"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Magical Negro

The flip side to the negative stereotypes, from Strange Horizons.

"These days, however, I don't think the Magical Negro's existence is so conscious. I hypothesize that the Magical Negro in film continues to live because a lot of the less savory beliefs about race are still in the American public's psyche. And because so much of art these days is commercial, the great machine needs to "give 'em what they know."

"[Stephen]King's Magical Negroes most often fit the stereotype of a person of color with mystical powers. According to general racial pigeonholes, people of color, especially blacks, are more primitive than whites. And because they are more primitive, they are more in tune with their primitive powers, the magic of the earth and spirits. One may see a lot of these assumptions with Native Americans, also. It is also this stereotype that the myths of the oversexed black woman and the well-endowed black man spring from, for to be primitive is often equated with being more sexual. The stereotypical primitive person of color is familiar to audiences and thus instantly understood. To assume such a role implies a certain primitiveness about all people of color."

Reminds me of Jubilee, Dr. Margaret Walker's historical novel about her great-grandmother, in which a white woman's insistence that "colored grannies" are the best (midwives) paves the way for her family to settle in an all-white town after the Civil War.

Blacks as saints or sinners, but nothing in-between, I guess. Kinda like artists...hm, wonder if it's the outsider category coming into play. Scapegoats and messiahs, but not just plain folks.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lose Weight! Get Laid! Find God!: The All-in-One Life Planner

"The Americans go for self-help books, the French buy unreadable philosophy books and the British buy books filled with trivia, which are often made up and generally aimed at being funny," Nielsen adds. "Those are the stereotypes, and they're not completely misleading."

Elephants' tears and ants' "arseholes" at the Guardian.

What's on your Christmas book list?
"In France, certainly, they buy a different kind of book. In amazon.fr's chart of the top 20 bestselling titles this Christmas is one by Schopenhauer. True, it comes in at 19, and it isn't the German pessimist's symphonic chef d'oeuvre The World as Will and Representation, but L'Art d'avoir toujours raison, a book on how to win arguments. But let's not spoil the story. As you know, Schopenhauer's most trenchant philosophical observation was that humans are eternally tormented by desire and it is only in the stilling of the human will - be it through disinterested aesthetic contemplation or ascetic renunciation - that one can elude the penal servitude of...our human fate."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Vegetarian vs. Local vs. Organic and Fair Trade

Is it better to eat locally grown food, or to promote imported crops grown sustainably that support the rain forests? If we don't support sustainable rain forest crops, what can the farmers do except cut the trees down to sell the wood to make a living?

Interesting article at SF Gate.

I'm reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, in which the author insists repeatedly that it is okay to kill and eat animals, when what we really need is to hear that it is okay NOT to -- at least those of us who were raised with the four food groups/food pyramid nonsense.

Cuke photo from Howstuffworks.com Sorry I can't get it to link to the page.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Internet Was Not Our First Revolution

From Doris Lessing's Nobel prize acceptance speech, at the Guardian:

We are a jaded lot, we in our world - our threatened world. We are good for irony and even cynicism. Some words and ideas we hardly use, so worn out have they become. But we may want to restore some words that have lost their potency.

The storyteller is deep inside everyone of us. The story-maker is always with us. Let us suppose our world is attacked by war, by the horrors that we all of us easily imagine. Let us suppose floods wash through our cities, the seas rise . . . but the storyteller will be there, for it is our imaginations which shape us, keep us, create us - for good and for ill. It is our stories that will recreate us, when we are torn, hurt, even destroyed. It is the storyteller, the dream-maker, the myth-maker, that is our phoenix, that represents us at our best, and at our most creative.

More links here.