Lazy Saturday Reads: The Museum of African American History and Culture

The first direct morning sun paints the Washington Monument a shade of red near the Smithsonian Institute''s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Jahi Chikwendiu

The first direct morning sun paints the Washington Monument a shade of red near the Smithsonian Institute”s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Jahi Chikwendiu

Good Afternoon!!

I’m devoting this post to articles about the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened this morning. I think we all need rest from the campaign and the endless advice on how Hillary should behave at Monday night’s debate.

The Chicago Tribune: New Smithsonian museum chronicling black history opens: ‘It’s absolutely breathtaking.’

Centuries of struggles and strife, decades of planning and pain, and years of hoping for a place that African-American history can call home will culminate as President Barack Obama officially opens the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

A shining bronze beacon on the National Mall, only steps away from a monument dedicated to a slaveholder president, the new Smithsonian will chronicle the complex relationship between the United States and a people it once enslaved, and tell the story of those who worked to make the necessary changes to bring the country to where it is today.

Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells

“It doesn’t gauze up some bygone era or avoid uncomfortable truths,” Obama said in his weekly radio and internet talk. “Rather, it embraces the patriotic recognition that America is a constant work in progress, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is within our collective power to align this nation with the high ideals of our founding.” ….

Ground was broken for the new museum in 2012 on a five-acre tract near the Washington Monument after a decades-long push for an African-American museum on the National Mall. Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, a longtime civil rights icon, worked with then-Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas to usher legislation through Congress, and President George W. Bush signed into law the bill that allowed the museum to move forward.

Construction was completed earlier this year on the 400,000-square-foot museum designed by British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye. The museum strikes a unique shape on the Mall with its three-tiered bronze exterior panels inspired by an African wooden column. The patterned bronze colored tiles are inspired by 19th century ironwork created by slaves in the South, and allow sunlight into the museum through patterned openings.

Inside, museum officials say they have nearly 3,000 items occupying 85,000 square feet of exhibition space including exhibits like a Tuskegee Airmen training plane and the casket of Emmett Till, a murdered African-American boy whose death helped rally the civil rights movement.

“It’s been 100 years in the making. So many people have dreamed about this fought for this and wanted this to happen,” said U.S. Circuit Judge Robert L. Wilkins, who wrote the book “Long Road to Hard Truth” about the struggle to get the museum open. “It’s going to be a testament to their work and a testament to so many of our ancestors that this museum will open on the Mall.”

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

The Twin Cities Pioneer Press has a wonderful collection of photos museum exhibits.

As a child in St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood in the 1950s, there were few places Marvin Anderson could learn about African American history.

“You grew up knowing more about European history than you do about your own history,” Anderson said. “African American history was neglected — either though ignorance or through suppression.”

But with the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture on Saturday in Washington, D.C., his grandchildren will have access to that history.

“A museum that’s constructed to preserve and interpret the contributions and accomplishments of the African American community means a lot to me as a person,” Anderson said. “And it will mean a lot to my grandchildren.”

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks

The Washington Post: African American Museum opening: ‘This place is more than a building. It is a dream come true.’

More than 100 years after it was first proposed and 13 years after it was authorized by Congress, the National Museum of African American History and Culture opens today in Washington.

“There were some who said it couldn’t happen, who said ‘you can’t do it,’ but we did it,” said Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who led the charge to make the museum a reality. “This place is more than a building. It is a dream come true.”

The long-awaited moment is being heralded by a weekend of celebrations across the city, in what the museum director Lonnie Bunch has called a “mini inauguration.” The most anticipated event is the grand opening ceremony on the National Mall, which is being broadcast on C-SPAN and streamed online, including at washingtonpost.com. More than 7,000 official guests heard speeches from Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and former president George W. Bush, who signed the 2003 bill that authorized the museum….

Since the day Obama presided over the museum’s groundbreaking in 2012, an impressive 400,000 square foot structure has been built in the shadow of the Washington Monument. Serving as home to more than36,000 artifacts, the museum exists to both memorialize and educate, and most importantly to museum director Bunch, cement the African American story’s place in the American story.

Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson

Jonathan Capehart: Lonnie Bunch: Even if you’re white, ‘the story of slavery is still your story.’

“This is a story that is too big to be in the hands of one community,” saidLonnie Bunch. “It really is the story that has shaped us all.”

That story is that of African Americans. And on this weekend of the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), the seventh episode of “Cape Up” is my conversation with its founding director Lonnie Bunch. The stunning structure on the Mall is the physical manifestation of a multi-decade effort that kicked into high gear in 2005 when Bunch, a former Smithsonian curator who was president of the Chicago Historical Society, was tapped to helm the effort.

In 2003, President George W. Bush signed the bill that made the national African American history museum a legal reality. But that was the easy part.

“The biggest part of this job was to make people believe that this could happen. But what it really meant was that I had to find ways to believe it. And to take risks,” Bunch told me at the museum last week. “For example, when we did the groundbreaking, we didn’t have all the money. So what I did is, well, let’s make the hole anyway because I knew that Congress wouldn’t let a hole stand next to the Washington monument.” ….

“We went around the country, stole the idea from ‘Antique Roadshow,’ asked people to bring out their stuff. We didn’t take it,” Bunch explained. “We helped them preserve grandma’s old shawl, that wonderful 19th-century photograph. But what happened was that people get excited and they’d say, ‘Well do you want it?’ And we would say, ‘Give it to local museums first.’ Then if it was really significant it came back to D.C.”

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Smithsonian.com: The New Exhibition on Black Music Could Give Other Museums a Run for Their Money.

Music is so much a part of black America, it pops up all over the vast new National Museum of African American History and Culture. From Harriet Tubman’s modest hymnal of spirituals to Sly Stone’s signed Fender Rhodes keyboard and Public Enemy’s boom box that helps close the 20th-century cultural history, there’s no separating the importance of music from the history on hand.

But when one arrives at the entry to the fourth floor “Musical Crossroads” exhibition, heralded by the sparkly red finish on Chuck Berry’s Cadillac, the futuristic fantasy of the Parliament-Funkadelic mothership replica, and Michael Jackson’s Victory Tour fedora, it is as if entering its own inclusive African-American Music History Museum.

And inclusive it is—with displays on African music imported by the enslaved to this country, devotional music that helped bind black communities against all odds, gospel, minstrel music, ragtime, jazz, blues, rhythm & blues, rock ’n’ roll, hip-hop and EDM. Yes, and some country stars of color as well.

One of the challenges of opening the Smithsonian’s newest major museum was acquiring its contents from scratch. Sure, the nearby National Museum of American History already had a lot of artifacts, from Scott Joplin sheet music to Dizzy Gillespie’s B-flat trumpet.

Emmett Till

Emmett Till

The Root: Emmett Till’s Casket Is ‘One of Our Most Sacred Objects’ at African-American History Museum.

Curating for a museum is no doubt a difficult job, and one of the more difficult decisions that Lonnie Bunch III—founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture—remembers grappling with was whether to include the casket that once held the brutalized remains of Emmett Till.

“I remember struggling with, ‘Should we collect that?’” Bunch said, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Even after he accepted the donation of Till’s casket by Till’s family after his remains had been exhumed and reinterred, Bunch wondered if it was “too ghoulish” to include in an exhibit.

Nonetheless, Bunch decided to move forward with the idea, saying that it was essential to explore stories such as that of Till—the Chicago teen who was brutally murdered for whistling at a white woman while visiting family in Mississippi—in order to represent the full story of the African-American experience.

“You couldn’t tell the story of the African-American experience without wrestling with difficult issues, without creating those moments where people have to ponder the pain of slavery, segregation or racial violence,” Bunch said.

Smithsonian.com: Two Hungry Reporters Dig Into the Sweet Home Café at the African American History Museum.

When the National Museum of African American History and Culture hosted a soft opening, we came hungry. The museum, more than 100 years in the making, brimmed with treasures. Untold stories and famous tales burst to life through artifacts in the exhibitions. But we headed straight down the museum’s magnificent central staircase to the below-ground Sweet Home Café. We were on assignment to report on the food. And reader, we did.

 The 12,000-square foot café is divided into four stations, which honor the geographic regions of African-American culture—the North States, Agricultural South, Creole Coast and Western Range. We sampled from each, stuffing ourselves with the rich offerings, Georgia shrimp and Anson Mills stone ground grits, slow-cooked collards and cornbread sticks, empanadas heaped with black eye peas, golden corn and chanterelles, not to mention Johnston County sweet potato pie. What we couldn’t eat, we shamelessly snuck home in our purses—paper napkins lovingly protected a Wild Turkey pecan pie and the remains of a BBQ buffalo brisket sandwich.

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To eat the food at the Sweet Home Café is to take a bite out of history—an authenticity of ingredients and culinary skill passed down and reinterpreted by generations of black home cooks and gourmet chefs around the country. This food has been shaped by regional cuisine and distinctive cultures, but also by history, something impossible to be forgotten when you see the counters and stools lining two walls of the 400-seat cafe, recalling the Greensboro sit-ins in North Carolina and the brave civil rights activists that sat down to peacefully protest Woolworth’s white’s-only lunch counter service in 1960. While we eat, images and quotes from historical and modern black voices are the backdrop, from the towering image of the Greensboro Four to a quote by Michael W. Twitty, who pens the food blog Afroculinaria.

“Our food is our flag…it sits at the intersection of the South, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America,” he writes.

I know there’s plenty of other news out there, but I hope you’ll take the time to dive into one of these great articles. Of course this is an open thread, so please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread.


Thursday Reads: Trump Themed Street Art and News of the Day

passion_trump

Good Morning!!

Only a few more days till the first presidential debate of 2016, and the campaign is just getting crazier and crazier. Yesterday Donald Trump admitted that he’s still a a birther. Kevin Drum:

Ben Garbarek, a local news reporter in Toledo, asked Donald Trump today what it was that changed his mind about President Obama’s birthplace:

BG: This announcement earlier this week with you saying that you believe President Obama was in fact born in the United States, after all the years where you’ve expressed some doubt, what changed?

Trump: Well I just wanted to get on with, I wanted to get on with the campaign. A lot of people were asking me questions. We want to talk about jobs. We want to talk about the military. We want to talk about ISIS and get rid of ISIS. We want to talk about bringing jobs back to this area because you’ve been decimated so we just wanted to get back on the subject of jobs, military, taking care of our vets, etc.

Just as everyone suspected, Trump made his insulting, half-assed statement that Obama was born in the U.S. because he was hoping to just move on from his 5-year campaign against President Obama’s character and identity. If this isn’t a question in the debate, we’ll know that Lester Holt–who has been outed as a registered Republican–is biased in favor of Trump.

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Yesterday, Buzz Feed published an amazing old radio interview with Trump by Laura Ingraham: Trump In Crazy 2011 Interview: “I’m Very Proud” To Be A Birther.

When Ingraham asks Trump in the interview about Gov. Tim Pawlenty saying he believed Obama is a US citizen, Trump replied, “He doesn’t want to be labeled as a birther probably.”

“I’m proud to be,” he said. “I’m very proud of it. I’m very proud of it. I don’t like the term. I think it’s a demeaning term to the people that believe he should have a birth certificate. Some people believe he was not born in this country.

“And when people ask me that question, I just can’t be sure because nobody knows. How about when his family is arguing over what hospital? You know his family members are arguing over which hospital. Then he writes that letter, supposedly to a hospital, and in the letter he puts a cute little sentence — ’the place of my birth’—and the doctors didn’t even know about it. There’s something very strange going on here.”

Earlier in the interview, Trump discussed the possibility that President Obama might not want to release his birth certificate because it might list him as a Muslim.

“He doesn’t have a birth certificate, or if he does, there’s something on that certificate that’s very bad for him,” Trump said. “Somebody told me — and I have no idea whether this is bad for him or not, but perhaps it would be — that, where it says religion, it might have Muslim. And if you’re a Muslim, you don’t change your religion, by the way. But somebody said maybe that’s the reason why he doesn’t want to show it. I don’t think so. I just don’t think he has a birth certificate, and everybody has a birth certificate.” ….

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And there’s this bit of insanity:

“Now, you know, when I hear he took an ad in the paper, his parents, these are poor people,” Trump said. “When did you ever hear of anybody taking an ad in the paper? I see so much fraud in this world. An ad like that could have been staged. I don’t mean staged at the time. I mean could have been computer-generated five years ago, eight years ago, two years ago. It could have been computer-generated.”

I guess to Trump middle-class folks like Obama’s grandparents are “poor people.”

We’ve seen the stupidity of many Trump supporters, but this one takes the cake: A Trump campaign chair in Ohio says there was ‘no racism’ before Obama. The Guardian:

Donald Trump’s campaign chair in a prominent Ohio county has claimed there was “no racism” during the 1960s and said black people who have not succeeded over the past half-century only have themselves to blame.

Kathy Miller, who is white and chair of the Republican nominee’s campaign in Mahoning County, made the remarks during a taped interview with the Guardian’s Anywhere but Washington series of election videos.

“If you’re black and you haven’t been successful in the last 50 years, it’s your own fault. You’ve had every opportunity, it was given to you,” she said.

“You’ve had the same schools everybody else went to. You had benefits to go to college that white kids didn’t have. You had all the advantages and didn’t take advantage of it. It’s not our fault, certainly.”

Miller also called the Black Lives Matter movement “a stupid waste of time” and said lower voter turnout among African Americans could be related to “the way they’re raised”.

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Now that’s deplorable, but not all that surprising. After all, Trump himself said on Tuesday that “African-Americans are in their worst shape ‘ever, ever, ever'” I guess he never heard of slavery, lynching, and Jim Crow. Sopan Deb at CBS News:

KENANSVILLE, N.C. — Donald Trump made another eyebrow-raising comment in his efforts to speak to the African-American community Tuesday, telling a rally in North Carolina that blacks in the United States are in their worst shape “ever, ever, ever.”

“We’re going to rebuild our inner cities because our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape that they’ve ever been in before,” Trump told the crowd. “Ever, ever, ever.”

Trump’s comments came in a town named for a slaveowner’s family: Kenansville was founded in the early 1800s and the Kenan family, according to the town’s website, owned “20 to 50 slaves.” As he has done in other recent speeches, Trump compared inner city shootings to war-torn countries like Afghanistan.

“You take a look at the inner cities: You get no education. You get no jobs. You get shot walking down the street,” he said.

“They’re worse, I mean honestly, places like Afghanistan are safer than some of our inner cities.”

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Then yesterday afternoon, Trump taped a “town hall meeting” on “African American issues” hosted by Fox News’ Sean Hannity. The audience appeared to be made up entirely of white people. Cleveland.com: Donald Trump calls for expansion of ‘stop-and-frisk’ on ‘Hannity’ Fox News taping in Cleveland Heights.

“I see what’s going on here, I see what’s going on in Chicago,” Trump said, according to a preview video posted on FoxNews.com. “I think stop-and-frisk, in New York City, it was so incredible the way it worked. And, we had a very good mayor. But New York City was incredible the way that worked. So I think that would be one step you could do.”

“Stop-and-frisk” refers to a policy of stopping and searching pedestrians under the theory that it may help police find guns and other weapons, and get them off the street. Opponents question its effectiveness, and say stop-and-frisk is demeaning, and disproportionately targets minorities. A New York federal judge in 2013 declared it unconstitutional.

Bill de Blasio successfully ran for mayor of New York City in 2013 on a platform that involved abandoning stop-and-frisk. Cleveland Councilman Zack Reed unsuccessfully pushed for its implementation in Cleveland in 2014. Other cities that have implemented stop-and-frisk — and later agreed to limit its use — include Chicago and Newark, New Jersey.

The legal basis for stop-and-frisk stems from a 1963 case from Cleveland — Terry v. Ohio — that eventually made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Attorney Louis Stokes, who later became a congressman, argued on behalf of John W. Terry, who was stopped by a Cleveland police officer while standing on a street corner in front of a jewelry store at 1276 Euclid Avenue.

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To top it all off, Trump said on Fox and Friends this morning that his federal stop and frisk policy will consist of police officers taking guns away from black people. DailyKos:

FOX AND FRIENDS: will you explain what that is to my folks down in South Carolina that don’t really deal with stop and frisk? What exactly is it and what are the pros and cons?

TRUMP: Well, there are different levels. and you have somebody coming up who is the expert on it but basically they will—if they see, you know, they are proactive and if they see a person possibly with a gun or they think may have a gun, they will see the person and they will look and they will take the gun away. They will stop, they will frisk, and they will take the gun away and they won’t have anything to shoot with. I mean, how it’s not being used in Chicago is—to be honest with you, it’s a quite unbelievable, and you know the police, the local police, they know who has a gun, who shouldn’t be having a gun. They understand that.

History shows that blacks and Hispanics are primarily the people who get stopped and frisked, and Trump knows it.

A construction worker stands in front of a piece of street art portraying prospective U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump, in east London

Meanwhile, the good news is that Hillary Clinton is doing much better in the polls this week. NBC News:

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton leads Republican Donald Trump by six points among likely voters heading into the first presidential debate on Monday, according to a brand-new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

The survey – which was conducted after Clinton’s return to the campaign trail following her bout with pneumonia – shows a bigger advantage for the secretary of state than did polls taken during the heightened scrutiny of her health….

“Despite arguably the worst few weeks of her candidacy, the fundamentals still point toward a Hillary Clinton victory,” says Democratic pollster Fred Yang of Hart Research Associates, who conducted the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies.

McInturff adds, “Donald Trump has closed the margin since August, but as we head towards the debate, still needs to push this campaign closer. The good news for him is the electorate narrowly agrees with him that America has lost ground and wants to see a change in direction.”

In a four-way horserace, Clinton gets support from 43 percent of likely voters and Trump gets 37 percent, while Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson is at 9 percent and the Green Party’s Jill Stein is at 3 percent.

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And the best news of all: Barack Obama is coming and he’s fired up! Bloomberg: Obama Throws Himself Into 2016 Race Hellbent on Clinton Victory.

Barack Obama is about to launch a presidential campaign blitz for Hillary Clinton unprecedented in the modern era, pledging a dramatic commitment of time and resources to a contest he now unabashedly frames as a referendum on his personal and political prestige.

Obama plans to devote at least one to two days each week in October to campaign for Clinton through rallies, targeted radio and television interviews, social media outreach and fundraising, said an adviser who requested anonymity.

In addition, the president’s aides have told the Clinton campaign he would be willing to appear in television ads for her. His wife, Michelle, has already cut radio, online and TV ads for the Democratic nominee, another aide said, also requesting anonymity to discuss internal planning.

Obama’s involvement comes at a critical time, with enthusiasm for Clinton lagging behind support for Obama among the young people and minorities who helped power him to the presidency. At the start of the campaign, Clinton’s camp once questioned how closely to embrace Obama but now her aides are eager to have his help.

“From the beginning, we have been interested to have him out there as often as they can spare him between now and November,” said Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon. “As we get closer to the finish line, there’s no one better to help make the closing argument than President Obama.”

 

I’ll end with a couple of fun videos.

The Dali Lama makes fun of Donald Trump.

 

Hillary Clinton appears on Funny or Die’s “Between Two Ferns.”

 

What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads

trump-foundation

Good Afternoon!!

As usual I’ve been having a difficult time figuring out where to begin my post. Then I saw the new story by David Farenthold at The Washington Post. This one has to be the story of the day: Trump used $258,000 from his charity to settle legal problems.

Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses, according to interviews and a review of legal documents.

Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump’s charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against “self-dealing” — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.

In one case, from 2007, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club faced $120,000 in unpaid fines from the town of Palm Beach, Fla., resulting from a dispute over the size of a flagpole.

In a settlement, Palm Beach agreed to waive those fines — if Trump’s club made a $100,000 donation to a specific charity for veterans. Instead, Trump sent a check from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a charity funded almost entirely by other people’s money, according to tax records.

In another case, court papers say one of Trump’s golf courses in New York agreed to settle a lawsuit by making a donation to the plaintiff’s chosen charity. A $158,000 donation was made by the Trump Foundation, according to tax records.

The other expenditures involved smaller amounts. In 2013, Trump used $5,000 from the foundation to buy advertisements touting his chain of hotels in programs for three events organized by a D.C. preservation group. And in 2014, Trump spent $10,000 of the foundation’s money for a portrait of himself bought at a charity fundraiser.

Or, rather, another portrait of himself.

Yes, that was in addition to the $20,000 Trump spent on a six-foot tall portrait of himself. Read many more details at the link.

Next up, Donald Trump Jr. provides evidence that white supremacy is at the core of the Trump campaign. Yesterday Jr. tweeted this message:

It turns out that this is a well-known white supremacist meme. They used to use M&M’s but switched to Skittles after George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin.

Philip Bump at The Washington Post explains the mathematical fallacy behind Junior’s tweet: Donald Trump Jr. inadvertently encourages America to scoop up refugees by the handful.

If there were a bowl of delicious fruitish-flavored Skittles in front of you and three would kill you, you should not pick up a handful and start eating. That would be a very, very bad idea.

This idea easily scales downward. If you had a carton of eggs and three of the eggs were poisonous, you should absolutely not eat from that carton. If I give you three cookies and all three are poisonous, again: Avoid! I am actively trying to kill you for some reason, perhaps because you are bad at math.

The problem for Donald J. Trump, Jr. is that scaling it the other way doesn’t work as well — and that’s why the part in blue doesn’t apply.

So let’s figure out what the analogy is. The libertarian (and Koch brothers-backed) think tank Cato Institute published a report last week assessingthe risk posed by refugees. That report stated that, each year, the risk to an American of being killed by a refugee in a terror attack is 1 in 3.64 billion, as Huffington Post’s Elise Foley noted on Twitter. From the report:

From 1975 through 2015, the annual chance that an American would be murdered in a terrorist attack carried out by a foreign-born terrorist was 1 in 3,609,709. Foreigners on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) killed zero Americans in terrorist attacks, whereas those on other tourist visas killed 1 in 3.9 million a year. The chance that an American would be killed in a terrorist attack committed by a refugee was 1 in 3.64 billion a year.

In other words, for every 10.92 billion years that Americans live — one Skittle, if you will — refugees will kill an American in a terror attack in three.

There’s more logic at the the link, but the real story here is that Donald Trump Jr. gets his news from Brietbart and probably other white supremacist sources.

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The Washington Post editorial board is again excoriating Trump: Birtherism is Donald Trump’s Big Lie.

WHAT DONALD TRUMP popularized as a Big Lie — the birther myth about President Obama — is now a shibboleth among his followers and many Republicans. It matters not a whit that Mr. Trump has finally, for blatant political purposes, admitted that the president was born in the United States; large numbers of his partisans, and of Republicans generally, still don’t believe Mr. Obama has a legitimate claim to the office he has held for nearly eight years.

Birtherism, a hoax perpetrated on Americans, is proof positive of the enduring efficacy of the Big Lie, the proposition that people will sooner believe a monumental falsehood than a trivial one, especially if it is repeated often enough. The cost of such a hoax is not only to the truth but also to the democratic process, which is rendered ridiculous by the ensuing debate. Mr. Trump has revealed his own facility with fraud and deceit, and he has also exposed how vulnerable democracy is when confronted with a charlatan-celebrity, bereft of principles and willing to say anything to grab headlines.

The cancer of corruption perpetuated by Mr. Trump’s dazzling dishonesty has infected not only his campaign but also the Republican Party, which falls in line, sheeplike, to defend his every lie.

Now Mr. Trump says falsely that Hillary Clinton was the originator of birtherism? GOP officials say so, too. Now Mr. Trump claims credit for putting to rest an “issue” he himself perpetuated? GOP officials say so, too. No pronouncement is too preposterous for Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and the party’s other unscrupulous grandees.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Tom Toles Editorial Cartoon

Tom Toles Editorial Cartoon

How does Trump get away with it? Dakinikat sent me this explanation from CNBC: Why Trump gets away with huge lies and Clinton gets trashed for little fibs.

…why is Trump getting a pass from the voters? No it’s not because Trump is a man and Clinton is a woman. No, it’s not because some powerful media types secretly want Trump to win. You’ll start to find the real answer when you learn a simple legal rule that boasts a rare combination of enforcing free market fairness and understanding human nature. It’s called “puffing,” and that is the official term that legally protects salespeople and businesses from making boastful claims about their products and services that no one really expects to be provable by empirical facts. Legal protections for puffing are the reasons why you can’t sue Snapple for saying it’s made from the “best stuff on Earth,” or go after Budweiser for calling itself the “king of beers.” You get it, right?

And when it comes to puffing, nobody has done it more and for longer in the public than Donald J. Trump. Every hotel he builds is the most elegant, every golf course the most beautiful and challenging, and every contestant on “The Apprentice” had a 200 I.Q. Trump’s natural state is building up his brand and properties in a way that would make a used car salesman blush. The public is used to it and accepts it just as we accept that used car salesman boasting about the 2005 SUV he’s pushing. If we ever get angry at that boasting salesman, it’s only after that car breaks down. Otherwise, we believe we look like nitpicking maniacs to quibble over every conceited claim.

The voters are giving Trump much of the same kind of a pass for the same reasons. And Trump is helping achieve this result by making sure he maintains his salesman’s image for as long as possible at every public appearance and interview.

Okay, but I don’t buy that this has nothing to do with sexism or the long history of the media viciously attacking Hillary for every tiny “misstep.”

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Police around the country are still shooting and killing black boys and men, but somehow they avoided killing terror suspect Amad Khan Rahami and they often do the same when they shoot at white people. It’s just heartbreaking that cops in Columbus Ohio felt the need to kill a 13-year-old boy who was only 5 feet tall and weight less than 100 pounds as he tried to run away from them. Just look at the photo of him in this story in The National Memo:

Tyre King, the 13-year-old African-American boy recently killed by police in Columbus, Ohio, was running away when he was fatally struck by several bullets, according to an independent medical examiner hired by the child’s family. Attorneys representing the family said Monday his loved ones were not allowed to view King’s body on the night of his death and will be forced to wait six to eight weeks for official autopsy results.

The King family hired Francisco J. Diaz, a practicing medical examiner in Wayne County, Michigan, to look into the death. Diaz determined the boy was shot three times. The bullets entered through the left side of his body, any of which could have been the fatal shot. King was struck in his left temple, his left collarbone and in his left flank. King was said to be reaching for a BB gun in his waistband when he was shot three times.

Tulsa police shot and killed an unarmed man with his hands in the air:

In footage filmed from a police helicopter, Terence Crutcher, 40, can be seen slowly walking from the edge of a street north of Tulsa toward his vehicle, which authorities said had been reported abandoned at 7:36 p.m. (8:36 p.m. ET) and left running in the middle of the road.

For several seconds, an officer follows Crutcher from behind with a gun trained on him. Three more officers then converge on the scene as Crutcher lowers his hands and approaches his SUV. While standing beside the driver’s side door, he suddenly drops to the street. Moments later, blood can be seen saturating his white t-shirt.

The Tulsa Police Department also released dash-cam video of the incident. NBC News:

During a news conference Monday, Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said that Officer Tyler Turnbough tasered Crutcher, and a second officer, Betty Shelby, fired at him after telling a dispatcher “that she’s not having cooperation from” Crutcher.

mandatory-birthing

Hillary Clinton reacted the clearly unjustified shooting: Policy Mic:

Hillary Clinton expressed outrage over the video released Monday showing police shooting and killing Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man who was stranded in the road after his car broke down, saying incidents like this one are “intolerable.”

Clinton made the comments on the Steve Harvey Morning Show, Harvey’s radio show, Tuesday morning.

“How many times do we have to see this in our country?” Clinton said, according to a transcript published by CNN’s Dan Merica. “In Tulsa, an unarmed man with his hands in the air. This is just unbearable. And it needs to be intolerable.”

She went on to say that white Americans need to combat the “implicit bias” that’s led to incidents like Crutcher’s death.

She also said that she personally appeal to white Americans, saying “this is not who we are” and we need to work to end bias in policing.

I’ll add some more links in the comment thread. What stories are you following today?


Oh yeah is it Sunday, Open Thread?

(That message above is my projected thought to Trump BTW…)

Holy shit! I completely forgot what day it was…

Today is Sunday and it is my turn to write the post. 

So, here is an open thread:

I will post some links in the comments below. 


Wednesday Reads: Open Thread

While I’m waiting at the local Social Security office, I will try to get this post out. My father is being stopped by the armed guard/federal cop for carrying his gun into the office. And if that wasn’t bad enough…he has to go on and on with the guy, how he has a concealed carry license…even though the dude is telling my dad that license doesn’t matter for shit. The office is considered a federal building. 

This is an open thread for now….please post any and all links you can, because it is just one of those shitty ass days. 


Wednesday Remembers Prince Myshkin

919gfaThere is a scene in the film The Producers (1968), where the character Leo Bloom…played marvelously by Gene Wilder, has a “nervous attack” when Broadway Producer Max Bialystock, the one and only Zero Mostel, touches his “blue blanket”…click the link below to see the video of the scene at TCM:

Producers, The (1967) — (Movie Clip) A Minor Compulsion

Nervous accountant Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) and desperate producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) discuss financial chicanery and psychological nuances in an early scene from Mel Brooks’The Producers, 1967.

gene-wilder-the-producers

The line in particular I want to point out is this one

After Leo has his hysterical fit in Max’s office and he calms down, Max says to him soothingly, “Yes, Prince Myshkin.” It’s an oblique insult, since Prince Myshkin is the title character of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot.

(More interesting tidbits if you care here: The Producers (1968 Film) – Influences and here: The Producers / YMMV – TV Tropes)

Actor Gene Wilder is shown in December 1980. (AP Photo)

Actor Gene Wilder is shown in December 1980. (AP Photo)

It was an obscure comment that many would have missed, had they not known who Prince Myshkin was…but if I could use it as an example of the subtle nature of Gene Wilder’s way of portraying his neurotic characters as crazy yes…but with that bit of humanity underneath.

Y’all know what I am talking about right? Maybe it is in the way he stared with those eyes, adding the sadness behind some of Hollywood’s most outrageous and hysterical characters.

37B1491400000578-3764037-Gene_Wilder_pictured_above_in_his_high_school_senior_photo_in_19-a-3_1472510623973Gene Wilder’s Understated Nuttiness – The New York Times

There was no mistaking Mr. Wilder, even when it seemed like putting him in certain roles was a mistake. That’s why they put him there. Mopey gunslinger in “Blazing Saddles” or mad scientist in “Young Frankenstein” (both from 1974)? A 1977 parody of Rudolph Valentino’s silent-movie erotics in “The World’s Greatest Lover” (which he wrote and directed)? All miscast, all the funnier for it. All thestranger.

Mr. Wilder’s eyes were famous. They glimmered even when — in, say, “The Producers” (1968), “Blazing Saddles” or “The Woman in Red” (1984) — he looked sad, even in the black and white of “Young Frankenstein.” (Although, acting next to Marty Feldman or Zero Mostel he didn’t seem to have eyes at all.) But when he spoofed Valentino, he telegraphed the gag by enhancing the diameter of his eyes so that he looked more lunatic than lusty. And his Willy Wonka spent that chocolate factory tour quietly on the verge of a nervous breakdown. For one thing, he never seemed to blink.

Mr. Wilder also had amazing diction. It was as crisp as a potato chip, as precise as some professors and as neat as the curls in his hair were a mess. It all came together when his characters fell apart. His performance in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (1971) was a master class of gradually shattering aplomb. Toward the end of the movie, when Wonka’s obsessive-compulsiveness overtakes him and he erupts at Charlie and his grandpa, who’ve inquired about why Charlie doesn’t win a lifetime of candy after all, Mr. Wilder’s rage struck a very young me the way “The Rite of Spring” shocked those Parisian ballet-goers in 1913. What kind of monster does this to people?

20160830-wilder-obituary-slide-OVIH-master768

Some of that shock came from Mr. Wilder’s punching every word in Wonka’s tirade. “Wrong, sir! Wrong!” he shouts, and continues, “You stole Fizzy-Lifting Drinks! You bumped into the ceiling, which now has to be washed and sterilized, so you get … nothing! You lose! Good day, sir!”

Then, just like that, he changes his mind. Mr. Hyde goes back to being Dr. Jekyll. And Charlie wins. Mr. Wilder made the character as unstable as he could make the protagonist of a supposed kiddie movie. But that was him in a nutshell: funny at both extremes. In “Young Frankenstein,” Mr. Wilder lies atop the monster his character has created, peeved that the creature beneath him has been aroused, not subdued as he requested. “Sedagive?” he barks, referring both to an earlier joke about a sedative and the current situation, and turning each syllable into a note of aggravated disbelief.

2016%2F08%2F29%2Ff8%2F59495dcfaa124451b4d519691045f7bb.c7d66alicublog: GENE WILDER, 1933-2016.

There are many great comic movie actors, and all of them have that thing called timing, but while many of them make it look easy, few of them make it look as natural as Wilder did. True, his characters were often outsized and manic, but they were grounded maniacs — you always knew each of them had a very good reason for his fits. When Leo Bloom in The Producers does that weird gibberish over the loss of his blue blanky — “ungh nuhngnuhngnuhng, ungh nuhngnuhngnuhng” — it’s not just crazy nutso shtick; you really feel the loss of that blue blanky and want him to get it back. (How awful Max Bialystock would have seemed if he didn’t give it back!) I love Jack Lemmon, but great as he is I think he wouldn’t have elicited the same feeling in that role; Lemmon, when manic, was clearly operating somewhere above the normal spectrum of human behavior (“Security!“). Wilder, on the other hand, made even his most outre behavior look perfectly normal. He was perfect for the post-psychedelic era; he made you comfortable with psychological wreckage.

Yet he could also surprise you with the unexpectedness of his readings. I’m not just talking about oddities like “Stop, don’t, come back,” but his offbeat way of realizing classic comic builds. Look at the “do not open that door” scene, rendered below: the payoff would probably be funny no matter what, but the absurdly inappropriate mildness of “let me out, let me out of here, get me the hell out of here” just kills me every time. He constantly gave you something fresh, yet after the initial shock it usually made perfect sense. For a performer, that’s not too bad a definition of genius.

 

 

The sad news that Gene Wilder passed a few days ago from complications from Alzheimer disease was very upsetting to me, his films and performances have peppered happy moments of my life.

gene-wilder-feat-uproxx

Gene Wilder Tribute: Mad Hatter Who Turned Off-Screen Neurosis Into Comedy Gold | Hollywood Reporter

Wilder’s work with Mel Brooks, Richard Pryor, Woody Allen and more made him one of the comedy titans of his generation.

Gene Wilder was the Mad Hatter of American screen comedy. He could make you laugh without even moving, his beatific half-smile always shading into a sinister smirk, his soft-spoken manner a flimsy mask for the whirling maelstrom of mischief beneath. With his radiant blue eyes, explosion of frizzy hair and otherworldly demeanor, Wilder was an unsettling clown and an unlikely leading man. But his offbeat energy helped create some of the greatest screen comedies, and biggest box-office hits, of his generation.

Born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee in 1933 to a Russian-Jewish immigrant father and a sickly mother who sometimes mistreated him, the young Wilder was bullied for being Jewish by other kids. As a young man, he did two years of military service in the psychiatry department of a U.S. army hospital, later spending many years in analysis working on his deep-seated feelings of guilt, shame and sexual repression. For a Jewish-American comedian, of course, there is no finer apprenticeship; Wilder certainly always laced his finest comic performances with an undercurrent of anguish. Tellingly, he cited Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights as a key inspiration because “it was funny, then sad, then both at the same time.”

Initially making his mark on Broadway, Wilder first registered on Hollywood’s radar with his small but scene-stealing appearance in Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967), all nervy intensity and deadpan mirth. His big break came a year later when Mel Brooks cast him in The Producers (1968) as Leo Bloom, the seethingly neurotic accountant recruited by Zero Mostel’s crooked Broadway operator Max Bialystock for a money-making scam reliant on the surefire failure of a tasteless stage musical about Hitler. Where Mostel is a wrecking ball of crazed energy on screen, Wilder balances him with Zen-like minimalism, despite the mounting panic in his eyes. The film earned him his first Academy Award nomination and cemented his star status.

Gene-Wilder-and-Gilda-Radner-744x997Wilder was talented in many ways other than acting, he was a writer and director too…

Wilder’s fruitful creative partnership with Brooks led to two further collaborations. In the bawdy western spoof Blazing Saddles (1972), he provides the zany plot’s calm emotional center as The Waco Kid, a legendary gunslinger with a surprisingly philosophical manner: “I must have killed more men than Cecil B. DeMille,” he sighs ruefully. Two years later, in the affectionate monochrome vintage-horror pastiche Young Frankenstein (1974), Wilder stars as a hapless descendant of cinema’s most infamous mad scientist, wittily blending vaudevillian shtick with stylized Expressionist mannerisms. It was conceived by Wilder, and Young Frankenstein earned him a second Oscar nod, this time as co-writer with Brooks.

Wilder and Brooks brought out the best in each other, and each of their filmographies would be unthinkable without the other. But the eccentric star’s most memorable screen incarnation was in a non-Brooks project as the eponymous confectionery tycoon in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). Director Mel Stuart’s musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s deliciously nasty children’s book was a box-office flop, but it is now firmly established as a beloved cult classic.

Wilder’s multilayered performance as Wonka — by turns menacing and playful, stern and tender, creepy and compassionate — is a master class in darkly surreal humor that set a new bar for generations of Batman and James Bond villains. Even today, it continues to resonate through remakes, musical tributes and an ever-evolving social-media meme featuring Wilder grinning manically in full mad-hatter mode.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Gregory Pace/BEI/BEI/Shutterstock (712363g) Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks Opening Night of the play 'Young Frankenstein' in New York, America - 07 Nov 2007

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Gregory Pace/BEI/BEI/Shutterstock (712363g)
Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks
Opening Night of the play ‘Young Frankenstein’ in New York, America – 07 Nov 2007

The obituary continues, talking about his roles with Richard Pryor, and his wife Gilda Radner…

After undergoing treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the turn of the millennium, Wilder mostly stayed away from acting in his autumn years. With his fourth wife, Karen Boyer, he preferred to busy himself with charity work, painting and writing comic novels. More recently, as he succumbed to the Alzheimer’s that would eventually hasten his death, he preferred to keep his illness hidden from the public. This was because, as his nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman explains, “he simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.”

Gene Wilder’s Genius Was His Simmering Hysteria — Vulture

As the news of his death spreads, everyone will think of his or her favorite insane-slow-burn Gene Wilder moment. The late Pauline Kael mentioned a quintessential one, the bit in Start the Revolution Without Me (1970) in which Wilder (as a haughty aristocrat) is informed that the noble bird on his shoulder is, in fact, dead. Wilder fixes the upstart with his laser-blue stare and says, with that eerie calm-that’s-being-slowly-strangled-to-death-by-escalating rage, “Repeat that.”

My own favorite is in Young Frankenstein (1974), which Wilder conceived and co-wrote with Mel Brooks. Here, with elaborate patience, Wilder’s Dr. Frankenstein poses the question to Marty Feldman’s Igor: What brain did the hunchback steal for the inexplicably brutal creature? “You won’t be mad?” asks Igor. “I. Will. Not. Be Mad.” By the time we hear, “Abby someone,” and the gentle but quivering, “Abby — who?” we are ready — eager — for the murderous explosion to come. No one built as exquisitely as Wilder from the genial, the gentle, the hopeful, to violent, no-holds-barred hysteria. At those moments, Wilder was unique — a genius.

From whence did this persona come? Born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee in 1933, Wilder spent much of his childhood as the object of anti-Semitic bullying, which was likely how he learned to keep his feelings under wraps while nursing an imagination of disaster. Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio compelled (coerced, bullied) him to tap into his dark side, but — unlike many Studio grads — Wilder used that newfound ability carefully, almost warily. In repose, he could be mistaken for a mild, Stan Laurel sidekick — and he was just that, in outline, opposite Zero Mostel’s Oliver Hardy in Brooks’s The Producers (1968). But there was always something seething underneath. As Willy Wonka in the clunky but fondly remembered Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Wilder made Roald Dahl’s sadism more family-friendly. But he still suggested — in the immortal phrase of “J.J. Hunsecker” — “a cookie full of arsenic.”

With his sympathy for the freaky outcast (nurtured by psychoanalysis), Wilder created Young Frankenstein, the rare parody that was also an act of celebration — of both the work being parodied and the originalFrankenstein myth. It was the apex of Wilder’s and Brooks’s series of collaborations, a succession of highs with almost no lows. When the two parted ways, both lost something. Wilder had a sentimental streak and a longing to be a “straight” romantic lead that led to vehicles like the weirdly flat The World’s Greatest Lover and the dire The Woman in Red. (Poor directing did in his attempt to do a Brooks-like parody with Feldman inThe Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’s Smarter Brother.) Brooks, who liked to cut the foreplay and jump right to hysteria, needed Wilder’s discipline and the grounding in psychological reality that came from Wilder’s Method training.

Wilder’s financial windfall came from his screen partnership with Richard Pryor, beginning with the blockbuster Silver Streak (1976), in which he was a passable romantic lead and, for a few moments, had something wonderfully jazzy going with Pryor. As a stereotypical ungainly white man, Wilder was a great foil for his edgy, African-American co-star. But in subsequent vehicles, Pryor lost that edge, and cocaine abuse addled his timing. And then there was Gilda Radner, Wilder’s third wife and the second woman in his life (the other was his mother) to die of ovarian cancer at a tragically young age. It was a love story offscreen, but onscreen with Radner he was perhaps too gentle. The madness had receded.

Rather than fight a business he no longer enjoyed, Wilder left the field — another tragedy, since he might have shifted into character parts the way other clowns with acting chops (Robin Williams, Albert Brooks) did. But he never abased himself, never betrayed his gifts, never sold his profession short. From his home in Connecticut, where he lived with his fourth wife, he wrote an upbeat memoir and several novels before Alzheimer’s took him.

His death will have the effect of sending us back to his work. You can savor his brief turn in Bonnie and Clyde, in which his high-strung conviviality exists astride a grave, and he freaks out Faye Dunaway’s Bonnie Parker. His scenes with Mostel in The Producers are classics, although the two didn’t rekindle the magic in the little-remembered American Film Theater production of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros. (It’s still worth a look to see Mostel transform into a rhinoceros in one of the roles that made him, onstage, a legend.) Blazing Saddles looms large, although as good as Cleavon Little is, the movie would have taken off into the stratosphere if Brooks had succeeded in casting Pryor in his prime. (The studio was too frightened of Pryor back then.)

Above all, re-watch Young Frankenstein, and learn. Watch Wilder be convulsively funny while serving as the straight man. Watch him lovingly yield the spotlight to the boisterous Feldman, the soulful Peter Boyle, the exquisitely tremulous Teri Garr, and the incomparably insouciant Madeline Kahn, among many others. With its emphasis on self-plumbing, the Method could produce actors too much in their own heads, but Wilder could go deep into himself and still be the greatest audience imaginable for his fellow clowns. That’s what lingers today. To be able to court madness in oneself while giving others a safe space to let their own creative spirits rip — that’s akin in comedy to saintliness.

There are many links I have for you that you may like to read about Gene Wilder:

Here’s to the Milder Gene Wilder – The New York Times

In This 2005 Interview, Gene Wilder Explains How He Learned To Get Laughs : NPR

[PHOTOS] Gene Wilder: Remembering A Comedy Movie Icon — Gallery | Deadline

Why celebrities like Gene Wilder choose a private death – The Washington Post

Hullabaloo –  Surely, he’s joking: R.I.P. Gene Wilder By Dennis Hartley

I guess I must have been in shock.

When I received a text from Digby asking if I’d heard about Gene Wilder, I steeled myself and immediately queried Mr. Google. There it was. But I refused to believe it. This just couldn’t be. That’s when I began a one-sided argument with my, erm…laptop:

“Wait a minute. Gene Wilder is no longer with us? Are you saying, he is no longer with us? Is that what you’re telling me, that Gene Wilder…is no longer here? No longer here. He was here, but now, he is not? IS THAT WHAT YOU’RE TRYING TO TELL ME?!”

Goddammit.

Sorry, but people that talented, that funny, are simply not allowed to just up and leave us.

97407785c3d159f3d9d108415a1373fdNo, they do not just up and leave us, Wilder has left us  a treasure trove of film to remember him…Where You Can Watch Gene Wilder Movies on Demand — Vulture

Our Writers Remember Gene Wilder’s Creative Legacy

While discussing the sad news of Gene Wilder’s passing today it became abundantly clear that everyone has their own treasured connection to the legendary comedic actor, so we asked some of our writers to share what it is about Wilder’s roles that stood out for them.

Cloris Leachman Remembers Gene Wilder | Deadline

Leachman remembers how he kept cracking up during one scene in the iconic film in which she played Frau Blücher. Wilder said Young Frankenstein was his favorite film, and you can see from the blooper reel below how much fun they all had on set. Brooks has said in the past that Blücher translates to a horse going to a factory and being turned to glue, hence the horses neighing loudly every time her character’s name was mentioned.

“I remember when we were shooting Young Frankenstein there was a scene where I had to get the group up the stairs immediately. I had to say, ‘Shtay close to zee candles’ and turn toward him. As I turned around I could see his face was in two pieces. We had to do our scene 14 times over because he’d be laughing so hard. Alas, alas. So dear Gene, I vill say, ‘Goodnight.’”

gene-wilder-scenes--300x200Blooper reels at that link.

More bloopers here: Open Thread – Remembering Gene Wilder – Young Frankenstein Bloopers | Crooks and Liars

Watch Mel Brooks Mourn Gene Wilder: ‘I’m Still Reeling’ – Rolling Stone

Comedy legend Mel Brooks paid tribute to the late Gene Wilder Tuesday on The Tonight Show. “He was sick, and I knew it,” Brooks said. “And he was such a dear friend. I expected that he would go, but when it happens, it’s still tremendous. It’s a big shock. I’m still reeling from … no more Gene. I can’t call him. He was such a wonderful part of my life.”

[…]

“I met him when my late wife Anne Bancroft was doingMother Courage, a Bertolt Brecht play, and Gene was in it,” he said. “He was the chaplain. He came backstage, and I got to know him a little bit. The chaplain is a great part – it’s sad and funny. It’s touching, and it can be amusing. So he said, ‘Why are they always laughing at me?’ I said, ‘Look in the mirror – blame it on God.’

Richard-Pryor-and-Gene-Wilder“We became very good friends, and I told him about Leo Bloom in the thing I was writing called The Producers,” he continued. “And I said, ‘Look, I’m promising you: When we get the money, you are gonna be Leo Bloom.’ He said, ‘Oh yeah, when you get the money. You’re doing a play about two Jews who are producing a flop instead of a hit, knowing they can make more money with a flop. And the big number in it is ‘Springtime for Hitler.’ Yeah, you’re gonna get the money!”

Brooks said, after securing the funding, he surprised Wilder backstage after another play and told the emotional actor the news. “He was taking off his make-up in his dressing room,” he said. “I took the script, and I said, ‘Gene, we got the money. We’re gonna make the movie. You are Leo Bloom.’ And I threw it on his make-up table. And he burst into tears and held his face and cried. And then I hugged him. It was a wonderful moment.”

American actor Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka in 'Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory', directed by Mel Stuart, 1971. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

American actor Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka in ‘Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory’, directed by Mel Stuart, 1971. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Mel Brooks Thinks Blazing Saddles Is the Funniest Movie Ever Made | Vanity Fair

Gene Wilder and grieving in the digital age: Why we mourn the famous, and in such a public way – LA Times

Gene Wilder’s entrance in Willy Wonka is how I’ll always remember him.

How a Chicago company made Gene Wilder’s most beloved movie role possible – Chicago Tribune

Gene Wilder’s most famous song was originally a dud | New York Post

Carol Kane says Gene Wilder gave her a second chance – CBS News

Gene Wilder Dies From Complications Of Alzheimer’s At Age 83 : NPR

In the wake of Gene Wilder’s death, we explain the ‘complications’ of Alzheimer’s disease | Daily Mail Online

1472513693882Coldplay honors Gene Wilder and dreamers everywhere with ‘Pure Imagination’ cover

Actor Gene Wilder: A charming life and career – The Washington Post

University of Iowa cherishes its Gene Wilder collection | The Gazette

Gene Wilder’s 7 Most Memorable Movies, From ‘Willy Wonka’ to ‘Young Frankenstein’ (Photos)

Photos: GALLERY: Gene Wilder over the years – Uticaod – Utica, NY

Be sure to click on those photo galleries…

This is an open thread.

 


Monday Reads: A Reptile Dysfunction

Eleven years ago, Honey, Karma, Miles and I were sharing a small pink futon on the floor of a Lake Charles motel between the beds of a Chinese and Japanese Graduate student from UNO. I had told all of our foreign grad students in our doctorate program to get hotel rooms and get the heck out of Dodge about 5 days before. I was going to stick it out but didn’t and wound up be very thankful to join them. There’s was nothing to do but to watch CNN and hook up the internet.

It was a day that changed many lives including mine. Honey and Karma, my French Quarter Dogs, have since crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Miles and I are a little worse for the wear and frankly, so is the Kat House. My insurance company never really did pony up enough money to cover the damages and I never took the Road Home Funds because I had–and still have–survivor guilt. My house didn’t flood. But, one of the residuals is that I have a $10,000 deductible for named storms and live in constant fear of anything with a name on it now. Then, of course, we’re still reeling from the post-hurricane damage of 8 years of Bobby Jindal and the continued encroachment on the wetlands by oil companies and housing developers. The last set of floods is just the most recent display of what happens when you really don’t take care of your Mother Earth.

At least this year, I don’t have to hear the word resilient.product_thumb

Good Morning!

Here’s some linky goodness and badness from me, the dakini of the swamps.  I’m in wrathful form today so enjoy some pictures of Naginis.

Here’s a wonderful and ominous post recommended by General  Russell Honore about the issues with  our Louisiana Wetlands.  I hope you can take some time to read it all.

We need a massive reforestation of Louisiana. Mature, native, water-loving trees like Live Oaks and Bald Cypress drink up to 1,000 gallons of water per day and should be as common and beloved a site in our urban and rural landscapes as Saints bumper stickers. One huge impetus behind founding SOUL is the very large goal of replanting New Orleans, the most deforested city in the U.S.! But rural Louisiana suffers from deforestation as well, largely due to short-sighted development of subdivisions and commercial areas that raze the forest and level the land before construction. Trees are essential to our resilience as they absorb stormwater into their root systems and transpire it back into the air. A mature tree produces enough oxygen for ten people, and can lower our air temperatures by up to two degrees. The benefits of trees are endless, and our futures rely on them.

It’s time to respect the gravity of gravity. It there’s one thing we can always count on, it’s that water will always travel downhill. Thus, it is vital that water has an unobstructed path to its nearest floodplain or basin. Rural Louisiana has many flood plains and small water bodies like creeks that are bisected by roads. During heavy rains these spots turn into dams and cause massive flooding as water seeks a lower point of gravity.

New construction should be raised to a level accommodating a 2,000-year storm.Considering how quickly our disasters are growing in intensity and frequency, it only makes sense that we should build new homes and businesses according to future storm levels. We’re recovering from a 1,000-year flood, so let’s rebuild to a 2,000-year disaster this time. Many of the structures that were damaged were built at grade on slab. Cities must stop allowing development that ignores our hydrology and natural history, for the sake of developers maximizing their profits.

We need to integrate “green infrastructure” into every aspect of our lives. If you’re not already familiar with this term, it refers to infrastructure that mimics natural systems and harnesses stormwater at its source. Essentially its goal is to get water back into the ground and into the water table.

There’s a developing tropical storm that’s due to enter the Gulf. It’s supposed to turn back on Florida at this point.  However,  you never know and we would be on the wet side if it gets too close for comfort. People south of us already have a lot on their plate and any kind of drenching of the area would be really bad.  Thankfully, the winds aloft are not particularly friendly atm.  I just hope it doesn’t get a name if it pours on the Kat House and that it misses the folks in the flooded area completely.

So, onward with today’s theme of snaky people.

Naga182A white male radical christianist was plotting a ” mass shooting to protect 2nd Amendment from ‘f*ggots’.”  This guy sounds like a good Trump supporter, doesn’t he?

Bryce Cuellar, 24, was arrested by Las Vegas police after they were notified by Interpol in July about Cuellar’s video. In the video, Cuellar stated that he is tired of the government trying to take away his First and Second Amendment rights and planned to go on a killing spree.

Calling himself a “Christian warrior,” Cuellar bragged that he would use his weapons as the Founding Fathers intended, killing,” gays, faggots, lesbians and satanists.”

According to Las Vegas police, Cuellar reportedly beat his wife hours after posting the video on YouTube, where he displayed his weapons while wearing a Kevlar vest and sporting night-vision goggles.

A review of Cuellar’s YouTube page reveal a collection of conspiracy-minded videos including ones that question what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary, support for the Bundy family’s war on the government, the threat of the Illuminati  and proof that angels and demons are real. Investigators say the timeline of his videos suggest that he has sunk deeper in the world of conspiracy mongering over the past three years.

This is pretty scary.  Foreign hackers have gotten into the state election databases according to the FBI.  Vijayanagar_snakestone

The FBI has uncovered evidence that foreign hackers penetrated two state election databases in recent weeks, prompting the bureau to warn election officials across the country to take new steps to enhance the security of their computer systems, according to federal and state law enforcement officials.

The FBI warning, contained in a “flash” alert from the FBI’s Cyber Division, a copy of which was obtained by Yahoo News, comes amid heightened concerns among U.S. intelligence officials about the possibility of cyberintrusions, potentially by Russian state-sponsored hackers, aimed at disrupting the November elections.

Those concerns prompted Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to convene a conference call with state election officials on Aug. 15, in which he offered his department’s help to make state voting systems more secure, including providing federal cyber security experts to scan for vulnerabilities, according to a “readout” of the call released by the department.

Johnson emphasized in the call that Homeland Security was not aware of “specific or credible cybersecurity threats” to the election, officials said. But three days after that call, the FBI Cyber Division issued a potentially more disturbing warning, entitled “Targeting Activity Against State Board of Election Systems.” The alert, labeled as restricted for “NEED TO KNOW recipients,” disclosed that the bureau was investigating cyberintrusions against two state election websites this summer, including one that resulted in the “exfiltration,” or theft, of voter registration data. “It was an eye opener,” one senior law enforcement official said of the bureau’s discovery of the intrusions. “We believe it’s kind of serious, and we’re investigating.”

The bulletin does not identify the states in question, but sources familiar with the document say it refers to the targeting by suspected foreign hackers of voter registration databases in Arizona and Illinois. In the Illinois case, officials were forced to shut down the state’s voter registration system for ten days in late July, after the hackers managed to download personal data on up to 200,000 state voters, Ken Menzel, the general counsel of the Illinois Board of Elections, said in an interview. The Arizona attack was more limited, involving malicious software that was introduced into its voter registration system but no successful exfiltration of data, a state official said.

nagastatue1A huge amount of hoopla has surrounded the 49ers Quarterback who has refused to stand for the pre-game playing of our national anthem.  My 10 year old self would actually have a crush on this guy. I refused to say the pledge in classroom at that ripe old age, was nearly kicked out of Girl Scouts and was asked why by the Principal who couldn’t understand why mass symbolic recitations of anti-communist loyalty shows would disturb me.  I basically said it was pretty meaningless and why didn’t we just read the preamble to the Constitution instead.  Actually, the District wound up taking this activity out of the daily classroom and never said another word to me.  I think it was because the Constitution was behind me and the District Lawyer figured it out.  I never heard back why but was relieved to not have to go through a rote, meaningless exercise every day to prove I wasn’t a communist. I am not nor have I ever been a communist or a member of the communist party.  Now, can I quit the loyalty oath shit?

But, Colin Kaepernick has stated his reason as a protest of national oppression of racial minorities.   The NFL is actually giving him quiet consent. I say more power to him.

San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick on Sunday defended his decision not to stand for the national anthem at a game two days earlier, saying he is protesting on behalf of people oppressed because of their race.

“This country stands for freedom, liberty, justice for all — and it’s not happening for all right now,” Kaepernick said.

Kaepernick did not stand as the national anthem played before a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. The move sparked criticism, and some fans posted videos of themselves burning Kaepernick jerseys and other apparel.

Actually, if you read the real history of this anthem and the racist who wrote it and an abhorrent additional verse that is totally ashta nagasracist, you’d be asking them to switch our anthem to something like America the Beautiful where I could substitute something creative for the current head nod to the angry sky fairy.

The story, as most of us are told, is that Francis Scott Key was a prisoner on a British ship during the War of 1812 and wrote this poem while watching the American troops battle back the invading British in Baltimore. That—as is the case with 99 percent of history that is taught in public schools and regurgitated by the mainstream press—is less than half the story.

To understand the full “Star-Spangled Banner” story, you have to understand the author. Key was an aristocrat and city prosecutor in Washington, D.C. He was, like most enlightened men at the time, not against slavery; he just thought that since blacks were mentally inferior, masters should treat them with more Christian kindness. He supported sending free blacks (not slaves) back to Africa and, with a few exceptions, was about as pro-slavery, anti-black and anti-abolitionist as you could get at the time.

Of particular note was Key’s opposition to the idea of the Colonial Marines. The Marines were a battalion of runaway slaves who joined with the British Royal Army in exchange for their freedom. The Marines were not only a terrifying example of what slaves would do if given the chance, but also a repudiation of the white superiority that men like Key were so invested in.

All of these ideas and concepts came together around Aug. 24, 1815, at the Battle of Bladensburg, where Key, who was serving as a lieutenant at the time, ran into a battalion of Colonial Marines. His troops were taken to the woodshed by the very black folks he disdained, and he fled back to his home in Georgetown to lick his wounds. The British troops, emboldened by their victory in Bladensburg, then marched into Washington, D.C., burning the Library of Congress, the Capitol Building and the White House. You can imagine that Key was very much in his feelings seeing black soldiers trampling on the city he so desperately loved.

A few weeks later, in September of 1815, far from being a captive, Key was on a British boat begging for the release of one of his friends, a doctor named William Beanes. Key was on the boat waiting to see if the British would release his friend when he observed the bloody battle of Fort McHenry in Baltimore on Sept. 13, 1815. America lost the battle but managed to inflict heavy casualties on the British in the process. This inspired Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner” right then and there, but no one remembers that he wrote a full third stanza decrying the former slaves who were now working for the British army:

Read the comments there to fully embrace the number of white folks that want the revisionist version of history and their Carving-of-a-Naga-serpentcomments.  It’s pretty revealing of a few nasty natures.  Speaking of which, RUN HUMA RUN.  Anthony Weiner has done it again.  Huma actually has decided to separate from the man now so evidently, he’s worked her last nerve.

Just two weeks ago, when he was asked if his sexting days were behind him, he seemed to deflect. And now we know why: On Sunday night, the New York Post reported that Weiner had recently been sexting with a woman who is not his wife. Making the story even more cringe-worthy, the New York Post reports that Weiner sent a suggestive photo of himself while his toddler son was in the bed next to him.

Weiner didn’t deny any of this. He told the New York Post that he and the woman “have been friends for some time.”

“She has asked me not to comment except to say that our conversations were private, often included pictures of her nieces and nephews and my son and were always appropriate,” he said. By Monday morning, Weiner had deleted his Twitter account. By Monday afternoon, his wife, Huma Abedin, announced the two  were separating.

liuchao21-12-Tibet-Buddhist-Joss-Silver-5-Snake-Head-Naga-Kanya-Shakyamuni-Buddha-StatueAt least he’s not shooting up malls of innocents but wow, the dude has major issues. He had so much going for him.  What accounts for such self-destructive behavior?

Is it just me or is the entire national discourse today turning into some display of things that require medication and the help of a a good psychiatrist/psychologist?  One more story about the nation’s top pathological liar and I’m going to make more coffee and listen to some nice music.  Trump has turned into a whirling dervish on the immigration issue.

The real reason Trump is now shifting away from mass deportations is almost too obvious to restate: It is probably alienating the college educated whites and white women — swing constituencies — that he simply must improve among if he is to have a chance at winning. And so, Trump is now downplaying this goal, by saying that his priority is to remove “criminal” illegal immigrants. The game here is to sound more reasonable to swing voters who are horrified by mass deportations and generally support mass assimilation, by projecting a recognition that not all of them are full blown criminals. He compassionately understands that many of them are “good ones,” believe me! But in so doing, Trump is still preserving his underlying stance that all the 11 million generally remain targets for removal. He eventold CNN that there’s a “very good chance” that all the rest would be deported later. This isn’t as crazy as vowing proactive, immediate mass deportations. But it still is not an actual solution. At best, it is tantamount to leaving them all in the shadows for an indefinite period, or a reversion to Mitt Romney’s absurd “self deportation” stance. In reality it probably means they’ll all have to go.

And this leads to the ultimate point: Donald Trump’s deportation problem is the GOP’s deportation problem. Many Republican lawmakers — including GOP leaders — generally support the goal of legalization. They recognize that the most realistic solution for the 11 million — the one that would best serve the national interest — is some kind of path to assimilation, combined with penalties and increased border security. They also recognize that long term demographic and political realities compel this stance.

But the party has refrained from embracing that solution, because the base won’t allow it. For years, that forced many Republicans to continue saying the 11 million should be subject to removal, but when pressed, they tended to fudge on whether this means they all should be deported right way, since that’s politically and substantively untenable. Instead they took refuge in the platitude that we should merely “enforce the law,” without saying exactly what that should mean. What it really means is, leave most of them in the shadows indefinitely.

Trump is now being forced to sever himself from his explicit mass deportations pledge. And this is forcing him to adopt the GOP’s platitudinous “enforce the law” position.  We’ve come full circle: On deportations, the GOP nominee is now pretty much where most Republicans have publicly been. Thus, in his speech, he will probably revert to a vow to target criminals first while more generally promising to “enforce the law” to deal with the rest. But Trump — as the GOP nominee and as someone whose entire campaign is built on the idea that illegal immigrants are nothing more than criminal invaders — is facing a much higher level of media scrutiny on this issue than GOP lawmakers have to date, rendering that long-held GOP position untenable for him in a way it wasn’t for other Republicans.

Fu-Xi-and-Nu-Wa-mythological-serpentsSerpent Cults have been a part of human history for some time.  Many religious myths embrace the serpent concept as symbolic of a number of things.  As I look at the many stories I’ve gathered today, I can only think of our folksy renderings of calling a man a ‘snake in the grass’.   We also have the imagine of woman as a siren or mermaid or woman turned temptress by snakes and apples.  It strikes me that we never really truly forget our ancient mythos and their identification of the many aspects of our human nature.

In mythology, the serpent symbolises fertility and procreation, wisdom, death, and resurrection (due to the shedding of its skin, which is not akin to rebirth), and in the earliest schools of mysticism, the symbol of ‘The Word’ was the serpent. The ‘light’ that appeared was metaphorically defined as a serpent called ‘Kundalini’, coiled at the base of the spine to remain dormant in an unawakened person.   Divinity or awakening one’s Godhood and latent abilities came with the rituals and teachings brought by the serpent people.
To understand them, we must look at the original ‘serpents’.  In China, it was a male and female pair with human heads and serpent bodies named Fu Xi and Nu Wa who created humans. In Sumer, it was the Annunaki Nin-Khursag and her husband Enki who were given the task of creating workers. Enki is known to us as the serpent in Genesis—the one who gave us the ability to think and reason and so was cursed by his brother Enlil for it. To the Hindus, it was the cosmic serpent Ananta who created us. So, if, at the dawn of man’s creation we have a pair of serpent-like beings who created us, then those of the serpent cult must have been their direct descendants, either by blood or by spirit.

Government has been designed with the idea that you can punish or circumvent aspects of originalhuman nature with the rule of law and the force of the will of the many. Still, we get Snake Oil Salesmen like Donald Trump and guys that can’t get past their basic anatomy and their urge to think with their littlest head or use other phallic symbols like missiles and killing projectiles to take out the creative and intelligent forces that stymie them which, mostly tend to be women and small children when you think about it.  The Trump CEO–Steven Bannon–is like the walking symbol of all things snaky. Here’s the latest op research his life of evil doing.

Donald Trump’s campaign CEO fired a new mother suffering from multiple sclerosis while she was on maternity leave, according to a lawsuit obtained exclusively by The Post.

“Julia Panely-Pacetti, a new mother who suffers from multiple sclerosis, was terminated by defendants from her position as head of public relations and corporate marketing because of her sex and her disability,” states the lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court in September 2005.

I wish there was a better tradition of snake handling in this country. Maybe we could learn something from the ancients.  Maybe that medieval guy with the bow has the right idea.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?