television to see a veteran of the first gulf war named  Sergeant Tim McVey blow up a Federal Building in Oklahoma city.  I saw a former Gulf War Vet Sergeant John Muhammad randomly kill innocent men and women in the District of Columbia.  L.A.P.D officer and Naval Reserve Lieutenant Christopher Donner went on a killing spree that crossed state lines before being killed by an incendiary device.  Former Sailor Aaron Alexis went on a killing spree at the U.S. Naval yard in Washington DC, and most recently in the Cities of Dallas and Baton Rouge Army reservist and Afghan war vet  Micah Johnson and Marine Corps Sergeant  and Iraq veteran Gavin Long went on rampages killing eight police officers between them.

      What is my point?  Let me say off the bat that I DO NOT CONDONE the actions taken by those I've mentioned, nor do I in any way justify them.  What I'm attempting to say is that veterans (especially war vets) need the government whom they were willing to give their lives to protect to have their backs.  They need access to doctors and mental health services. They need vocational training.  Many need access to mental health care professionals as they've seen things that most of us can't even imagine.  I'm just some schmuck who served in the military during peace time. I don't think I warrant the respect due to combat veterans but I definitely feel they deserve far more than they get.
      Let's face it this country has a seriously short attention span and a "what have you done for me lately" attitude. There seem to be three days on the American calendar when Veterans receive the respect of the American people: Memorial Day, the fourth of July and Veterans day.  Vets are often turned down for work by the same people who might have put up red white and blue streamers the day before and thanked them for their service a week earlier without much thought.

       I'm weary of listening to politicians from major parties telling me how they will fix the Veterans Administration system and hospitals. I hear this empty rhetoric from men and women with elephants and donkeys next to their names (some of whom ARE veterans themselves) but at the same time I see their colleagues in the House of Representatives and the Senate blocking bills that would give veterans hospitals more funding or give vets greater access to psychiatric help simply because the bill in question MAY have been put forth by someone from an opposing party and they deemed it more important to score political points. As that bickering goes on I find myself driving past men and women near freeway over passes who may or may not be homeless veterans.
     Navy Seal and American Hero Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield were both shot and killed while attempting to counsel former Marine Eddie Routh at a gun range.  Which leaves us to ask, if Routh had greater access to mental health care would  Chris Kyle be alive today?  If this nation's love for veterans extended beyond three days a year, would any of the homicidal veterans I've mentioned have committed their atrocious acts?