The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, January 18, 2008

Princess and the Frog

Steve Perry is quite right that is you ask your friends a question, the answer will be slanted by the choice of group. That’s one of the reasons I refused to “come to a conclusion” about the Race versus Gender issue. But I still think it’s a neat trick. Want to know if measles or chicken pox is worse? Ask ten people who’ve had both. Being homeless or being a dwarf? Ask homeless dwarves. How about being shot or stabbed? You get the point. No, not definitive by any means. But I think it cuts closer to the truth than asking the separate groups. And miles better than a mere hallucination or thought experiment.

First image from “Princess and the Frog”, the new Disney animation, and their first black Princess film. Looks pretty. I loved Aladdin, and thought Beauty and the Beast was classic. Have never actually sat down and watched all of “Little Mermaid”, can’t handle “Pocahantas” and thought “Mulan"” great fun. Definitely a huge change: I consider Disney to have been THE most racist studio in the 20th Century (uncounted thousands of character images in animated films. Not a single animated black person in a full-length animated film during all that time. I worked with former Disney animators while working on “The Secret of NIMH and spoke with them about this. It was no accident. Only when the new generation of animators came in as the “Old Men” retired did this have a chance to change. Another reason why I say that time is gonna take care of this. Thank God for old age and death, eh?)
My meditation this day was strange. Ordinarily my visualization goes from my third eye to the base of my spine. This morning…BANG! It went WAY lower, down into the sub-human animal stuff. There are teachings that have to do with past-life, and trans-evolutionary charkas. I have no idea what that was about, but if I had to say, I’d think my subconscious was giving me a visual metaphor for some kind of internal shift. Like opening up a sub-basement. More work, but wow, get those sump pumps running and see what comes out.
Director’s Guild has come to an agreement. Let’s see if the Writer’s Guild follows. Wouldn’t mind if it takes a few more weeks. I’m still struggling to clear my desk of projects backed-up from last year. An embarrassment of riches, to be certain.
Today is Cloverfield day! Can’t wait. Read some reviews reviling it for “exploiting” 9/11 imagery. You know, I wasn’t in New York when the towers fell, so I can’t say anything about what that felt like. But I’d bet there were Japanese critics criticizing “Godzilla” for exploiting Hiroshima imagery. I think monster movies have always functioned partially to allow us to take REAL fear and vent it through imaginary image systems. I bet Cloverfield will make monster box office in New York.
See Tom Cruise’s Scientology video? Strangely enough, while Scientology is strange stuff, it’s certainly no stranger than some of the stuff I’ve experimented with over the years. And I think that people criticize its beliefs kinda unfairly. I’m not at all certain that the stories in Scientology are that much stranger than the core stories of most other world religions. In fact, I sometimes wonder if that’s part of what disturbs people about it. But then there’s another part of me that just laughs. I remember A.E. Van Vogt telling me that he was playing poker with Hubbard back in the 50’s, and Hubbard complained that there was no money in S.F.

The “real” money, he said, would be in starting a religion. Then he set out and did it. Wow. Impressive man. My guess is that he had some genuine insights, and then went down his own rabbit hole. I can only hope he believed his own ideas. But considering stories I’ve heard about the end of his life, I tend to doubt it…
I gained about ten pounds in the last 6 weeks of 2007, and it’s coming back off pretty fast. About 2 ½ pounds a week, actually. Amazing the way people shove food at you, attached to serious emotions.
Ah, Huckabee and the Confederate flag. Do I think he’s playing to racists when he says it should be up to the states whether the flags come down? Yes, I do. I’ve known hundreds of black folks proud of their Southern Heritage. Never seen one flying a Confederate Flag. Are whites who fly it bad people? I’d say no. But I do think they are either oblivious, or don’t give a shit. That’s all right. That’s their privilege. As it’s my right to factor that flag into my overall evaluation of them. Poking around that wonderful site “Stormfront” and you’ll see the EXACT same arguments about cultural identity and so forth…but the racism is more nakedly visible. And follow a link or two to some of the even viler sites, and you can find yourself mired in human sewage.
Do I think the Surge is working in Iraq? Well, many stats are more positive, so I’d say “yes” from a narrow perspective. And if you put a cop on every corner, crime would drop. Everyone knows it. But if you can’t sustain that level, you’ve just put on a band-aid. In fact, if some of the intelligence folks are right and our efforts are creating terrorism, then as soon as we pull back, things will get worse—so it’s purely cosmetic.

On the other hand, maybe the reduction in violence will give public institutions in Iraq a chance to catch their breath and root. I’d like that, I really would.
Yoga yesterday was relatively easy, but I was sore as hell. I think I must have dug deeper into my body/mind complex than usual. HEY! That might have something to do with my meditation this morning! Just made that connection. Strange how this stuff fits together. Just finished reading Coach Sonnon’s new book on “Prasara Yoga.” It is an attempt to go beyond Ashtanga (which links static poses with a single flowing motion) to create “movement flows” of varied intent, releasing tension from the body across all major planes of motion. He’s created five flows (Forest, Spider Monkey, Diving Dolphin, Flock of Pigeons, Tumbleweed) that incorporate the ideas of Shadow Yoga and his own Russian disciplines. Wonderful.

Note, though: I still shade toward considering Scott’s stuff more “fitness” than “health”—although he deals with health issues one hell of a lot more efficiently than 99% of what passes for fitness in America. Most “fitness” stuff is really about looking good in the mirror. Scott goes WAY deeper than that. But if you’re just starting out, I’d seriously suggest traditional yoga first. Those static poses are like putting your car up on the rack to look at the suspension, and running a diagnostic on the engine. Scott’s Prasara is like taking your car for a controlled run on a closed track, with sophisticated diagnostic equipment running computer-assisted scans. An order of magnitude more sophisticated—and difficult for a raw beginner.

But that said, if you have your foundation, I see nothing out there to touch what Scott’s doing, and I watch his excellent core expanding to include an entire range of movement, all the way to ultra-performance. So if it isn’t quite “rooted” yet, you can compensate for that at any bookstore or strip-mall. What Scott has, is as rare as an honest politician.


Mike Ralls said...

>I gained about ten pounds in the last 6 weeks of 2007, and it’s coming back off pretty fast.<

That is exactly what happened to me (except for the coming back off pretty fast part). The combination of Holiday parties, Wedding and pre-wedding parties, followed by a long honeymoon where we ate out for every single meal, has me back up to what I was in January of 2007.

(Shakes head). It is so damn _easy_ to gain back lost weight. No sense complaining about it though. I allowed myself to fall out of my gym routine during the wedding and honeymoon period so enough of that. I commit to myself that I will go to the gym today.

I'm also going to commit to going back on IF. It's what I had the most success at (when I actually did it) so time to get back in the saddle. Not easy though.

Michelle said...

hrm...yes the first black character in a Disney full length animated movie was in Atlantis...2001. However there was always Song of the South...which was half animated. It was one of my favorite movies as a child. I cannot remember any racist overtones in that other than the obvious tar-baby stories...I'm sure if I watched now I'll probably find some.

Disney is certainly guilty of using animals in stories where the people would have been non-white until Pocahontas and Mulan. I would still argue that Disney had no choice in a children's movie...but rather they should have realized it and not made it at all. (Fox has this issue with Anime...they cut out all the violence and sexual innuendo...then wonder why the stories don't make sense...and they are only left with 8 episodes of 24 episode animated series.)

Of course the stories they have told have been mostly of European bent...I don't think it's wrong to have a white princess in Europe...and I don't think it's wrong to rethink at tale and redo it to represent the experience of another culture.

Having said that the Princess and the Frog...doesn't look like it knows what it's doing. It looks like it's set in the south...but I'm not sure in what for the Maddy/Tiana would depend on the era and if it's set in the confederate south...why would she be called Tiana...if it's set in the present how are they prince and princess?

I guess we'll find out.

El Viejo Soldado said...

"In fact, if some of the intelligence folks are right and our efforts are creating terrorism, then as soon as we pull back, things will get worse—so it’s purely cosmetic".

Just ask Võ Nguyên Giáp, Vang Pao, what few indigenous Montanyard people of Vietnam that may be left, and quite a few Cambodians that managed to survive that maniac Pol Pot when the North Vietnamese went home.

Mike Ralls said...

>Well, many stats are more positive, so I’d say “yes” from a narrow perspective. And if you put a cop on every corner, crime would drop. Everyone knows it. But if you can’t sustain that level, you’ve just put on a band-aid.<

It's useful to look at how the surge is being used; it's not just a uniform increase of troops all over Iraq, but rather a more selected program where troubled areas are flooded with troops who then do their best to decrease the gangs and insurgents and then leave for another area to do the same. As a rough rule of thumb, the areas that the troops then leave are usually much better off in the months that have followed, even though the troop levels are the same or even lower than they were pre-surge for that area so it seems to be working in that regard.

Demon Hunter said...

I have lived in S.C. all of my life and am proud of my roots, but do not agree with the flying of that flag.

Defenders have always stated that the flag is heritage, not hate, but these same folks fail to realize that their heritage IS hate. Most of the White people I have seen flying this flag in their yards are in poor neighborhoods(mostly trailer parks) or dilapidated houses. What does that say? Well...

I have seen pictures of Black folks who have been hung and burned, with White folks in the back holding up the Confederate flag. How can those things not be connected? I have spoken with individuals who fly the flag and have admitted that they don't care for people of color or homosexuals. To me, it says a lot about the power of this flag and this state. This country, actually.

The flag represents the past, and since Black folks are always told to move on, then these flag supporters need to move on as well and let it go---somewhere else!

Mar said...

Scientology: It's just one way of looking at the world. For some folks it is works very well -- Tom Cruise being one of them. I know others who aren't celebrities who were able through it to pull themselves out of very dark places. Again, the MSM dis'ing of Scientology is instructive about how they want us to think. It is no accident that the neo-cons support fundamentalist Christian churches. I have a whole rant on how they are not following the words of Christ, and so are not Christian. I will spare you. The neo-cons seems to be gloaming onto LDS now, with Romney. Both groups/religions are about controlling the population. I used to think that Scientology was about that, too, but it seems to be more about personal realization. (I haven't watched TC's video/witnessing for Scientology, so this does not reference anything he said.)

There is nothing more threatening to the neo-con movement (conspiracy???) than someone like you who promotes equality, education, self-control, and self-determination. Watch out.

Anonymous said...

Steve, Mike, where can I get information on IF. I need to loose a lot of weight, a 3 to 5 pound annual gain over 17 years. Also, I need some straight facts on exercise.

Dan Moran said...

Responding to Marty S, a few posts back, because Steve blogs faster than I read:

Marty said:

Categorizing all conservatives as racist because some conservatives are racist, has about as much validity as casting all blacks as criminals because some blacks are criminals.

Sure. I didn't say all conservatives were racists. I didn't even say most conservatives are racist, and I don't think that this is true. I do think, by percentage, there are more racist conservatives than you find among liberals or moderates, but in this day and age I think it's a minority in all groups.

I am conservative and I want a race blind society. But my definitions of a race blind society and my motivation for being against programs aimed specifically towards minorities is quite different than the one you put forth. Here is where I am coming from. My goal is a society where not only is everybody treated equally, but nobody even cares about the next person’s race. To get this state we have to eliminate the “us versus them” syndrome.

Right with you.

Now while blacks are over represented in the lowest income quintile and whites underrepresented, whites still make up 75% of the lowest income households. If I were white and in that income bracket and saw black families in that bracket getting benefits that I didn’t get it would make me mad and up my “us versus them” inclinations. Thus programs which target low income minorities are likely to annoy 15% of the population and work against the eventual goal of an “all of us are one” society. Therefore I support rational programs to help the poor, but want them to be race blind. This seems reasonable to me. If you agree then you as a liberal and I as a conservative can in an atmosphere of mutual respect argue furiously over what constitutes a rational program.

Right with you still.

George Bush, of all people, came up with what I think is a good model for this, in Texas; he guaranteed that the top 10% of all high school students, by school, would get to go to college. So the best performers in dreadful inner-city schools would have a good shot at college, same as the kids in rich white suburbs ...

I further think that race-based affirmative action was an appropriate tool when it was introduced -- back in the 60s when racism was more entrenched than it is today. A crude tool, but the problem was worse then too. Race-blind affirmative action based on need seems like a very sensible approach, in this day and age....

All of which has zip to do with my earlier bitching. The conservatives who want to prevent the government from collecting race-based data are operating from base motives, IMO. There's a difference between saying a program should be race-neutral, and saying you don't want to know how given groups of people are performing. Many minorities I respect are completely in favor of race-neutral programs, but I don't know any -- excepting Ward Connerly, maybe -- who are in favor of ceasing to measure in light of race.

Steven Barnes said...

Anonymous: Google Intermittent Fasting. In a couple of days I'll do a blog entry on the subject.

Dan Moran said...

Steve, I'm going to retire from the argument over race/gender, at leat for now -- I respect your position, and I'm not sure it's possible for us to reach an agreement, based on differing life experiences. At least you've given me something to think about hard.

I'll try and find someplace neutral to run that poll, too. I'll look around this weekend.

Frank said...

Mike Ralls

It's useful to look at how the surge is being used; it's not just a uniform increase of troops all over Iraq but rather a more selected program where troubled areas are flooded with troops who then do their best to decrease the gangs and insurgents and then leave for another area to do the same.

Actually, that's not what has been successful. That was what happened before the Surge.

The plan now is Clear, Hold, Build. A unit goes into and insurgent-held area and kills them all or drives them out. Then that units stays to stabilize and get to know the people and the problems. That is then followed up by providing security in addition to improving the area.

This has led, then, to grass roots political action on the local level. People who say that there has been no political progress are only looking at the Federal level. From the ground up Sunni and Shi'a have been reconciling to rebuild their communities. Christian and Muslim and come together to open shops and markets and build things.

This where real, lasting political action occurs.

Additionally, the Iraqi security forces have been growing in both size and competence and are replacing US troops in many areas. Anbar province being one.

My most recent post has something to say about this.

Anonymous said...

Mar wrote:

"There is nothing more threatening to the neo-con movement (conspiracy???) than someone like you who promotes equality, education, self-control, and self-determination. Watch out."

I'd be described by most people as a neo-con, I think (though as far as I can personally tell, Harry Truman would be a neo-con if he were alive today -- "neo-con" seems to be code for either "armed Democrat" or "Jew").

I've also been an avid reader of Steve Barnes' books and works on Lifewriting for 14 years now.

So, you might want to ease off on that particular overgeneralization...

--Erich Schwarz

Mike said...

re: black southerners and the Confederate flag

I ran across an op-ed piece by a black southern author who argued that the flag was his flag, and I've seen shots of black Confederate re-enactors carrying the flag. So, it's not outside the realm of possibility.

Mike said...

Frank -

God Lord, I agree with you, and on a military matter, no less. This technique works, it may well be the only thing that will work in the situation, and it's what should have been done all along (beyond not invading in the first place, but we'll not go there.)

Steve Perry said...

Um, Song of the South is about as racist as the animated short "Coal Black and de Sebbin' Dwarves." (Somebody sent me a vid of the latter a few years ago, and I didn't even want to have it in my house. I think I sent it to Barnes ...)

You probably remember the "Zip-a-dee-do-dah"number with the animated bluebirds, and that was lovely, but that movie reeks with overt racism. Old Walt loved the books as a kid, but not the reality of black folks in his movies ...

Steven Barnes said...

Black Civil War reinactors don't count--they're playing a role. If after they changed clothes and drove away they had that flag on their trucks, or better, flying over their lawns at home, now I'm interested. I don't doubt that they exist. I only say I've never seen it.

Marty S said...

Reading the posts about the Song of The South makes me sad. As a child it was my favorite Disney movie. I have often wondered why it never comes back to the theaters like other Disney classics. I think you have may have explained it. The racial connotations would not be acceptable today as they were in the fifties when I saw it at very young age. My favorite childhood movie was Hans Christian Anderson and for me the "don't throw me in the brier patch" tale was right up there with the ugly duckling. At that age Uncle Remus was not a representation of the southern Negro slave, but a jolly old grandfather who told stories to kids the way my grandfather told me stories.

Steven Barnes said...

I too think its kind of a shame that Song of the South isn't shown. Maybe in a few years when Disney has produced more positive black images, we'll be able to see it again. Frankly, I enjoyed it as a kid. Like "Amos n' Andy" the problem isn't the thing itself--it's that lack of balance.

Steve Perry said...

Sure. Children don't have the wherewithal to see below the surface of something like "Song of the South." I liked it too, when I was nine, but because I saw the funny characters and couldn't relate to them as what they really represented.

I loved Dumbo, too, but go watch it again and check out the crows. Lawsy me!

True, we're not talking "Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Woogie Beat," and its "Ah sho loves dat watermelon!" caricatures of the stereotypical Negroes from Lazytown, the laziest place on Earth!

Nor the Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs venture into darky iconography and minstrel depictions.

And yeah, it's history and all, but you can't go home again, and thank you Thomas Wolfe. Lot of things I used to do I can't do anymore. Sad, sometimes, but sometimes, it's a better path.

Steven Barnes said...

I LOVE "Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarves." Man, the musical soundtrack absolutely rocks.

Steve Perry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Perry said...

ome years ago, my collaborator Reaves and I were guests at a science fiction convention in the silicon valley. There was some weirdo who had poisoned some watermelons, and it was in the local newspaper.

We immediately ran to find Barnes.

Barnes! You okay?

Yes. Why do you ask?

We showed him the newspaper.

I wish I'd had a camera, because the look we got would have melted glass ...

Michelle said...

While it would have been mind blowing then to give James Baskett a full on Oscar...he did receive an honorary Oscar for his role as Uncle Remus.

It's too bad that's as far as it should have gone much further in recognizing his work.