A fascinating profile from Carl Schreck of the The North Star News on the Afro-Russian poet Jim Patterson, now living in Washington DC:
“For decades Jim Patterson was arguably the most famous black man in the Soviet Union, a debonair homegrown poet. His childhood role in an iconic film cemented his celebrity, and he later roamed the vast country reading his work to adoring audiences.
These days Patterson, whose African-American father emigrated to the Soviet Union in 1932, is convalescing in a threadbare subsidized apartment in downtown Washington, where he has led a reclusive life plagued by illness and depression since his Russian mother died more than a decade ago.”
Pictured with his mother, artist Vera Aralova, in 1975 (RIA Novosti)
I think it’s too early to tell on Edward Snowden/NSA/Prism. I am alternately put-off by those dismissive of Snowden, at times by Snowden himself, and further still by those who think Dick Cheney’s antipathy towards him somehow proves Snowden’s righteousness. We need to have a serious conversation about the extra-legal surveillance state. Snowden’s brought that to the fore, and for that I believe we should be grateful. But we need to also know what we’re talking about. Continue Reading →
Race did not keep [Fisher] out of the Univ. of Texas, according to ProPublica and the Atlantic. Only five minorities were admitted with lower scores than she; the majority of lower-scoring students — a total of 42 — were white students. The first challenge she faced in getting admitted was that she did not rank in the top 10% of her class and thus had to compete for the limited slots left at the school. Her GPA was 3.59 and her SAT scores were 1180 out of 1600. “Good but not great for the highly selective flagship university,” wrote ProPublica’s Nikole Hannah-Jones in a piece posted today by The Atlantic. The leftover seats went overwhelmingly to white students, not to black and Latino applicants.
These facts, though seemingly essential to making the case that minorities kept her from getting into the Univ. of Texas, have been underplayed in Fisher’s argument. So has, according to ProPublica, the fact that “168 black and Latino students with grades as good as or better than Fisher’s who were also denied entry into the university that year. Also left unsaid is the fact that Fisher turned down a standard UT offer under which she could have gone to the university her sophomore year if she earned a 3.2 GPA.”
The case is now before the most conservative court since the 1930s, which will be ruling any second.
2 hours with the great Joni Mitchell, interviewed on CBC at her home in Bel Air.
“What is this music creating as a story?….It’s frustrated film-making. It’s very visual…You’re scoring the actress, but the actress is singing the lines, but trying to get them as conversational as film, so everything is so united and conspiring towards the text.”
Xtra: this great solo version of Mitchell’s “Hejira”. h/t Jamie Saft.
TPM reports that dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei “used the ancient Chinese technique of papercutting for the cover design, which accompanies ‘How China Sees The World,’ a report on Xi Jinping’s leadership by the magazine’s China Bureau Chief Hannah Beech.”
The chef’s name, an alias, is Kenji Fujimoto, and for eleven years he was Kim Jong-il’s personal chef, court jester, and sidekick. He had seen the palaces, ridden the white stallions, smoked the Cuban cigars, and watched as, one by one, the people around him disappeared. It was part of Fujimoto’s job to fly North Korean jets around the world to procure dinner-party ingredients—to Iran for caviar, Tokyo for fish, or Denmark for beer. It was Fujimoto who flew to France to supply the Dear Leader’s yearly $700,000 cognac habit. And when the Dear Leader craved McDonald’s, it was Fujimoto who was dispatched to Beijing for an order of Big Macs to go.
When he finally escaped, Fujimoto became, according to a high-level cable released by WikiLeaks, the Japanese intelligence community’s single greatest asset on the Kim family, rulers of a nation about which stubbornly little is known. We don’t know how many people live there. (Best guess: around 23 million.) It’s uncertain how many people starved to death during the famine of the late ’90s. (Maybe 2 million.) Also mysterious is the number of citizens currently toiling their way toward death in labor camps, places people are sent without trial or sentence or appeal. (Perhaps 200,000.) We didn’t even know the age of the current leader, Kim Jong-un, until Kenji Fujimoto revealed his birth date. (January 8, 1983.)
What we know of North Korea comes from satellite photos and the stories of defectors, which, like Fujimoto’s, are almost impossible to confirm. Though North Korea is a nuclear power, it has yet to build its first stoplight. The phone book hasn’t been invented. It is a nation where old Soviet factories limp along to produce brand-new refrigerators from 1963. When people do escape, they tend to flee from the countryside, where life is more dangerous. Because people rarely defect from the capital, their stories don’t make it out, which leaves a great mystery in the center of an already obscure nation. Which is why Fujimoto’s is the rarest of stories.
Hugh Pope, Turkey and Cyprus Director of the Crisis Group puts the protests in perspective:
What the long-term implications are of having the heart of Turkey’s touristic, commercial and cultural capital captured by young people walking up and down most of the night shouting to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan: “Tayyip, Resign!”? How impressive is it that these demonstrations spread to half of Turkey’s 81 provinces? Is this the beginning of a new democratic era of brave youth confronting an inflexible authority, or should we focus on an early taste of some frightening anarchy and pillaging? How much real political water is there behind this dam burst of secular sentiment in Istanbul, a flood which swept the flags of innumerable marginal and not-so-marginal left-wing groups to the heart of Taksim square? How did a polls-obsessed government misjudge the mood so much? Does an ideology that consists in part of turning Turkey into a country in shopping malls linked by dual-carriageway highways not satisfy the people?
I’m not yet sure about all these big questions, except to note once again that the government still won power in 2011 with 50 per cent of the vote, that it did not order its own probably far more numerous supporters out onto the streets of this city of more than 10 million people, that its cementing over of green spaces is nothing new in Turkish urban planning, and that under this administration, the parks and roadside flowers have looked better than anything previously. And for once in the demonstrations themselves, the security forces and police, however excessive their use of tear gas and despite more than 100 people injured, miraculously killed nobody.
Going over the Manhattan Bridge on the Q train today, a tourist — map in hand, craning neck — got very excited peering out the window, presumably for the Statue of Liberty. It made you remember how exciting New York can be if it’s new in your eyes. Coincidentally, I had seen this footage of New York in 16mm Kodachrome earlier in the day, and didn’t learn until just now that it was taken by a French tourist, Jean Vivier, in 1939. It echoes that same sense of discovery, and was released by the Romano Archive, which holds video of World War II in color. (Ellington riffed on this idea in his “Far East Suite”.)
The Sun-Times laid off its entire photo staff yesterday, some 28 full-time people. Among them is Pulitzer Prize-winner John H. White, one of the first black photographers to work for a daily paper. He had been there forty-four years:
Writes Whet Moser: “…it was White, a deeply religious and philosophical man, who made the deepest impression with a moral committment to his profession that went down to his bones. The Tribune’s Scott Strazzante got to spend time photographing White himself, a peer and competitor, on assignment, and came away with the same impression: ‘John likes to say that he sometimes is given “assignments from God.” Well, I can honestly say that my time spent with John H. White was a gift.’”
“Humanity is being robbed,” White told Kenneth Irby of Poynter, “by people with money on their minds…It was as if they pushed a button and deleted a whole culture of photojournalism.”
A slideshow of his powerful work can be seen here.
The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency. Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance.
A Hundred Tacks Copyright 2013
Banner Image, Romare Bearden, Wrapping it Up at the Lafayette, 1974