The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Friday, April 23, 2010

Class Warfare and "Mary Poppins"

I was gonna wait a while to get an iPad, but it looks like Tananarive's delightful sister Lydia is picking one up for us. Awww. Will be using the Apple Bluetooth keyboard, methinks. The flat keyboard doesn't let you rest your fingers on them between strokes, and hey, one day I may need a little rest between strokes...
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I'd go see "The Losers" except I just don't think I'm up to watching another brown woman with another white guy. Need to see a couple brown guys in love scenes first, or my reptile brain will want to rip someone's throat out with my teeth.
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Oh...while reading "The Stand" I was noting to Tananarive the association between darkness and evil, and the way it seemed to affect King's attitude toward black people in general. She suggested that I look to another book for inspiration if it was disturbing me. I said: "like what?" And she suggested "World War Z" which I was actually listening to in ebook form.
MILD SPOILER:
Well...at first I thought so. There was an elegant, eloquent South African voice on the tape. Then...it turns out that the apparent black "African" was actually an insane white man. An American black turned up later in the book...in a wheelchair, the only disabled person in the book. Can't have those pesky Negroes as reproductive competition, after all...
Christ, this crap is pervasive.
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Looks as if I'm actually going to be able to write a certain YA project gestating for the last five years. If so, I'll need to fly back to the NW and do some research. So those of you I missed when I was asinine enough to let my license lapse, maybe we can still get together. I'd love that.
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Jason is getting some kind of award today. Academic...I seriously doubt it's Good Citizen. He still has his anger issues, and difficulty focusing attention. My view of him is that he is a hunter in a world full of farmers. I strongly suspect I would have been thought pure ADD up the wazoo. We do yoga and a bit of Om meditation in the mornings and late afternoons. It seems to help some, but we'll just have to see.
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I'm juggling so many projects that my office is just a mess--a clear sign of mental disorganization on one level...or that creativity is a-poppin on another. Sigh. I'd panic if I weren't getting my 1000 words a day done. There is going to be hella work to do on the rewrite tip, though, I kid you not.
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Anyone out there really believe Osama Bin Laden is still alive? I mean, he was supposedly on dialysis nine years ago. I'd expect him to look like crap under the best of circumstances. But oddly, he hardly looks to have aged a day. More and more, I think my source was absolutely right: he was dead within months of 9/11, and there is an entire cottage industry keeping him alive. It stretches belief to think Al Jazzira hasn't scored an interview with him by now. No journalist has. This feels like serious bullshit to me. Of course, if someone produces the body, or an interview, I'll have to cop to being 100% wrong. But right now...I think he sleeps with the fishes, and has for quite a while.
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If I had to point to the single most important aspect of my personal evolution, it would be Anahata meditation, the "Heartbeat" form I learned from Sri Chinmoy. Wish I could have known him better. This is a guy who could lift 7000 pounds with one arm (witnessed by lotsa independent observers, as well as photographed. One reporter said that he couldn't be certain the bar was raised--he was at the wrong angle--but he COULD see that the bar BENT under the pressure Chinmoy applied. Good lord), a million paintings of birds, thousands of poems, songs and essays. At the very least, this was a man who could completely free himself of the "editor" voice/state and go into a state of flow deeper than most human beings ever even imagine. I don't think he was as evolved as, say, Scott's guru Amma, however. My brain could barely even process her presence. THAT was a genuine strangeness. But he was still a truly evolved human being. First person whose aura I ever saw (and I'm not dogmatic about what the hell THAT was about. My left and right brains fight about that one.)

But he taught me the best meditation form I've ever known. "Best" in the sense of being both powerful and safe and simple. It has made it so simple for me to do certain spiritual aspects of phone coaching...easy to "get on the wavelength" of my clients.
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So GM has repaid their government loan, five years ahead of time? That's more like it. I just wish the term "bailout" had never been used at all. I mean...what exactly does that mean? A loan? A gift? An investment? Was the term deliberately chosen for its vagueness? Yeesh.
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"Oh, it's a jolly holiday with you, Bert
Gentlemen like you are few
Though your just a diamond in the rough, Bert
Underneath your blood is blue!
You'd never think of pressing your advantage
Forbearance is the hallmark of your creed
..."
Ah, Mary Poppins. For some reason these lyrics kept running through my mind as I took Jason to school this morning. And I just bet that somewhere, someone has written a paper on class warfare, images in film, and how the subtext of Mary's song is actually rather unpleasant: to wit, that "she needn't worry about being raped by a (black) faced member of the lower class, because chimney-sweeper Bert knows his place..."

How incredibly cynical. Whoever wrote that paper, if it was written, should be ASHAMED, I say. Just ashamed.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well, yes, but GM paid off their bailout with TARP money, which is another government loan. They didn't pay them off with actual profits from their products. Is this somehow a good thing, Steve? If I owe you $1,000 dollars and borrow another $1,000 so that I can pay off the original loan, am I in any better a position than when I owed you the original sum?

Marco

Dan Moran said...

My view of him is that he is a hunter in a world full of farmers.

Nothing wrong with that -- just take care to protect him from the school system, which is predisposed to judge that wiring harshly. Only one of my 5 kids got that wiring -- he's 11 now and hustles the big boys at basketball. It's OK by me as long as he can put it on hold in a classroom setting -- close sometimes. He got elected treasurer of the 5th grade, got straight A's, and nearly got suspended all in the same week a couple months back.

As big a pain in the ass as that wiring is, you turn those people loose on the world and they accomplish things. I wouldn't take it away from him, even if I could, and since I couldn't possibly, that's just as welll .... :-)

Dan Moran said...

As big a pain in the ass as that wiring is

I raised my other kids. I do business with this one.

Anonymous said...

"...An American black turned up later in the book...in a wheelchair, the only disabled person in the book. Can't have those pesky Negroes as reproductive competition, after all..."

Part of the problem *there* is the stereotype that people who use wheelchairs can't compete reproductively. IRL, don't some men and women who use wheelchairs still conceive and (if they're female) carry to term successfully? As for me, I have horrible luck in dating but some of the guys I have found cute and hot used wheelchairs themselves.

So yeah, the portrayal here might be the author subconsciously assuming *both* "don't wanna have black men characters who can be dads" *and* "men in wheelchairs can't be dads."

Now if, say, John Hockenberry someday turns his pen to fiction and writes a novel with an African-American adult character using a wheelchair...

Anonymous said...

"...the subtext of Mary's song is actually rather unpleasant: to wit, that 'she needn't worry about being raped by a (black) faced member of the lower class, because chimney-sweeper Bert knows his place..."

What on Earth is wrong with you? Would you be all "go, team!" if the Bert character did rape the Mary character? IRL rape is wrong even if the rapist has less socio-economic privilege than the person he or she rapes.

Anonymous said...

"My view of him is that he is a hunter in a world full of farmers."

"Nothing wrong with that -- just take care to protect him from the school system, which is predisposed to judge that wiring harshly. "

A lot of that's because the parents of other students are predisposed to judge school systems harshly when the systems let the whole range of "hunters" loose including cases a la "but boys will be boys" or "but she has special needs" or whatever when a student's hurt by another student.

(Those teeny-tiny rural school districts that sometimes have a school building with only one student are an exception, of course. ;) )

For example:

http://www.metafilter.com/85667/Hi-Whatcha-reading#2779641

"...It starts incredibly young too. My daughter is four... and she's stunningly beautiful child. Every bit the picture-book painting of a fair maiden... golden naturally curly hair, blue eyes, just adorable. Boys her age will come up to her on the playground and try to forcefully grab her and kiss her. I've watched this play out multiple times and never do they go and grab the plain looking or outright ugly girls. They zoom right onto her like she's some sort of golden ring to grab. Fortunately she loves to rough house with me--yay for dads!--and she's already learned to see the little tykes coming and dodge or knock them down to avoid unwanted advances. Sad that the girl, not even school age, is already honing her kung-fu to keep stupid males at bay."
posted by JFitzpatrick at 10:19 AM on October 14, 2009

Wouldn't surprise me if JFitzpatrick doesn't look kindly on school systems looking kindly on all kinds of "hunter" wiring when she goes to school.

Dan Moran said...

Anon,

Sure. I have 5 kids, 2 daughters and 3 boys, and I do understand why schools deal with aggressive young boys the way they do -- hell, Barnes thinks I'm unbalanced in this area.

But whether I'm unbalanced or not, I don't want my 11 year old, and I'm imagining Barnes doesn't want his 6 year old, getting hammered on by adults for what he potentially MIGHT do. Raising all children, boys and girls, to understand that they're obliged to protect those smaller than themselves, is most of the solution for the kids. There is no solution for the adults except to make sure your kid doesn't get hammered unjustly ... while being fully behind the idea of hammering a bit when appropriate.

Or is that aggressive language from me? :-) I don't mean any sort of physical punishment, merely a very strong statement that violence is only ever appropriate in self defense or defense of another.

Anonymous said...

Damn.

"And I just bet that somewhere, someone has written a paper on class warfare, images in film, and how the subtext..."

Did I ever misread this paragraph! The "What on Earth is wrong with you? Would you be all "go, team!"..." should be addressed to that hypothetical paper writer!

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Bullying and harassment do serious damage, but it isn't obvious to me that engaging in them is related to hunter/ADD wiring. Opinions?

And if there's a difference between ADD and bullying/harassment, but people's minds went immediately from one to the other by way of masculinity, that's interesting.

Steve, it's at least as plausible that Mary Poppins is thinking that Bert behaves better than a lot of white men. Note that the lyrics are in terms of what he isn't doing, not in terms of him protecting her.

If you'll excuse my saying so, you're spending your attention on an offense that you made up. Guess how I know about that mental habit.

I have no idea about whether bin Laden is still alive, and I find I don't care very much. I'm not sure whether this is enlightenment or dispiritedness on my part.

I have a bunch of theories about why there hasn't been a new big attack on American soil, and no way to choose among them.

(1)What are you going to do for an encore? It would probably take a nuke (or at least a big dirty bomb) to be bigger than 9/11, and it's hard to put the materials together.

This matches a notion that bin Laden was showing off for other terrorists as much as trying to have an effect on the US. It would be feasible to have a bunch of car bomb attacks, and it would drive Americans right up the wall, but that's penny ante.

(2)The increase in efforts at security since 9/11 has been enough. I don't believe this-- there are too many possible targets-- but I'm putting it in for completeness.

(3) The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq did enough damage to AQ that a similar attack isn't feasible.

(4) The wars were sufficiently intimidating.

(5) Embarrassing, but the US was never a prime target. We took collateral damage in a inter-Muslim fight.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

Actually, when I heard the song as a child, I assumed Mary Poppins and Bert were supposed to be the same class (she's a servant, he's a chimney sweep), and the blue bloods she's saying he's just as good as would be higher class than either of them. Though I suppose there might be an intended class difference between them that I was missing. After all, I also heard "Sister Suffragettes" as purely heroic, and missed the touch of satire in the characterization of Mrs. Banks.

It's not obvious to me that bullying/harrassment is related to ADD wiring.

Anonymous said...

"And if there's a difference between ADD and bullying/harassment, but people's minds went immediately from one to the other by way of masculinity, that's interesting."

Not by way of masculinity but by way of some adults' tendencies to excuse just about any behavior in the name of ADD, ASDs, etc. One case that came to my mind happened in a Girl Scout troop in which one scout had autistic wiring and every other scout had a physical disability:
http://www.disaboomlive.com/blogs/disabled_politico/archive/2008/11/25/autistic-girl-scout-labeled-a-quot-danger-to-others-quot-removed-from-her-troop.aspx?PageIndex=2

Travis said...

Why no second attack on the US? AQ got what they wanted, war in SW Asia. What benefit is a second attack here going to provide them? They already underestimated our ability to rain on their parade and also failed to get the universal Moslem response to join the war they were hoping for. The last thing they want is to renew the public focus and drive to destroy them from the US. They want people to grow tired of the war and the news of our soldiers dying so that we eventually give up and they will have won the war.

Anonymous said...

"Bullying and harassment do serious damage, but it isn't obvious to me that engaging in them is related to hunter/ADD wiring. Opinions?..."

Hunting requires prey, right? What - or who - else is there to hunt in a classroom?

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