I am about to take my daily constitutional around the lake. While walking about I will be focusing my energies on bending the universe so that the New England Patriots can lose with dignity in their match against the Cincinnati Bengals. Last week's defeat by the Kansas City Chiefs was devastating--it reminded me of watching the Undertaker put in a last horrific match against Brock Lesnar or Hulk Hogan's last days in the squared circle. Dynasties fall; we mourn them because we are reminded both that youth triumphs over age, and of our own bodies, which at a certain point, are dying more everyday than they are living in total.
In the spirit of our semi-open thread and conversation, here are some of my random thoughts and discoveries.
Last evening, I watched Gone Girl. If the mood strikes me, and there are folks who are curious as to my thoughts on the movie, I will share them (Grantland's essay channels my thoughts about Gone Girl almost beat for beat). Fincher's work is never boring; his film-making embodies a wonderful mix of commercially acceptable auteur sensibilities.
[Have you seen the film or read the book upon the movie Gone Girl is based? What are your thoughts and feelings about the project?]
I recently spoke with Professor Claire Potter's class at the New School--she writes as The Tenured Radical over at The Chronicle of Higher Education's website--about social media and blogging. It was a great experience and good practice for my future endeavors. One of her very smart students asked me about the use of satire and irony in my work here at WARN. It was an excellent question because I have not spent much time consciously thinking about that aesthetic and its relationship to my "performance" style.
I told her that maybe I just hear the drums of the ancestors and am responding to them on a subconscious level because the children of the Black Freedom Struggle, like all people of the subaltern and we who are the Other, learn very early in life "how to balance our smiles and cries".
These questions of satire and irony are call backs to our earlier conversation about President Obama and the Boston Herald's racist cartoon depicting his use of watermelon toothpaste.
Petey Greene, was/is a legendary Black American comedian and radio personality. One of his most famous moments involved eating a watermelon on television, an exercise that he transformed into a rich exploration of the White Gaze and black identity politics.
When I watch "How to Eat Watermelon", I am mesmerized, shocked, confused, and somewhat offended even as I laugh and reflect on Greene's wisdom. Is that not the best of what socially relevant art should do? What is your take on Greene's multilevel performance? What do you think he was trying to communicate in "How to Eat Watermelon"?
Cornel West has a new collection of essays. In keeping with the release of that project, he has fired another fusillade of verbal darts at President Barack Obama.
I have a deep and respect for Brother West. However, his assaults on Obama are like a great song on one of your favorite records that is perpetually repeating itself because the needle on the record is stuck in a groove. You know when that moment is approaching, the sound gets tinny and distorted, and then the record catches that worn away groove. The record was damaged by you; you repeatedly played that one song over and over again; now you have to surrender to that song and its loop and droning repetition. Because of nostalgia, love, appreciation--or maybe laziness and a lack of resources--you will not discard that record. Why? Because you love it.
Cornel West hits his mark again, as few can, in the following passages:
It goes far beyond the individual figure of President Obama himself, though he is complicit; he is a symptom, not a primary cause. Although he is a symbol for some of either a postracial condition or incredible Black progress, his presidency conceals the escalating levels of social misery in poor and Black America.
The leading causes of the decline of the Black prophetic tradition are threefold. First, there is the shift of Black leadership from the voices of social movements to those of elected officials in the mainstream political system. This shift produces voices that are rarely if ever critical of this system. How could we expect the Black caretakers and gatekeepers of the system to be critical of it? This shift is part of a larger structural transformation in the history of mid-twentieth-century capitalism in which neoliberal elites marginalize social movements and prophetic voices in the name of consolidating a rising oligarchy at the top, leaving a devastated working class in the middle, and desperate poor people whose labor is no longer necessary for the system at the bottom.
Second, this neoliberal shift produces a culture of raw ambition and instant success that is seductive to most potential leaders and intellectuals, thereby incorporating them into the neoliberal regime. This culture of superficial spectacle and hyper-visible celebrities highlights the legitimacy of an unjust system that prides itself on upward mobility of the downtrodden. Yet, the truth is that we live in a country that has the least upward mobility of any other modern nation!
Third, the U.S. neoliberal regime contains a vicious repressive apparatus that targets those strong and sacrificial leaders, activists, and prophetic intellectuals who are easily discredited, delegitimated, or even assassinated, including through character assassination. Character assassination becomes systemic and chronic, and it is preferable to literal assassination because dead martyrs tend to command the attention of the sleepwalking masses and thereby elevate the threat to the status quo.
Do you have any news items, public or personal, that you would like to share?