February 28, 2015

Leonard Nimoy dies

For a longtime Star Trek fan like me, this was an unfortunate day.

It would be illogical to mourn Leonard Nimoy's death, so we shall celebrate his life instead.

For Leonard Nimoy, Spock’s Hold Made Reaching Escape Velocity Futile

By Alessandra StanleyIt’s hard to think of another star who was so closely and affectionately identified with a single role. Even George Reeves, the first television Superman, was also one of the Tarleton twins in “Gone With the Wind.”

It’s even harder to think of a television character that so fully embodied and defined a personality type. Just as Scrooge became synonymous with miser, and Peter Pan became a syndrome, Spock was dispassion personified.
He lived long and prospered. And taught us that being cool and logical could be a way of life. Or as I tweeted:

Everybody who learned to be more calm, rational, and logical from Leonard Nimoy's portrayal of Spock, raise your hand. ‪#‎LiveLongandProsper‬

Leonard Nimoy Showed Us What It Truly Means To Be Human

By Charlie Jane AndersBefore Spock came along, alien beings in mass media (and most written SF as well) were one-dimensional. They represented the "other," the strange and unknowable beings who could only throw our human characters in relief. In the hands of most actors, Spock would have been a one-note joke character: the guy who spouts off formulas and equations in a monotone. Spock could easily have become the butt of Star Trek's jokes, or just a weird side character.

But Nimoy imbued Spock with a life and complexity that were impossible to deny. Far from being a one-note character, Spock became one of the most complex and nuanced people on television. From his inner torment to his quiet amusement at the humans around him to his occasional flashes of anger, Spock was a constantly surprising mystery, with a lot of layers.

A 1999 column about Trek notes how the original series worked because of Shatner and Nimoy.

The trouble with “Trek”

Plagued by falling ratings, rampant merchandising and a boss who hates the franchise legacy, the noble "Star Trek" faces the indignities of age.

By Robert Wilonsky
It’s likely those of us weaned on Roddenberry’s first series view its successors through the blinding haze of a nostalgia that grows brighter the longer the original characters remain off the screen. It’s damned difficult to watch Captain Janeway try to get her “Voyager” crew home week after inexorable week when all we want to see is Shatner dust off his toupee for one last hurrah as Captain James Tiberius Kirk. Nostalgia has a way of skewing perceptions, of making us all a little giddy and unreasonable.

“But this isn’t nostalgia,” says Mark Altman, who penned the indie comedy “Free Enterprise,” which stars Shatner and comes out on DVD Tuesday, after writing nearly a dozen “Trek”-related books. “They got all the ingredients right with the original. It was impeccably cast. Look at how brilliant Shatner and Nimoy were; look at the caliber of the scripts. This was a show written by people who fought in World War II, who had been cops, who were among the top science-fiction writers—these were people who lived life. The new shows are written by people whose only experience is writing television.”

President Obama Releases Statement On Leonard Nimoy's PassingLong before being nerdy was cool, there was Leonard Nimoy. Leonard was a lifelong lover of the arts and humanities, a supporter of the sciences, generous with his talent and his time. And of course, Leonard was Spock. Cool, logical, big-eared and level-headed, the center of Star Trek’s optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity’s future.

I loved Spock.

In 2007, I had the chance to meet Leonard in person. It was only logical to greet him with the Vulcan salute, the universal sign for “Live long and prosper.” And after 83 years on this planet–and on his visits to many others–it’s clear Leonard Nimoy did just that. Michelle and I join his family, friends, and countless fans who miss him so dearly today.
Side note: Obama exemplifies why Spock would make a good ambassador but a bad politician. You want Kirk making the decisions with advice from Spock, not the other way around. When Spock makes the decisions, they often fail because they're too "logical."

“Spock made being different cool”: Hollywood remembers Leonard Nimoy

These Leonard Nimoy farewells from friends and fellow travelers will hit your heart-spot

Rest in Peace Leonard Nimoy, My Honorary Space Grandpa

Leonard Nimoy's Final Tweet Reminds Us How Much He Will Be Missed

As Mr. Spock said to Dr. McCoy, "Remember."

Good-bye, Leonard Nimoy and Mr. Spock. We'll always remember you.

February 27, 2015

Civil War Indian in Bewitched

An old episode of Bewitched featured an Indian character. Here's the story:

Bewitched: Season 2, Episode 9
...And Then I Wrote (11 Nov. 1965)Because she feels it's a worthwhile community event, Samantha agrees for Darrin to do the advertising for a Civil War pageant without telling him beforehand. The problem is is that Darrin has no time to do the work, but he feels he can't back out on Samantha's word. In a tit-for-tat move, Darrin in turn gives his word to the event organizer that Samantha will do something for the pageant, namely write it. Despite having intimate knowledge of the event itself, Samantha is having writer's block. Endora suggests that she materialize the characters in front of her so that she can get a better idea of the story once those characters are in front of her. Once she materializes her three main characters--a Confederate soldier (complete with his steed), his Yankee love interest, and a native American--two problems arise. First, a nosy Mrs. Kravitz sees these characters materialize and disappear in and out of thin air. Second, the characters materialize whenever Samantha thinks about them. Samantha has to figure out a way to make her vivid imagination not so vivid so as to control when the three characters appear. She may get the answer how to do so directly from her vivid cast of characters.

Comment:  As usual for "Native" appearances in the late 1950s and the 1960s, this episode is a mixed bag.

On the negative side, the Indian is dressed as a stereotypical "brave." Unlike the soldier and his lady, he doesn't have a name. And he's played by an actor named Tom Nardini--probably a non-Native of Italian descent.

On the positive side, the Indian--unlike the soldier and his lady--talks like a modern man. In fact, he talks like a youth from a "beach blanket" movie, with phrases like "cool cat" and "daddy-o."

I think he's the one who suggests an ending for Samantha's story. Alas, it involves the soldier dying tragically and the lady mourning his loss.

And it's odd for an Indian to be associated with the Civil War. Very odd.

Civil War Indian

Indians were involved in the war--especially in the West, after their removal from the South. Some info on the subject:

Native Americans in the American Civil WarNative Americans in the American Civil War composed various Native American bands, tribes, and nations. Native Americans served in both the Union and Confederate military during the American Civil War. At the outbreak of the war, for example, the minority party of the Cherokees gave its allegiance to the Confederacy, while originally the majority party went for the North. Native Americans fought knowing they might jeopardize their freedom, unique cultures, and ancestral lands if they ended up on the losing side of the Civil War. 28,693 Native Americans served in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War, participating in battles such as Pea Ridge, Second Manassas, Antietam, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and in Federal assaults on Petersburg. A few Native American tribes, such as the Creek and the Choctaw, were slaveholders and found a political and economic commonality with the Confederacy. The Choctaw owned over 2,000 slaves.This Indian doesn't look or act anything like a Civil War participant. In fact, the episode doesn't explain why he's there or what his connection is.

But simply saying the Civil War has a Native connection is unusual. That's more history than you'll get from most TV appearances of "Indians."

Below: Jackson McCurtain, Lieutenant Colonel of the First Choctaw Battalion in Oklahoma, CSA.

A Civil War Indian dressed like a stereotypical "brave" from another time and place.

For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.

February 26, 2015

Wamapoke Casino in Parks and Recreation

The TV show Parks and Recreation has ended, but not before one last appearance by "Wamapoke Indian" Ken Hotate (Jonathan Joss):

See all of 'Parks and Recreation's' fake 'Johnny Karate' commercials

By Casey RackhamWhat's better than an entire episode of "Parks and Recreation" dedicated to Andy Dwyer's "Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show"? A "Johnny Karate" show plus four incredibly ridiculous commercials for things that thankfully/sadly only exist in the "Parks and Rec" world.

Throughout Tuesday's (Feb. 17) episode, which follows Andy and Co. during his last ever "Johnny Karate" show before he moves to Washington, D.C., a handful of commercials that might possibly be considered the most awkward ads ever aired.

There's one for Ron Swanson's building company that has approximately 20 seconds of silence, one for Paunch Burger that features a Dinner for Breakfast Burger Combo, one for Wamapoke Casino with Chief Ken Hotate using wolf folklore to get people to visit and one for a really scary-sounding company called Verizon Chipotle Exxon. It's pretty much all of the Pawnee-themed commercials fans could ever hope for.

Comment:  This commercial straddles the line between good and bad. Obviously, it uses the wolf stereotype only to subvert it with a casino pitch. But the Indian who uses a casino to take back the white man's money is also a stereotype.

You could say the joke is on the white casino customers who fall for this hucksterism and lose their money. Or you could say the joke is on the Indian who acts like a crass commercial money-grubber--i.e., a huckster.

Some Indian casino ads do have this rah-rah tone, but they're usually more sophisticated. Indian casinos are generally big businesses, akin to classy hotels or resorts. You don't see classy hotels or resorts advertising themselves like used-car lots, so why should a tribe take this approach. It implies Indians are less sophisticated--like amateurs or rubes--than they really are.

If it isn't a race-based claim--Indians are primitive and savage--it's a class-based claim. The implication is that Indians act low-class because they're one step up from poverty. Which is only slightly better than implying they don't understand the white man's ways.

In reality, you wouldn't even an Indian shilling for his own casino. Today's tribal executives have MBAs and run multimillion-dollar operations. They'd hire a management team that would hire an ad agency that would hire professional actors to do a commercial. Casino customers want fun and excitement, not Native culture, so that's what the pros give them.

February 25, 2015

Mound Builders band stereotypes Indians

I just heard of this band calling themselves The Mound Builders. Let's take a look:

Local band looks to ease community into the metal scene

By Kate LewisThe Mound Builders, a self-proclaimed “gumbo” band, combines metal, punk, stoner rock and even a little bit of blues into their one-of-a-kind sound. It’s unconventional, yes, but their diversity is where they feel their appeal lies.

Moreover, The Mound Builders, whose name refers to the ancient civilization that once inhabited the Lafayette area, is all about the local community. Lafayette is where they started almost six years ago, and it’s where they’ll always call home thanks to the area’s supportive music scene.
Here's who the Mound Builders really were:

Mound BuildersThe varying cultures collectively called Mound Builders were inhabitants of North America who, during a 5,000-year period, constructed various styles of earthen mounds for religious and ceremonial, burial, and elite residential purposes. These included the Pre-Columbian cultures of the Archaic period; Woodland period (Adena and Hopewell cultures); and Mississippian period; dating from roughly 3500 BCE to the 16th century CE, and living in regions of the Great Lakes, the Ohio River Valley, and the Mississippi River valley and its tributary waters. Beginning with the construction of Watson Brake about 3500 BCE in present-day Louisiana, nomadic indigenous peoples started building earthwork mounds in North America nearly 1,000 years before the pyramids were constructed in Egypt.The band's name might not be worthy of comment, but their choice of iconography is.

First, a straight ripoff of a Native thunderbird:

A post-apocalyptic Native, I guess. Along with his military gear, his extreme tattooing emphasizes his savage and warlike nature.

Another savage and warlike Native. Note that the mohawk from an Eastern Woodland tribe is inappropriate for a Southern Mound Builder.

And finally, savage Plains Indians on the warpath. Again, the headdresses and war ponies are inappropriate for Mound Builders. In fact, this pre-Columbian civilization didn't have horses.

I assume the last image comes from an old comic book. The painted style looks like something from Gold Key.

If there was any doubt that the band's "thinking" is stereotypical if not racist, this image confirms it. To them, "Mound Builders" are wild and savage--just like their metal band.

February 24, 2015

Immigration at the 2015 Oscars

This year's Oscars unmasked Hollywood's most dubious views

Despite stirring support for the spirit of Selma, and big prizes for Hispanic film-makers, it was the unfortunate throwaway remarks which will linger longest after the 87th Academy Awards

By Steven W Thrasher
“Who gave this sonofabitch his green card?” Sean Penn demanded before presenting Mexican film-maker Alejandro González Iñárritu the best picture Oscar for Birdman, giving a whole new political dimension to the racism of the 87th Annual Academy Awards.

Penn, who starred in Iñárritu’s 21 Grams all the way back in 2003, probably thought it was a funny joke with an old friend. But racism from friends assumed to be benign can be the worst kind, especially at an awards show: just ask black author Jackie Woodson, whose “friend” used presenting her with a National Book Award to make a watermelon joke.

The incident highlighted Oscar’s uneasy relationship with race, which was on full display throughout last night’s ceremony. Along with Tinseltown’s fraught relationship with American militarism, Penn bookended a politically awkward and often uncomfortable evening, which started with host Neil Patrick Harris making a joke about Hollywood celebrating its “best and whitest”.

Four hours later, Penn reminded the world that white supremacy is never far away in America, and it’s at its most insidious and powerful when wielded by self-proclaimed Hollywood liberals–like Penn.
And:Hollywood likes to think it is cutting-edge on social issues, but it’s usually very conservative. So it was good to see Glory’s musicians provide at least reference to what the hell has been happening in America between Happy and Everything is Awesome.

And Penn’s penultimate moment of the broadcast was its lowest point, when he brought to the fore not just the simmering, weird way race was near at hand with several African Americans who weren’t nominated. He showed that white supremacy in Hollywood needs to assert itself even in the face of minority exceptionalists who are nominated and actually win–that it needs to remind a brown film-maker receiving the Academy’s highest honor that he is still a sonofabitch with a green card, ostensibly stealing work from good white folk.

In a way, Penn did us a favor: he exposed Hollywood’s faux liberalism for what it truly is. Hollywood has an uneasy relationship with racism, feminism and militarism because it will exploit all of them to keep making money. It is not concerned with diversity or economic justice, except to the extent it can feign interest in any of them to perpetuate its own power.
“Who gave this son of a b*tch his green card?”: On the Oscars stage, there’s no such thing as a joke between friends

It doesn't matter if Alejandro Inarritu thought Sean Penn's joke was funny—the Oscars belong to the people at home

By Erin Keane
According to the Associated Press, Iñárritu brushed off concerns others voiced about Penn’s joke after the ceremony. “I found it hilarious,” Iñárritu said. “Sean and I have that kind of brutal (relationship) where only true friendship can survive.”

There’s no reason to believe that’s not true—as comedian Sara Benincasa tweeted last night, “Innaritu and Penn are both rich successful dudes who probably bro down in piles of money and make fun of each other.” As is their right! Friends know where the line is that they allow each other to cross and none of us know the particulars of their “brutal” friendship. My own family includes several different nationalities, and cultural differences do come up, and when they do, sometimes we joke about them, as is our privilege as private citizens with functioning senses of humor.

But Sean Penn wasn’t pulling his buddy’s leg at an afterparty or backstage. He planted himself front and center on stage and made a groaner of a green card joke at the climax of a long and weird ceremony that capped off a long and often intense Oscar campaign season that left many viewers furious over an #OscarsSoWhite and acting and directing snubs for “Selma.” None of that necessarily is Penn’s responsibility to ameliorate, but would it have killed the guy to keep the ethnic jokes to himself until he and his friend were safely off-screen?

I’m sure Penn just felt excited to see his good friend’s name in the envelope and responded the best way he knew how, with a comment that he perceived as fond. But even if the Oscars are Hollywood’s biggest night of the year, once the stars are on stage during the broadcast, the awards cease to belong only to them. Iñárritu might have been the man of the night, but this wasn’t a private party, or even a Comedy Central roast where the form explicitly calls for brutal personal jokes that cross the line of good taste. The Academy Awards are really for the viewing audiences at home. Isn’t that the contract behind this spectacle? They put on designer finery and learn to pronounce each others’ names and walk up on stage without making an ass of themselves, and we watch and clap and tweet and fawn and criticize and generally remind them that they’re still relevant in a world where television in all of its mutating glory is fast overtaking their industry in relevance, quality and diversity. And when an A-list star makes a tasteless joke in the middle of all of that, it can’t just be a personal gag at a close friend. Penn’s immigration joke went out to the whole viewing public—many of whom struggle with immigration status challenges that Iñárritu will not likely face again, if he ever did.

Of course, conservatives responded to this as well as Selma in a racist way:

Trump Weighs In On The Oscars: 'It Was A Great Night For Mexico, As Usual'

"There was a lot of conservative-hatred there. There was no question about that," Trump said. Yes, there's no question that Hollywood hates the conservatives' bigotry against blacks, women, gays, immigrants, et al. Trump nailed it for once.

For more on the subject, see Hollywood Still White in 2015 and Another White Year at the Oscars.

February 23, 2015

Race at the 2015 Oscars

In Their Moment of ‘Glory,’ Common and John Legend Showed the World Why the Selma Struggle Truly Is ‘Now’

With their electrifying acceptance speeches at Sunday’s Oscars, Common and John Legend affirmed the connection between the civil rights struggle portrayed in Selma and the fight for justice that continues today.

By Peniel E. Joseph
Despite being nominated in only two categories, Selma stole the Oscars Sunday night by virtue of a best original song victory that was preceded by an electrifying performance of the song, “Glory,” by John Legend and Common.

The musical performance added heart and soul to what was an otherwise pedestrian Academy Awards telecast. Accompanied by dozens of backup singers doubling as marchers and a set re-creating Selma, Ala.’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, along with portraits of both the real-life civil-rights-era demonstrations and their cinematic counterparts, Legend and Common shut down the Academy Awards. The audience of Hollywood heavyweights, including Oprah Winfrey and an emotional David Oyelowo—the actor who played Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma—was in tears.

But the triumph wasn’t over. A few minutes later, Legend and Common bounded up the steps to the stage, after being awarded the Oscar for best original song, where both artists eloquently dedicated their victory to America’s ongoing struggle for civil rights and racial justice. Legend kicked things off by recalling their recent performance at the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday demonstrations that culminated in the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
How Common and John Legend’s performance of “Glory” fired up Oscar night’s idling empathy machine

The stifled ceremony came alive when "Glory" stirred something frustrated, something human inside the stars

By Sonia Saraiya
It was Streep’s reaction to Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech that first signaled to me something different about the night; until then, it had plodded along desperately, with Neil Patrick Harris doing a lukewarm job holding together a show that was bored with itself before it even began. It’s not uncommon for winners to get political in their acceptance speeches, as Arquette did, calling for equality for women. It is uncommon for well-heeled members of the audience—including front-row, A-list guests Streep and Jennifer Lopez, to her left—to respond with anything other than mild embarrassment. The Oscars, like much of Hollywood, are typically the Blasé Olympics: Losers smile and clap through their disappointment, awkwardly long speeches are played off with soothing orchestral music, and even the most liberal firebrands are expected to put on a nice dress and/or a suit and sit quietly throughout the proceedings. But here was Streep, leaning so far forward in her chair she might have been at church, and stabbing emphatically at the air in support of Arquette’s speech. Next to her, Lopez looked flabbergasted, but in a good way. And this, on a night where the entertainment was dull, the winners predictable, and the first true victory of the night went to a charming Polish man totally uninterested in heeding the playing-off music. It was, as far as the Oscars go, a powder keg waiting to blow.

The performance of “Glory” was the spark. Best original song is a category that invites spectacle, typically in the guise of artists from vastly different genres coming to the same stage and breaking the Oscar host’s rhythm with 90 seconds of a song. By now, though, Legend and Common have gotten very good at their stage game—they performed at the Grammys, too, earlier this month—and after rather minimalist performances from Adam Levine, Rita Ora and Tim McGraw, Legend and Common performed with dozens of extras on a reproduction of the Edmund Pettus bridge. The extras came down the steps of the stage to the carpet, and for a moment it seemed like they might storm the aisles, singing “glory, glory” and marching for freedom. They didn’t. But unexpectedly, the audience rose to their feet en masse, and this after the standing ovation for J.K. Simmons came in fits and starts.

Standing ovations aren’t exactly rare at the Oscars—though they are rare for a category as marginal as Best Original Song. But the fervor of it was unlike anything I’ve seen before—at least, as it was picked out by the producers of the show. David Oyelowo, the star of “Selma,” was openly sobbing in his seat (directly in front of Oprah). Actor Chris Pine, seated elsewhere, had tears streaming down his face. Presenter Jessica Chastain was visibly moved. Immediately after the performance, “Glory” won best song, and the entire audience stood up again. Was it motivated by guilt, or by an especially good performance of the song, or something else entirely? I don’t know, but once the artists finished their (very moving) speech, the audience stood up and applauded, again. (Pine was one of the first to spring to his feet.)

It wasn't just Common and Legend. Everyone at the ceremony was aware of Hollywood's racial issues from the beginning. If they weren't, host Neil Patrick Harris made them aware.

Neil Patrick Harris's jokes on whiteness of Oscars unsettle some viewers

By Alan YuhasA string of jokes about diversity at the Academy Awards and controversial nominee American Sniper made Neil Patrick Harris’s first year hosting the Oscars a controversial one–even before the ceremony reached its halfway mark.

Harris began with a self-conscious joke that quickly won praise from critics and viewers for taking on the lack of diversity in the Academy head-on, saying: “Tonight we celebrate Hollywood’s best and whitest, sorry … brightest.”

But several subsequent jokes directed at black actors in the audience, including Oprah Winfrey, Octavia Spencer and David Oyelowo, fell flat and changed the tenor of the ceremony.
And:The conclusion of many was that Harris’ approach to diversity and controversy, while perhaps laudable for the attempt alone, didn’t work. Grantland’s Rembert Browne took issue with the Oscars organizers at large, tweeting an imaginary thought-bubble of its organizers: “If we sit Kevin Hart close enough, it will totally make up for the Selma thing.”

Writer Julieanne Smolinski similarly felt that Harris and the writers were verging on desperate for approval from minorities whom had been largely excluded from the ceremony, tweeting: “‘I have black friends!’–the Oscars”.
Conservatives = racists

Meanwhile, conservative sniped in their usual illogical ways:

Sean Hannity and others are freaking out about “American Sniper’s” Oscar loss

It was a "predictable" outrage by "liberal" Hollywood that American Sniper and Selma both won only one Oscar?

Yeah, Hollywood really showed its bias by honoring the apolitical Birdman and Grand Hotel Budapest rather than black rights (Selma), gay rights (Imitation Game), or nerd rights (Theory of Everything).

No, really...Hollywood is biased toward the apolitical. According to the studios, racism is always about one person, usually an athlete, breaking down barriers. It's never about centuries of white male Christian supremacy.

Then there was this racist reaction:

Fox 8's Kristi Capel Dropped "Jigaboo" On Air This Morning

It's okay...she says she didn't even know it was a word. She often utters random syllables. You can't blame her if they accidentally form a racial slur.

For more on the subject, see Hollywood Still White in 2015 and Another White Year at the Oscars.

February 22, 2015

Misty Upham in the 2015 Oscars

Here are my Facebook comments on the 2015 Academy Awards. The big issue for fans of Native movies was whether actress Misty Upham would appear in the In Memoriam tribute.


Entertaining Oscar ceremony so far.

Lots of brown people getting screen time on the ‪#‎Oscars‬ to make up for the lack of them in the movies.

As usual! So much diversity on the #Oscars show!

Nice to see the Village People performing Everything Is Awesome. But seriously, a few years ago, you would've seen an Indian chief and others in ethnic costumes. Progress!

‪#‎Oscar‬ acceptance tip: Don't talk about getting a free donut at your local bakery when you have only seconds to thank everyone who helped make your film.

Oprah Winfrey, Lupita Nyong'o, Octavia Spencer, Kerry Washington, Viola Davis...so many black actresses who aren't starring in movies or getting ‪#‎Oscars‬ this year!

Good times if you're a black actor too. Less so if you're any ethnicity but black or white. ‪#‎Oscars‬

Casting directors, check the ‪#‎Oscars‬ if you want an actor of color! They're all there!

Thank you, Edward Snowden, for exposing the excesses of government. ‪#‎Oscars‬

So much talk about the struggles that continue today! The ‪#‎Oscars‬ are un-American!

Who hates America more: Oscar or Obama?

The sound of music

Redemption for John Travolta pronouncing "Idina Menzel"! Our long national nightmare is over! ‪#‎Oscars‬

Awesome comments by Common and John Legend. I'm glad someone can talk about race since our president and politicians can't. ‪#‎Oscars‬

The Sound of Music...best movie ever! ‪#‎Oscars‬

Nice classical singing by Lady Gaga...unlike almost every singer today.

David Oyelowo wasn't nominated for Best Actor? Selma should've gone colorblind and cast Bradley Cooper or Benedict Cumberbatch. ‪#‎Oscars‬

That's what often happens when the main character is Latino, Asian, or Native. Why shouldn't it happen when the main character is black?

I think I'll make a movie called 12 Years a Slave Movie--the searing struggle to get a slavery movie made. It's a lock to win an Oscar.

Now I gotta call my mom because J.K. Simmons said so? Geez.

Next year, it's the Galaxy Trio's turn for an Oscar!

Birdman and the Galaxy Trio


Misty made it! Diversity among the dearly departed!

Other than her, I don't think any other Natives appeared on-screen at the ceremony. As usual, the question is why 1-2% of the performers aren't Native to match the Native population.

And poor NPH! Alas, the reviews for Harris's hosting weren't kind:

Neil Patrick Harris’ painfully boring Oscar night: How did a great host get it so wrong?

I don't think he was on-screen enough to call him boring or painful. But nothing he did was special or memorable either.

For more on the subject, see Hollywood Still White in 2015 and Another White Year at the Oscars.

February 21, 2015

White people aren't called terrorists

White People Aren't Called Terrorists Unless They Liberate Animals, Apparently

By Mark KarlinIt has been clear for years that the US government and mass media's application of the word "terrorism" is highly subjective. If the US kills civilians in drone attacks it is, according to the White House, not terrorism; it's self-defense. If a white male gun enthusiast kills three Muslim students, it's not terrorism; it's a dispute over parking.

The examples of how violent acts committed by nation-states or white males are not terrorism are virtually endless. That doesn't just apply to the United States, of course. It is the prerogative of white eurocentric culture to attribute violent acts--even on a large scale--of members of the dominant classes to individual pathology rather than "terrorism." BuzzFlash at Truthout is hardly the first site to point out that Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 children and adults in Norway in 2011, is generally described as an extremist, radical or mass murderer, but not a terrorist. On the other hand, the term is often used automatically when a Muslim commits an act of violence.

Breivik's acts, however, actually mirror those of the killers in Paris and Copenhagen, who were immediately branded as terrorists because of their Islamic association. According to an article on the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) website, "At the time of the massacre, Breivik said his actions were 'cruel but necessary' to save Europe from Islam and multiculturalism." In short, he had an agenda to "terrorize" Norway and Europe based on his notions of Aryan supremacy. Yet, no government, to our knowledge, warned its citizens of the terrorist threat of Aryan supremacists after Breivik's carnage, even though he slaughtered nearly 80 people - mostly children at a camp on an island.

This double standard about who is labeled a terrorist and who is not is indicative of the malleable use of the term by Western nations in order to manipulate public opinion.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Americans Worse Than ISIS and Right-Wingers Ignore Right-Wing Terrorism.

February 20, 2015

Conservatives want to brainwash kids

Conservatives are trying to indoctrinate our youth in many ways. Every argument about teaching evolution or school prayer or the Pledge of Allegiance is about this. So are the attempts to politicize the textbook selection process or to ban ethnic studies as "divisive."

Lately, conservatives are trying to brainwash kids by straight-up changing the curriculum to emphasize Christianity and capitalism. Or by eliminating education altogether.

The latest examples of this:

Will Right-Wing Extremist Documentary Be Required Viewing in Florida?

By Tanya H. LeeD’Souza answers the charge of genocide this way: “In the two centuries after Columbus, the Native American population declined by 80 percent. But it wasn’t due to warfare. Rather, as historian William McNeil points out, they contracted diseases—measles, typhus, smallpox, cholera and malaria, to which they had no immunities. Now this is tragedy on a grand scale, but it’s not genocide because genocide implies an intention to wipe out a people.”

ICTMN asked three university professors to respond. Dr. James Riding In, Pawnee, associate professor of American Indian Studies at Arizona State University, says:

“D’Souza does not understand what genocide is. There is a UN convention that was adopted in 1948 that defines genocide. What the declaration on genocide says is that it’s the killing of members of a group… or causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group…[or] inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part… [or] imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group and forcibly transferring children to another group.

“All of these things happened to Indians. Yes, a lot of Indians died of disease and the population of the Americas declined over 90 percent after the arrival of Europeans. A big part of that population decline is attributed to disease, but there were survivors.

“Those survivors were trying to hold on to their culture, their beliefs, their way of life, their philosophies about life that had been developed in the distant past and were supposed to continue on indefinitely. What United States colonialism did was disrupt the future of Indigenous Peoples.”

Riding In notes, “U.S. policy was genocide. It was designed, to use the jargon of the time, to kill the savage and save the man. Well, there was a lot of killing of the man along the way. And women. And children.”

Oklahoma’s demented fight against AP history

A new bill would fight teaching "what's bad about America"

By Mary Elizabeth Williams
It may not be true that history is written by the victors, but in certain places, they’re making a hell of an effort to make sure it’s at least taught by them. In Oklahoma this week, a legislative committee took aim at Advanced Placement U.S. History classes in public schools.

House Bill 1380, introduced by Republican Rep. Dan Fisher, would “give sole control of curriculum and assessment to the state,” with particular regard to Advanced Placement classes offered for students to earn college credit. Fisher happens to be a member of the ominously named Black Robe Regiment, a group whose aims include “To educate all people and restore to its rightful place the Church in America (indeed, the entire earth)” and “To provide educational materials for use in the Church and for the American Public to restore our American History and the History of the American Church, so as to restore what has been lost by way of deception and historical revision.” Fisher claims the AP curriculum emphasizes “what is bad about America” and neglects the concept of “American exceptionalism.” College Board representative John Williamson, meanwhile, calls Fisher’s objections “mythology and not true.”

The simplistic notion that kids need to be taught “exceptionalism,” a pervasive and often flat out inaccurate, bathed-in-glory vision of American superiority, has led to multiple educational skirmishes over the past few years. In Colorado last year, a Board of Education member took issue with AP History’s “overly negative view” of slavery, noting, “Yes, we practiced slavery. But we also ended it voluntarily, at great sacrifice, while the practice continues in many countries still today!” In North Carolina this past December, the State Board of Education held a debate over the AP US History course’s omission of exceptionalism in its 70 page framework. Similar battles over educational “ideological bias” and the “negative aspects” of history have waged in Georgia and South Carolina.

Ignorance is bad for everybody. It only lowers the collective IQ when lawmakers still push to teach “intelligent design.” It similarly should never be a matter of any dispute that the Inquisition and the Crusades were bad ideas, and to take offense over pointing that out is inane. Likewise, these targeted, strategic attempts to force students—students who are intellectually sophisticated enough to take on college level coursework—to accept a propaganda-based curriculum is detrimental to critical thought as a whole. It should be absurd to promote any educational agenda that pushes jingoism as a lesson plan. It should never have gotten this far. And the reality of life in the 21st century is that we are sharing this planet with the rest of its inhabitants. It’s not just dumb and wrong to teach kids that we’re better than the rest of the world, and to attempt to conspicuously leave our past misdeeds from lessons—it’s bad diplomacy and it’s bad business. That’s not teaching exceptionalism; it’s teaching entitlement—not a useful quality on the global playing field.

There’s a profound insecurity at the heart of any agenda that presumes that if kids aren’t spoon fed a black and white fairy tale of our national greatness, they’ll have no pride or loyalty. Arrogance isn’t patriotism, and education isn’t indoctrination. And anyone who doesn’t comprehend that difference doesn’t just need a history lesson, he needs a dictionary.
Fox Host: 'There Really Shouldn't Be Public Schools' Anymore

By Ahiza GarciaFox host Lisa "Kennedy" Montgomery suggested getting rid of the nation's public schools during a discussion on Thursday's "Outnumbered."

Kennedy's comments came during a segment about an Oklahoma bill, approved by a House committee, that seeks to eliminate AP US History. The bill asserts that the current iteration of the course doesn't show "American exceptionalism," instead highlighting "what is bad about America."

"There really shouldn't be public schools, should there?" Kennedy said. "I mean we should really go to a system where parents of every stripe have a choice, have a say in the kind of education their kids get because, when we have centralized, bureaucratic education doctrines and dogmas like this, that's exactly what happens."
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Christian Curriculum Praises Trail of Tears, What Conservatives Consider Objective History, and Ethnic History Corrects American History.

February 19, 2015

"Seminole Spirit" = "savage swamp mermaid"

Victoria's Secret Photographer, Model Present 'Seminole Spirit' Imagery in NYCAn exhibit of photography that may elicit a variety of reactions in Indian country opens today at Stephan Weiss Studio in New York City. Called "Seminole Spirit," it consists of highly stylized photos taken in the wetlands and swamps of Florida by Australian shooter Russell James, who is most famous for his photography of Victoria's Secret models. A number of the photos feature Victoria's Secret Angel Behati Prinsloo, while others depict landscapes, alligators, and the Seminole people.

The project was undertaken in cooperation with the Seminole Nation of Florida, under the guidance of Chief James Billie and medicine man Bobby Henry.

"I didn't want [Prinsloo] to be representative of the Seminole, of course," James says, according to Gotham Magazine. "But I went to Seminole land and I shot things like the way they build, the way a man holds his hands—all these things [about] Seminole culture. Then I took Behati and created a fantasy character that I call Seminole Spirit. She represents this thing, this movement that I call relevant, modern, cultural, all of these things combined, and that's how Seminole Spirit came about."
The 10 nude photographs of Prinsloo, which represent less than one-third of the material, are bound to grab the most attention. Of the experience, Prinsloo who is currently ranked 15th on the "Money Girls" list at models.com, said that "We painted my body gold as we tried to capture an idea we had of what ‘Seminole Spirit’ is […] I felt like a savage swamp mermaid on Seminole land, crazy."Comment:  A gold-painted savage swamp mermaid? Sounds stereotypical to me.

Talk about your exotic others. Indians as mermaids, fairies, swamp dwellers, savages...this "Seminole Spirit" is a one-woman Peter Pan menagerie. She could star in the next Pirates of the Caribbean as the movie's supernatural monster.

Does photographer Russell James, not to mention Chief Billie, realize that Seminoles are doctors, lawyers, and teachers? Why would you want to reinforce the idea that they're otherworldly creatures who live in a magical world of spirits and demons? That's already what people think, and now they've reinforced the idea.

February 18, 2015

KTZ rips off Native designs

Another fashion faux pas involving Native appropriations:

New York Fashion Week Designer steals from Northern Cheyenne/Crow artist Bethany Yellowtail

By Adrienne KeeneI write about cultural appropriation in fashion a lot. I’ve taken on big brands and small brands, arguing that our images and cultural property should be taken seriously. But today, things got personal. Brand KTZ’s Fall/Winter line at New York Fashion Week was “a tribute” to Indigenous peoples. There’s a lot to critique in the line (and I will), but nestled among the 45 looks was this dress:

Does it look familiar? It might, because it is a DIRECT rip-off of my friend Bethany Yellowtail’s design from her Crow Pop Collection. ... If you need a side-by-side:
Notice the form of the dress is the same, with the collar, the length, the shape, and the designs are clearly “inspired” by Bethany’s. Here’s the thing. Bethany’s design is not just a collection of abstract shapes, she utilized Crow beadwork that had been in her family for generations for her design. The colors, the shapes, and the patterns have meaning, origins, and history. They belong to her family and tribe. They are cultural property, not designs that are free for the taking.And:So why is it that Indigenous intellectual property is not seen as “real” intellectual property? Yes, the boundaries are difficult to find and difficult to enforce–but if KTZ had directly ripped off images from, say Valentino, or Yves Saint Laurent, or, shoot, McDonalds or Apple or anyone else, there would be a major case to be made about violations of intellectual property rights, and people would scoff at his lack of creativity. But “primitive” or in his words, “primal” peoples are not ever given the same consideration. Our designs and cultural markers are used to “enhance” white culture, while white cultural artifacts are protected and policed.

The bottom line is this: There should be no representations of us, without us. You want to draw upon Indigenous cultures for your line? Involve Indigenous artists and designers. There is no alternative answer. You love Bethany’s Crow designs? Call Bethany. Collaborate with Bethany. Give her a chance to show at New York Fashion Week with you. The fashion world costs hella money to get a foot in the door, so if you as a designer truly want to offer a “tribute” to Native people? Bring a Native designer up with you.
KTZ's Latest Collection: A Racist Ripoff

By Dr. Jessica R. MetcalfeIf you still don’t understand what the big issue is, please read Jezebel’s A Much Needed Primer on Culture Appropriation, especially when I say this little ditty:"There isn't just one Native American culture. There are hundreds. And there are millions of Native people. And we're being ignored. We're being told that we don't have rights over how we are represented in mainstream America. We are being told that we should 'get over it'–but the people who are saying this don't even know what the issues are. When people know of us only as a 'costume,' or something you dress up as for Halloween or for a music video, then you stop thinking of us as people, and this is incredibly dangerous because everyday we fight for the basic human right to live our own lives without outsiders determining our fate or defining our identities."Pejoski blatantly disregards this basic fact, and creates a mish-mash–combining Navajo weaving designs with Crow beadwork patterns, and Plains bone breastplates with Southwest turquoise jewelry.

And let’s talk about those Navajo designs: one of them is of a sacred ye’ii–the embodiment of Navajo deities–that Pejoski put on a leather corset dress. Red flag #2. There is a colonial history of stealing, selling and buying Native American sacred items.

KTZ Accused of Ripping Off Crow Designer’s Patterns

By Jihan ForbesAdrienne calls Pejoski’s interpretation a “mockery and a celebration of cultural theft.” While it is hardly a crime or an offense to be inspired by other cultures, as we know, it becomes a different animal altogether when the source of inspiration is not given the kind of credit they deserve. Still, it is difficult to say whether or not Pejoski ripped off Yellowtail’s designs (we don’t know for sure if it was Yellowtail’s particular designs or even something he saw on Tumblr or on the street that could have prompted him to design something like this). It is difficult to imagine that someone working in fashion would be ignorant of the highly sensitive nature of borrowing from other cultures, particularly Native Americans. There has been quite a bit of backlash against designers, festival goers and celebrities who choose to don headdresses or put them on a runway. Unless you live under a rock, it’s hard not to notice these instances.‘Native American-inspired’ Fashion Week collection offends and enrages actual Native Americans

By Marjon CarlosAttempting to celebrate diversity by sizably poaching the work of creatives of color sends a message that fashion’s interest is ephemeral and purely surface. But for indigenous cultures, these ornamental elements are part of a long-standing tradition, and often sacred. Style.com praised the clothes for their detailing and “spirit,” but this collection reinforces a painful history of domination, subjugation, prejudice and discrimination that has been blindly truncated into ill-conceived modifiers, such as arrows atop a model’s head. As Keene suggests, rather than ripping off Yellowtail’s designs or the traditional handwork of Native tribes, fashion designers need to actually collaborate and work with Native artisans to curve this continual mishandling and erasure. Instances like KTZ’s collection show that while cultural appropriation remains a weighted subject, what detractors really want in return is simply inclusion.

February 17, 2015

Blackhawks logo in SNL's 40th anniversary

Indians appeared once in Saturday Night Live's 40th-anniversary show. Unfortunately, the appearance wasn't good:

SNL 40th Anniversary: Mike Myers and Native Imagery

By Adrienne KeeneI was excited to see a Wayne’s World sketch, because I am a nerd and use #partytimeexcellent as a personal catchphrase…and then noticed something about Wayne/Mike Myers:

Obviously, he’s wearing a Chicago Blackhawks Jersey. But notice the blanket he’s sitting on as well…totally “Native inspired.”

It got me thinking (duh). This screenshot pretty much encapsulates what most folks watching SNL think about Native peoples: mascots and artifacts. Both disembodied symbols that have minimal relation to contemporary Native communities or people. Both representing outsiders profiting from and exploiting our images and our cultures for their own economic gain. Both harkening to a very specific period of time in our cultures–back to the 19th century, when the “real Indians” were around.
These things matter. More than 23 million viewers saw this sketch. 23 MILLION. When we don’t have any counter-representations to show us as we actually are, the weight of these small moments adds up. I know most viewers wouldn’t have even thought twice about the problematic nature of this–but that’s why you have me, right? To scream from the rooftops that WE ARE MORE THAN ARTIFACTS AND MASCOTS? These things aren’t “honoring.” They’re demeaning and exploitative. Final answer.Comment:  Keene adds that the team owner's wife designed the Blackhawks logo while her husband named the team after his Blackhawk Division in World War I. Some people have used that origin as an excuse to keep the name: "The team isn't stereotypical because it's not named after an Indian."

Not directly, anyway. But that only undercuts the claim that the team, name, and logo "honor" Indians. As Keene notes, they're honoring a fictitious version of an Indian--what the owners think Sauk Chief Black Hawk looked like in their dreams. There's no legitimate Native basis for the name or logo.

Keene also tweeted this image:

Writing a quick post about SNL...remember "Native American Comic Billy Smith"? smh: http://www.hulu.com/watch/114928For more on the Blackhawks, see Blackhawks Fans Defend Stereotypical Logo and Severed Head Suggests Dead Indian. For more on Saturday Night Live and Billy Smith, see Native Doll in Saturday Night Live and Cobell Skit in Saturday Night Live.

February 16, 2015

The Zulu Cannibal Giants

Someone posted this item on Facebook:

Buchanan's argument is silly. According to him and his ilk, no one ever meant to insult someone with a joke about a dumb blonde or a dumb Polack. No one meant to insult someone with a skit about Uncle Toms or wetbacks or Chinamen. They were all meant in "good fun," to recognize and "celebrate" the subjects.

Indian mascots are the same thing.

The person responded to my comments with these:

Who are the Zulu Cannibal Giants:

Zulu Cannibal GiantsThe Zulu Cannibal Giants were an African American baseball team (they referred to themselves as a Baseball "Zulu Tribe," based on a concept inspired by the war in Ethiopia) formed in 1934 by Charlie Henry in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Zulu Cannibal Giants gained notoriety for their propensity to turn a baseball game into a comedy performance, much in the same way that the Harlem Globetrotters did with basketball many years later. The Zulu Cannibal Giants decorated their faces and bodies with African tribal paint, went shirtless, wore only grass skirts, used special custom-made baseball bats crafted to supposedly resemble Ethiopian war clubs, and always played barefoot.

Although the team was extremely popular with the public, some black athletes disapproved of the Cannibals because of the stereotype.
I've suggested teams should name themselves the Zulu something-or-others before. I usually go with Spearchuckers because it's more warrior-like. But I never knew a team actually had such a name.

I'm sure the team would argue it was innocently celebrating and honoring Zulus with no intent to offend them. Again, same as any Indian mascot.

February 15, 2015

Battle of Little Bighorn in Twilight Zone

I saw this Twilight Zone episode for the first time a couple of years ago.

The 7th Is Made Up of Phantoms[T]hree United States Army National Guard soldiers (MSgt. William Connors, Pvt. Michael McCluskey, Cpl. Richard Langsford) are an M3 Stuart tank crew participating in a war game being conducted near the Battle of Little Bighorn, the site of Major General George Custer's last stand. Their orders coincide with the route of Custer and his men. As they follow the route, they hear strange things such as Indian battle cries and horses running. As nobody is there, the men examine the possibilities. Connors wonders if they've somehow gone back in time. When they return, Connors reports to his captain what occurred and is reprimanded. The following day the trio goes out and again begins to experience strange phenomena. The captain contacts them via radio and orders them to return to base when Connors tries to explain what is happening. Connors breaks contact and the captain sends his lieutenant and two men to bring them in. However, the tank crew abandon their tank and continue on foot with their side arms and rifles. They find a group of teepees and McCluskey goes to investigate; he soon returns with an arrow protruding from his back. The men climb a ridge where they see a battle taking place below. They join it and are never seen again.

Later, the captain enters the Custer Battlefield National Monument. A soldier reports that all they found was the abandoned tank. The two of them notice the names of their missing soldiers on the monument with the names of Custer's men. The captain states that it was a pity the missing soldiers couldn't have taken the tank with them to the battle.

Comment:  Alas, this episode doesn't include any Indians. Not even Latinos, Italians, or Greeks dressed as Indians.

The captain has the best line when he says to Connors:And if you meet any Indians...if you meet any Indians, will you take it very slow? Because they're all college graduates and they're probably running tests on the soil.So we know the episode has a somewhat modern sensibility. And kudos for including two black soldiers, including Greg Morris (soon to star in Mission: Impossible).

But a few odd things:

  • The "group" of tipis consists of six of them--no Indians, horses, campfires, or anything else. In reality, the Indian camp had some 2,000 lodges. I know that was beyond the budget of The Twilight Zone, but this is ridiculously small.

  • McCluskey approaches the "village," is out of sight a few seconds, and then appears and calmly ascends the slope. Only then do the others realize he has an arrow in his back.

    This is silly on several fronts. Why would Indians shoot an arrow in the confines of a tipi rather than, say, use a knife? Why would they attack a lone, unarmed stranger at all? How did it happen without a single outcry or shout of pain? Why did the Indians let McCluskey go? How is he able to function with an arrow in his back? And why is there no arrow the next time he's shown?

  • A reviewer agrees:

    The Twilight Zone: “The 7th Is Made Up Of Phantoms”/“A Short Drink From A Certain Fountain”It’s not much of a village; just a cluster of maybe a dozen teepees, with no living being in sight. McCluskey (the young one of the three) takes it at face value and offers to go scout the area. Now, this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense: it’s broad daylight, there’s no cover, and the three men are already standing no more than a couple hundred yards from the “village.” By this point, Connors and the rest believe that they’re on the trail of General Custer on his last doomed assault against the Sioux, and they’ve decided they’re going to join up with Custer and the others and fight alongside them. So if they believe enough to consider that the Native Americans are real, and that they’re dangerous, why would McCluskey go wandering over without any real reason or protection?

    He gets an arrow in the back for his troubles (although for once, this isn’t immediately fatal), and it’s ridiculous, but it’s also deeply creepy in a way that a more conventionally structured sequence would not have been. We never see a single Native American throughout the episode, just the effects of their passing, and as unfortunate as the story’s politics are (it’s weird to see something these days that treats “fighting alongside Custer” as a worthwhile and heroic goal), that lends the whole half hour a general air of creepiness that makes it compelling even when the writing fumbles.
    The last stand

    Actually, the soldiers haven't decided anything yet. They stumble over a ridge and see the battle in progress. They check their weapons before Connors shouts:All right, fellas...let's do it!This leads to the key point:

  • The soldiers are excited by the battle they see off-screen and say so--but they don't say which side they're eager to join. Would they have been thrilled to die within minutes like the rest of Custer's regiment? Or would they have preferred to help the Indians kill their fellow Americans?

    If the Indians stripped the soldiers of their gear, leaving only their dog tags, the soldiers would've looked like anyone else. Those who surveyed the battle site would've assumed they were part of Custer's troops. So their choice isn't clear.

    I guess the names on the monument imply they joined Custer. It's just funny that no one is willing to say it.

    An earlier exchange offers an alternative and shows the episode's ambivalence:LANGSFORD: All right, Connors. Okay, let's say, let's say that you're right. Let's say that this thing is happening just like you said it is. Let's say that we're gonna follow this trail, just like, uh--well, just like they did it, huh?!

    LANGSFORD: Now what I wanna know is, what's gonna happen next?

    CONNORS: We're gonna wind up at a massacre. That's what.

    LANGSFORD: You gonna stop it?

    CONNORS: Yeah. Stop it, or ... join it.
    In 1963, when this episode was made, people were beginning to realize that the Indians were right and Custer was wrong. Perhaps Serling or someone understood it would sound bad to cheer the killing of Indians. So they filmed the episode but left out any references to aiding or opposing Custer.

    Anyway, I agree this episode is flawed. The producers spent too much time on the opening and not enough on the ending. They should've handled the Indian "village" differently--said it was an outlying camp, and shown arrows fired from afar and missing the soldiers.

    Most important, they should've said which side the soldiers were joining. Either way, it would've made for a provocative message. Viewers could've learned a lesson about doing the right thing...or the wrong thing.

    P.S. You can see images from the episode here:

    The 7th is Made Up of Phantoms--Quotes and Sound Clips

    Below:  McClusky foolisly goes to scout the Sioux "village."

  • February 14, 2015

    Should we fear "first contact"?

    A Facebook friend posted this article:

    Scientists fear ‘first contact’ with aliens because indigenous people usually lose

    By Travis GettysSETI director Seth Shostak argued that earthlings must do more than listen for other life forms.

    “Some of us at the institute are interested in ‘active SETI,’ not just listening but broadcasting something to some nearby stars, because maybe there is some chance that if you wake somebody up you’ll get a response,” Shostak said.

    Shostak and other “active SETI” advocates want to send repeated signals from the world’s largest radio transmitter in Puerto Rico toward hundreds of stars within about 82 light-years of Earth.

    However, he admits that some scientists—including physicist Stephen Hawking—oppose “active SETI” as potentially dangerous.

    David Brin, the scientist and science fiction writer, argued during the conference against active attempts to contact alien life forms.

    “Historians will tell you that first contact between industrial civilizations and indigenous people does not go well,” he told the BBC.
    He added this note: "A reasonable concern, Rob?" My response:

    Yes and no.

    On the no side, it's likely that FTL travel isn't possible. The cost of sending slow-moving generation ships would be prohibitive, as would the cost of conquering the earth. Every solar system probably has enough minerals to satisfy any race without traveling to another system.

    On the yes side, even exchanging messages with an alien race would be hugely disruptive. But the disruption might be good rather than bad. It could sweep away old religions, provide answers for climate change and overpopulation, etc.

    If you ignore the whole genocide thing, both sides benefited from Europe's contact with the Indians. It could be like that: setting off a new renaissance for the human race. Old-school priests and politicians wouldn't like it, but who cares about them?

    To boil it down to the key questions: 1) Does distance make physical contact impossible? 2) Without the possibility of physical contact, would the cultural interaction be good or bad?"The cost of sending slow-moving generation ships would be prohibitive, as would the cost of conquering the earth."

    All they would have to send is one really big bomb.
    The same issues arise:

    1) Why do it?

    2) How many resources would it take to build a planet-killing bomb?

    3) Even if you've perfected the technology for, say, black-hole or antimatter bombs, is your engineering so good that you can develop automated spaceships that won't break down for hundreds or thousands of years of travel?

    4) What kind of culture would go for the "gratification" of destroying another civilization centuries in the future in a cataclysm they can't observe or verify?

    Yes, it's possible a planet of insane religious cultists would do anything to destroy a potential rival. Heck, we'd probably do that ourselves if aliens declared that God/Jehovah/Allah didn't exist. But such a planet is likely to destroy itself first--as we're doing a good job of proving.

    Overall, I'd say the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. The potential gains outweigh the minuscule risks. So I vote for continuing.

    The alien bomb scenario

    Someone's probably written this story already, but it could be good. Alien race receives our radio and TV transmissions, decides we're heathen monsters, and sends a bomb to kill us. Eighty years later, we receive their reply:

    "Eighty years ago we launched a black-hole bomb to destroy your monstrous planet. At near-light speed, it'll arrive in 20 years. Prepare to die!"

    The earth has 20 years to get its act together and devise a way to stop the killer bomb. I leave you to plot the rest of the story as an exercise.

    Oh, and the kicker: When the "bomb" arrives, it's a hoax. The aliens' latest transmission says:

    "A global threat to your planet was the only way to shake you out of your parochial thinking. The only way to unify your planet despite its religious and cultural differences. We learned this from bitter experience.

    "Now join us in a confederation of peaceful planets that have overcome their dark impulses and achieved enlightenment. Welcome!"

    Good story, eh?Yes I might make the delay more than 20 years. And I'm not sure I'd make the bomb a fake either. It's a test, to see if the inhabitants can cooperate peacefully AND see if they're intelligent enough to solve the problem. Fail on either count and BOOM.Yes, the period could be 50 or 100 years or more. That would make it even more of an epic--the type I doubt I could write well.

    And yes, making the bomb real but the intent good might be even more of a twist. "If you couldn't have stopped the bomb, it means you're the kind of race that would've threatened us eventually. As we know from bitter experience, again."

    So what's your answer to the question of whether this is a reasonable concern?I think you answered it pretty well. The potential good outweighs the potential bad. I also agree with the comment (I think it was in the article) that anyone advanced enough to be a threat would probably already be aware of us.Another problem...solved!

    Who knows aliens better: Stephen Hawking or us? Answer: We do!

    For more on the subject, see Why Are Most Aliens White? and Missing Aliens in Star Trek.

    February 13, 2015

    Hicks = "angry, armed, and white"

    Another day, another white terrorist nutjob with a gun killing innocent people.

    Angry, Armed and White: The Typical Profile of America's Most Violent Extremists

    White men, usually right-wingers, are the dominant threat.

    By Steven Rosenfeld
    We can safely say that Craig Stephen Hicks fits the profile of the most common type of domestic violent extremist—a white man with grievances and guns. Whether he was provoked by road rage, rage against neighbors who wore traditional Muslim clothing, or other simmering grudges and pathologies, his alleged killing of three young Muslims underscores a trend that mainstream U.S. media avoids: that the face of violent extremism in America since 9/11 is predominantly white. Muslims in America, while not exempt from crime, simply do not compare.

    There’s no shortage of crime statistics confirming this. A 2001-2015 “Homegrown Extremism” analysis by the New America Foundation parsed the “ethnicity, age, gender and citizenship” of people who killed or violently attacked others, whether they were motivated by jihadist philosophies or other “right wing, left wing or idiosyncratic beliefs.” Of 448 extremists counted, white men who were U.S. citizens outnumbered every other demographic by wide margins.

    “Quite a few reports agree, that more Americans have been killed by the radical right since 9/11 than by jihadists,” said Mark Potok, spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate crimes and focuses on the radical right.
    And:“The one thing we know is that the psychology has always been the same,” Joe Navarro, a former FBI agent and co-founder of the agency’s Behavioral Analysis Program, said in a Q&A in the SPLC report. “By that, I mean you have individuals who are collecting wounds, they’re looking for social ills, or things that have gone wrong, and they are nourishing these things that they’re ideating, that they’re thinking about. The solution for them is violence.”

    “What they have in common is that once they begin to ideate this philosophy, whatever their passion is, whatever their hatred is, whatever their ideology is, they certainly all begin to communicate this to people around them,” Navarro said. “And when we go back and do the post-event analysis, we find that they were talking about this, they were telling people about this, and the people either ignored it, didn’t pay attention or didn’t think it would go any further.”

    Potok, the SPLC spokesman, said that domestic law enforcement did not want to believe that white people could be terrorists—or even violent extremists—until Timothy McVeigh bombed the Oklahoma federal building in 1995. Then they shifted gears and focused on many domestic anti-government and ideological groups. But that focus changed, he said, after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, as law enforcement again saw radical Islam as the primary threat.
    Other posting demolishes the claim that because a parking dispute was involved, it can't be a hate crime.

    Chapel Hill Murders Are About More Than a Parking Dispute

    People miss the point that the rationale for the rampage need not amount to an either/or.

    By Cynthia R. Greenlee
    Denial may spring from the deep recesses of the unconscious—a protective mechanism that shields us from harsh realities until our minds can make sense of them—but it also comes from willful blindness. And that’s the distinguishing characteristic of my third group of Facebook friends. That final group insists that we should withhold judgment over the causes of Craig Hicks's mass killing and that, as much of the mainstream media have reported, the shooting was merely the culmination of a parking conflict. They challenge their Facebook friends to prove that Hicks's fatal action was a hate crime, challenges they couch in terms of rationality, a desire to know all the facts and a belief that the law is the arbiter of fairness.

    The point they miss is that the rationale for Hicks’s rampage need not amount to an either/or. It’s not hate crime or parking dispute. Parking disputes are rarely just about occupying one asphalt rectangle. Fights over space—whether in subways or suburban neighborhoods—are more often contests about privilege: Who gets to be in this space? Who dictates the use and control of the space? And what happens when people who aren't like some pre-determined and overdetermined notion of what constitutes "us" gets in our space? A parking crunch—and I acknowledge the rancor that can come when fences have not made good neighbors—did not pull the trigger. A man did, a man we know, at the very least, to have a measure of antipathy toward the religious of all faiths. Of the three people he shot, execution-style, all were observant Muslims, and two were women who wore a style of headscarf that made that clear.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Patriarchal Culture Encourages Violence and White = Sick, Brown = Deviant.

    February 12, 2015

    Eskimo in Lucy Goes to Alaska

    I've seen all the I Love Lucy shows, but its later incarnations are seldom aired. I recently caught this episode at random:

    The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour: Season 2, Episode 3
    Lucy Goes to Alaska (9 Feb. 1959)The Ricardos and Mertzes head to Alaksa, but arrive a day early and their room is not ready; it is occupied by none other than Red Skeleton, who generously shares his room with the foursome. Later, Ricky and Fred learn that they own land that is all ice and are constantly at each other's throats. Ricky and Fred's bickering causes Lucy to ask Red if he will buy the property, but chaos ensues.

    In the second half, the non-Native Iron Eyes Cody guest-stars as an Eskimo. He's accompanied by another Eskimo, played by Charles Stevens, who actually looks Asian.

    At this point in the story, Lucy and Red Skelton are lost in an Alaskan snowstorm after crashing their jeep. Dressed in the usual parkas, the Eskimos appear out of nowhere. Talking loudly as if the Eskimos don't understand English, Lucy asks if they have a dog sled. In perfect English, Iron Eyes answers that they have a plane nearby.

    Iron Eyes agrees to fly them back to civilization--for a price. He's piloting when Lucy cranks the wrong lever and sends the plane into a dive. He hits his head on the steering wheel and is knocked unconscious, forcing Skelton and Lucy to land the plane.

    The only wrong note comes when they help him out of the plane. Dazed, he asks, "Who flew [the] plane?" That is, he drops the article "the" in a bit of Tonto talk.

    Other than that, it's a fine portrayal--if you ignore the Italian playing an Eskimo. The Alaskan Native is more competent at surviving in the wilderness and more superior at using technology. He's even a better negotiator; he gets a valuable piece of land for rescuing the others.

    For more on the subject, see Caribbean Cannibal in I Love Lucy.

    Below:  The station master helps Iron Eyes Cody the "Eskimo," barely visible inside the plane.

    February 11, 2015

    Whites too fragile to discuss race

    Critics noted something odd about the "4,000 lynchings" story I linked to yesterday.

    The NY Times 'Discovers' That Blacks Were Lynched...But Doesn't Name White People as the Killers

    By Chauncey DeVegaThe NY Times' failure to name white people as the murderers of black Americans through spectacular and cruel violence is also an example of Whiteness--and by extension white people--imagining itself as naturally benign and innocent. Here, Whiteness is prefaced on radical individualism.

    As such, there are no "white criminals" or "white terrorists." There are only individual white people who happen to be criminals or killers. In a society organized around white privilege, it is only the Other, in particular black people and "Muslims," who are labeled en masse as "pathological" and/or where individuals are subjected to group stigma and punishment.

    The racial erasure in the Times' lynching story is also a surrender to what researcher Robin DiAngelo has termed "white fragility":White people in North America live in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress. This insulated environment of racial protection builds white expectations for racial comfort while at the same time lowering the ability to tolerate racial stress, leading to what I refer to as White Fragility. White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves.

    These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.
    The white racial frame distorts reality. It is operative even in what are ostensibly moments of "anti-racist" public discourse. And because the white racial frame furthers a possessive investment in whiteness, an investment that reflects and sustains a white supremacist society, it distorts how White Americans process and understand empirical reality.

    Through that process, the black or brown truth-teller is transformed by the White gaze into someone who is "angry," "hostile," "emotional," "crazy," "irrational" or "overreacting."

    Ultimately, the white racial frame is a type of racial narcissism, one that for those white people who have not renounced their personal and psychological investment in Whiteness and white supremacy transforms the rational into the irrational, the sane into the insane, and warps the morals and ethics of its owners.

    As I, and those others, who dared to connect the barbarism of ISIS and the spectacular lynchings and burning alive murders of black Americans by whites recently learned, forcing White America to own its history of racial terrorism is not a popular act.
    The NYT wrote about lynching by white people without using the word "white"

    By Jenée Desmond-HarrisThis sort of oversight has also been interpreted as going hand-in-hand with a widespread reluctance to see white supremacy (versus individual racist acts by bad people) as a driving force in America's history, or a contributor the country's present racial inequality.

    That's why, even if "white" was omitted unconsciously by writers and editors who truly wanted to do justice to the lynching report, it's still troubling because it obscures a key part of how racism works. When we're talking about the ways black Americans were terrorized by these horrific lynchings, it's also relevant to note that white Americans were doing the terrorizing.
    Comment:  For more on white privilege, see All Politics Is Identity Politics and Tucker Carlson's White Privilege Lie.

    February 10, 2015

    Americans worse than ISIS

    More on the subject of Obama Compares ISIS to Crusaders and What the Crusades Controversy Is About:

    GOP Lawmaker Says Obama Defended ISIS At Prayer Breakfast

    Obama defends ISIS by comparing them to every Christian who killed, tortured, or enslaved someone. In other words, Obama thinks ISIS is as bad as America!

    ISIS responds, "How dare you compare us to centuries of Euro-American thugs and killers?!"

    Here are 8 Christian Terrorist Organizations That Equal ISIS

    History of Lynchings in the South Documents Nearly 4,000 Names

    Keep trying, ISIS losers! So far we're like a thousand times more barbaric than you are!

    And some "wisdom" from a few months ago:

    Christian activist calls for holy war: ‘Islam has no place in civilized society’

    We need a holy war to stop the Muslims' holy war because holy wars have no place in civilized society!

    The holy war to end all holy wars! Just like World War I, except holy!

    For more on Christian terrorism, see Report Documents Right-Wing Terrorism and The Logical Conclusion of Extremism.

    Below:  There were Americans in the Crusades? Okay, if you say so.

    February 09, 2015

    Why are most aliens white?

    Here's another of my perennial discourses on science fiction and race. I started it by posting the following on Facebook:

    Would Hollywood finance Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy, or Jupiter Ascending if the alien races were black or Asian? I'm guessing no.

    Because that would make the aliens too "alien," presumably.

    This led to the following discussion:They have no problem making individual white characters black and/or asian, why not alien races? I'm all for it!

    Although, George Lucas caught hell for making his alien races black and/or asian stereotypes, so they'd have to be very careful about it.
    It's just funny when you think about all the sci-fi fans and creators who love Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, etc., etc. If you confronted them with a "normal" alien race that was black or Asian rather than white, they'd die of shock.

    Same thing in the fantasy genre: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, How to Train Your Dragon, etc., etc. There's no reason whatsoever that elves, dwarves, or fairies should be white.

    Hardcore fans say, "We love these genres as long as the most challenging thing we have to deal with is white actors in makeup."Ahhh, yes, I see what you mean. Geez. Imagine "Avatar" without the blue Na'vi. Which were really supposed to be "alien" Native Americans.Your first comment was on point. Yes, they'd have to avoid making them a race of Jar Jar Binks types. But that's easily done.

    I wish the Na'vi weren't so humanlike, but they're a step forward. If only the humans in Avatar weren't mostly white.Were there ANY black characters in Avatar?!I don't remember. Michelle Rodriguez is the biggest "ethnic" character I remember.

    The point applies to humans in sci-fi too. For instance, why wouldn't the Chinese dominate space travel 300 or 3,000 years from now? Who knows, but it's certainly possible.

    But aliens are supposed to be strange. The point of sci-fi aliens is to challenge us to think differently. So there's really no excuse for making them the white male norm seen in American media.

    A double-edged sword

    A couple of friends double-teamed me:Doctor Who had them in all colors, shapes and sizes, played by actors in all races, sizes and shapes. I am currently watching all the available episodes, and started with Season 1, episode 1, currently on season 24.

    Oh, and a lot of the actors in Lord of the Rings were Maori.
    And:See, here's the problem I can see popping up, Rob--the first time an entire alien race is depicted with black or asian as their "base," there'll be hordes of people complaining that minorities are being depicted poorly; strange, inhuman, etc. "Why can't the whites be alien and a [black or asian] as the hero?!" It's a double edged sword.Doctor Who does have a nice array of truly alien aliens. And its "human" races are often mixed. But I don't recall any "human" race that was entirely black or Asian. A white race that has some blacks and Asians isn't the same thing.

    I understand the problem of portraying minorities as aliens. You'd have to proceed carefully, but I think you could do it.

    Doctor Who visits worlds that may or may not be Earth a million years in the future. There's no reason the cast of such an episode couldn't be black or Asian.

    Firefly was set in a hybrid Anglo-Chinese universe. Many of the background characters and crew could've been Chinese.

    Some major world in Star Wars like Coruscant or Corellia could be predominantly black or Asian. Etc.

    A lot of the supporting or "guest" worlds on Star Trek could've been black or Asian. Like Betazoid in ST:TNG, Bajor in DS9, or Ocampa in Voyager. These worlds had a range of characters and wouldn't necessarily be pegged as exotic or inferior. Some characters would be good and some would be bad, creating a realistic sense of diversity.

    For more on the subject, see Missing Aliens in Star Trek and Colonialism Inspired Science Fiction.

    February 08, 2015

    Review of Annumpa Luma

    Comic's First Issue Tells of World War I Code-Talkers

    By Charlie SherpaThe comic book "Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers," recently released by the Indigenous Narratives Collective, Austin, Texas, helps introduce readers to a rich history of Native American soldiers on 20th century battlefields.

    The comic is written and illustrated by Arigon Starr. A series and/or collected volume of comics is planned.

    By Debbie ReeseStarr's comic reaches back to World War I. In Annumpa Luma, she deftly provides readers with a solid chunk of history. The comic opens with Choctaw soldiers in the trenches. They're talking Choctaw to each other... and the idea of their language as a code begins to take shape. They wonder if anyone will be open to their idea, because in government boarding schools, they were punished for speaking their language. Meetings take place, a test is devised, and the code is implemented. This is all conveyed through the perspective of Corporal Solomon Louis. His reunion with his wife, when he returns home, is heartwarming.

    On the final pages of her comic, Starr lists the names of the Choctaw soldiers, and says that in 2013, the Choctaw Code Talkers received the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor.
    New Indigenous Superheroes Save the Day

    Speaking tribal languages is just one superpower among heroes gracing the pages of comic books.

    By Taté Walker
    “One of the main goals, to be sure, is Native folks are at the center of these stories. They aren’t the sidekicks, not some shaman helping the hero,” Lee insists. “We want to make sure we’re representing in a way that is respectful, appropriate, and real, and comics is a medium where we can change a lot of the negative stereotypes that proliferate mainstream entertainment, because comics is where young people read. Native kids are searching for heroes who look like them… And here comes Captain Paiute, who screws up anyone who comes trying to hurt the rez–that’s his job.”

    Information about Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers, Vol. 1, and other titles, including Captain Paiute, Pueblo Jones and Kaui (Indigenous Fairy Tales), can be found at the INC Comics website, www.inccomics.com. The group also invites and encourages indigenous writers and artists to join INC Comics. Inquiries can be made on the site’s Contact page.
    Comment:  All this is good, but $5.00 is a steep price for a 12-page comic. You can find the information online in many locations--for instance:

    Choctaw code talkers

    Choctaw Indian Code Talkers of World War I

    Choctaw Code Talkers Association

    Choctaw Code Talkers

    Therefore, I can't recommend the comic except for Native-comics aficionados like me. For most people, it's a pricey way to learn about the codetalkers.