Friday, June 24, 2011

La Canada Flintridge 2011 Shakespeare Festival

In the spirit of helping folks find stuff to do for your third year of staycation I have a peace offering to the theater. If you are near the La Canada Flintridge boarder I ask that you give serious consideration to a live theater experience at the La Canada Flintridge Shakespeare Festival.

I've got something for you.

2011 LCF Shakespeare Festival
This ain't your pappy's set of dry ole performances. I got the straight skivvy from one of the performers that MacBeth has been reinterpreted:
Inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth, After the Autumn is a contemporary tragedy that asks the question: are we fated to be who we are, or do we have the power to change our own path?
I'm not just copying from the web site, one of the salt miner '49s is in the performance.

How many times can you stay at home at watching Mad Men anyway? Don't answer that.

Anyway, there is an opportunity to dine on the grass and experience the play as Shakespeare would have done it, outside under the stars. There are four plays that will alternate so if you don't want to take a chance on Mac there are other items for the selection.

No, it isn't free but it is very affordable. The performances take place at Byrnes Amphitheatre, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy's campus 440 St. Katherine Drive, La Canada CA 91011.

Bring your sweaters cuz it gets nippy outside after 8 p.m.

Sadly, the inadequacy of the Los Angeles mass transit system prevents me from attending but if you have a car in good condition you shouldn't have any problems.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The 21st Century Political Minstrel Video Show

Some of my questions have been answered and new ones take their place. This is hopefully my last post on the political media connections to the traditional form of minstrel theater.

It is my exploration. If you don't know what minstrel theater is check out my prior posts on the subject:
Once again, this isn't about white people bashing. Minstrelsy is the mother of burlesque, vaudeville, stand-up comedy, slap stick, Bugs Bunny, Laugh-In and The Onion. It is also the foundation of social media defining a group of people with stereotypes, mis-information and hatred.

Minstrel theater is institutional racism that makes a profit at the expense of other people. It is a living laboratory of prejudice, class and power. It is not just a white/black dynamic. It is an uncomfortable, itchy culturally shared history.

For the record, there were black performers who willingly wore the cork. There were many people who refused.

There are African American performers today who wear the invisible cork and can't deposit money fast enough. There are other performers who refuse and still need two trucks to carry it to the bank.

I've selected this video as the 21st century representation of current political video minstrelsy:



I dogged it back to the source of TurnRightUSA where the creator is very proud and ecstatic that his video has had such as response.

The creator of the video has been supported with comments that ring with hate for anyone with a liberal/progressive point of view, of support of the message of the video and, "Why are black people upset? Have you seen a rap video lately?

Why This Video Is 21st Century Minstrelsy


1. Minstrelsy needs fear. It needs to generate anticipatory fear and make it tasty. Red demon eyes on stripper. That would be a check in the affirmative column.

2. Minstrelsy depends on the presentation of black people as the other. The other is presented as a fool, a grifter or a predator. The other is always lesser than the viewer.

Let's see now, two black fools with money and guns. Check to the second power.

3. Minstrelsy needs an Interlocutor acting as the Voice of Authority guiding the audience into the super secret black world, in this case, two black men and a white woman acting as a stripper.

Instead of proving the allegations the video spends a great deal of time invoking images of assorted criminals flashing across the screen.

It is just a buzzing repetition over and over as our modern day Mr. Tambo and Mr. Bones get busy with a bucking azz in hot pants wiggling in anticipation.

4. That is also a feature of minstrel theater. Sex and violence. The early minstrel shows before E.P. Christy were loaded with stereotypical sex and violence; with black men going stone cold crazy over white women.

Let's see, AK-47, check, flipping fanny being stuffed with money, double check.

5. The big finish is a call to action. Support the one (white) man who can deliver you from evil, skanky stripper women running for congress and gangsters who threaten to take our country.

Epilog


There will be much more sophisticated political videos to come in the current election cycle. There will be more trashy ones too.

If the video or political media messages needs racism, sexism and stereotypes to convey their point of view then yes, they are partying like it is 1849.

All I'm asking thinking people to do is look and see if those communications are applying the minstrel template to sell their message. Sometimes it will be tricky but the template will rat them out most of the time.

Like I said, this is my opinion. I based it on my readings, research and my own understanding of my experiences as an African American woman. For some of you that isn't enough.

To borrow a well known Twitter hashtag from Mrs. Erin Kotecki Vest, #suckit

In a few days or weeks, there will be another video that will make this one look like cotton candy. How will you handle it?

The Make Up Wonder Woman

Those of use who are nerd/geek girls who read the original comic book have seen Wonder Woman in skirts, shorts, panties and damn near thongs.

Wonder Woman is the icon that made the other female comic super heroes possible. This is advertisement for MAC cosmetics. Diana, Princess of Paradise Island also known as Themyscira has fought many foe but I don't re-call that she used make-up to do it.



The ad was a tie-in to the proposed television series. It appears that NBC has rejected the pilot so the new television show isn't gong to happen for 2011.

This might not be a bad thing.

The Warner Brother Animated Series of Superman, Batman and the Justice League is a wonderful example of animated storytelling. This is a clip from the episode "The Man Who Has Everything" with Supes, Bats and Diana dealing with a very nasty Mongul.



It really was more than a cartoon show. The use of color, design, class-A voice actors and really good scripts took it three levels higher than the pablum fed to today's kids.

There is a generation of folk that have been raised on the later day animated series as their touch point of the characters. A live action series has to rise above this type of visual mythology.

There is not enough commitment, money, scripting or technology to make that happen on a standard live action 22 episode series. The next Wonder Woman series might have to be CGI based or a combination of animation and CGI.

It can't be about the costume or how good she looks in Flame Red #39. After all these years Diana of Themyscira deserves better.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Minstrel Show - Minstrel 101

So, in my exploration of how this video, Give Us Your Cash, a racist, sexist low class statement about a politician qualifications came into being? It is too easy to go with the usual answers.

You have to look at the American minstrel heritage to get a better understanding. This is a look at the structure of the performances.

Give Us Your Cash Turn Right US
It was a free for all until a structured theatrical format was created. Many of the sources that I read cite E.P. Christy's The Christy Minstrels as the first group that developed the framework of the performances.

One of the performers, G.W. Moore, wrote a book about his theatrical experiences, knowledge of the Ethiopian people and some of the routines of the day. The book is called Bones: his anecdotes and goaks [by] G.W. Moore, the original Christy Minstrel. I accessed the book at the Hathi Trust Digital Library. The book is in the public domain.

I'll let Mr. Moore help you get acclimated with the language of the performance and his opinion on the linguistical skills of the black population:

The black population of the United States, are quite
different from the white, in the way they pronounce the
English language, and also in their actions. I have seldom
heard a negro say yes or no direct; for instance, if you ask a
darkey to have a glass of brandy, (and he wanted it) he
would say, " Pass it 'long," "Han em ober," or "Tote dat
dis wa," but not " yes." Again, should he not want the
brandy, he would say, "Ho's yu torkin tu ? dun did kum
fulin yor time roun dis chile wid dat stuff," bwdt seldom "no."
Imagine that you are in a dark theater. The curtain goes up and you are transported to the 1800s.

Processional Entrance


The performers enter and present themselves to the audience, usually by music and dance. They are arraigned in a semi-circle facing the audience. Mr. Moore elucidates:

As far as I have been able to judge, I think that all the Ethiopian race are full of music. I knew a darkey who was Boots at the
Eagle Hotel, Buffalo, every time he used to sit down to his
meals, and before eating, he would sing—
Dar's music in de frien pan,
Dar's music in de kittel,
Dar's music in de nife an fork,
Wen I'm gwine to ete de wittel.
Brandi wil be brandi,
Anihow yu mix it;
Nigger wil be nigger,
Anihow yu fix it.

Basically you have white men in costume, black face make-up and wigs that are controlled by Mr. Interlocutor.


Minstrel Interlocutor

Mr. Interlocutor:


The Interlocutor was the medium/interpreter that communicated with the performers. Most of the time the interlocutor was also in black face make-up but not always. In this segment of the show the Interlocutor would set up the jokes of the day, songs and jabs. There would be two men, Mr. Tambo on the left and Mr. Bones on the right would respond to the questions using stereotyped expressions to float the joke.

From our text of the day comes an example of a routine that Mr. Tambo and Mr. Bones might share with the audience:

A HEAVY BLOW.
Sam. Sa, Bones, did yu here de news ? "We had de gratest blo doun our wa.
Bones. "Wat a kurry kane ?
S. Yes, wun ob dem kurricanes kum doun, and jus blow eberyting in de vilage hi, lo, Jack, an de game, it blow ebery house up, didn't lebe wun, blow ebery house up but
mine.
B. But yors ! how wus it yure house wusnt blone up ?
S. We had a heaby morgage on it, dat kep it doun.
B. Oh, we had wun ob dem in our vilage.
S. Wat, a blo ?
B. No, we had a firei
S. Afire?
B. Yes, red hot; jus kum in de vilage in de nite, an burn ebery house doun; den it kum in mi house, went up in de sellar, doun in de garret, all ober de furnitur, an neber
spilt a ting.
S. (astonished) Neber spilt a ting ?
B. No, we sabe eberyting in de house but de pianner.
S. Whi coodn't yu sabe de pianner.
B. Bekase de engines coodn't pla on de pianner.

Olio or Specialty Acts


Next, the Interlocutor introduced specialty acts that had longer skits, dance numbers or songs or a combination. This is and example by Cotton and Chick Watts:



The specialty act could be a parody of a play, an extended dance number or what ever the talent could provide on that particular night. Often included in the specialty act was a "stump" speech by a political character who mangled proper English.

The Afterpiece:


This could be a riff on a opera, the musical joy and rapture of being on a southern plantation or an extended walk-around.

According to Mr. Moore, Blacks are a fearful sort of being. I don't want to invoke his wrath at being quoted out of context so I'm going to make sure he has his final say:
I think I have explained enough about the blacks, that
you can appreciate the stories and eccentricities I shall
introduce; and I wish it to be distinctly understood,
that, in all things I may bring forward, no offence is meant
towards those who may happen to be of a different colour to
myself; as I have travelled in many parts of the globe, I beg
most respectfully to state, that I never look upon a man from
what place he comes from, but from the place he is worthy
of, believing He who made the white, also made the black,
and that they will stand the same chance as myself in the
world to come; therefore, all that I introduce will be for
your amusement, and trust the same will meet with your
approbation.

Social Media 1800s Style


I have been using the theater a visual example but minstrel performances were not restricted to just indoors. They certainly would have been included in advertising, medicine shows, traveling independent performers, bars and other public performance spaces.

Sheet music would have been the mp3 player of the day. To be historically accurate there were some black folks selling songs and jokes on the down low to white performers. There were some who snuck on the stage violating state law against blacks and white mixing.

Minstrel shows were entertainment productions with a long lasting cultural impact. The stereotypes, ignorance and prejudice transferred from theater, film, radio, television and current new media.

Next up: My Understanding 21st Century Political Minstrel Videos

Minstrel 101 Resources


Bones: his anecdotes and goaks [by] G.W. Moore, the original Christy minstrel published 1870 located at the HathiTrust Digital Library.

American Minstrel Show Collection with brief history of structure of minstrel shows by Princeton University Library Rare and Special Collections Department.

Lift Every Voice - Music In American Life Albert H. Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia.

June Gloom 2011

It is the middle of June Gloom. It happens every year. It is depressing for those of us that need sunlight.

Pasadena Museum of Art
People that revel in the overcast clouds and morning drizzle are happy. You can tell. They are the ones not complaining about the lack of sun.

Me? I'm miserable. Ok, maybe sun deprived. Same thing. When I am walking around I try to look at the surroundings. What has changed? Is it their any more?

The above photo is the Pasadena Museum of Art. The outside of the museum may have something to do with the current exhibition of California Graffiti art on display until September 4, 2011. The museum also has jazz performances on the roof during the summer so it is a great place to check out.

If you have issues with sunlight and heat, go now. Those that like it toasty, give it another three weeks.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Minstrel Show - History In a Nutshell

This is by necessity a conflated history of the theatrical minstrel show. The short version is that since the meeting of Africans and Europeans on American soil there has been minstrel performances and shows.

I'm starting in the 1900s but it goes back much further in time. This is where the tangles of history get complicated. In order for white folks to create theatrical minstrel shows you had to have black people, Christianity and spirituals.

There were former slaves that wanted to convert to Christianity. There were other freed men and women that were strongly encouraged or given no faith based choice in the matter. According to the New York Public Library Performing Desk Reference, the freed slaves looked at churches or religious groups that were similar to their African music practices.

Despite heavy segregation, there was a cross pollination of African and American/British spiritual music influences. Those influence moved from the sacred to the secular.

You also had the performances of the Fisk Jubilee Singers who traveled the world singing and raising money to support Fisk University. Their performances was another introduction to African American performers and music. These performers were talented, professional and presented the highest caliber of musicianship.

Yet, they didn't fit the stereotypical image of black people. According to the Fisk Jubilee Singers web site:
The first concerts were in small towns. Surprise, curiosity and some hostility were the early audience response to these young black singers who did not perform in the traditional “minstrel fashion.”
However, white performers were paying attention. About 1820 or so, a white performer named Thomas "Daddy" Rice observed a black street singer or a black stable hand (could have been the same person, it isn't clear from my readings) singing a song called "Jim Crow."

Al G Field a Minstrel Show Promoter
Thomas Rice put burnt cork on his face and started performing his version of the song. It was a hit and the song becomes an American standard.

Imitation is the sincerest form of making a dollar and other white performers jumped on the minstrel black face cash wagon. Soon almost any white performer with a lick of skill was in black face make-up and traveling the country performing.

Putting on a minstrel show was inexpensive, you didn't need a lot of props and you literally could borrow, appropriate and source your material from freeman performers. In addition, white performers could draw upon their own stereotypical views of what they thought they knew about black people.

Make no mistake, in the context of the time minstrel shows were very popular with both white and black audiences. Rich folks went to the opera, broke folks went to the minstrel shows.

Make that white broke folks. Africans and African Americans were not permitted to perform or be in attendance at a theatrical performance. Unless the theater had a separate performance for the non-white population they would have seen minstrel shows as part of carnivals, medicine shows or traveling troops of performers.

So in essence you had white performers appropriating content or inspiration from black performers and adding an overlay of stereotypical images to perform before a white audience.

Like I said, this is complicated. Ok, next up Minstrel 101 for sure.

Resources for Minstrel History

George Mason University Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media Minstrel Show

History of the original Fisk Jubilee Singers

Library of Congress Minstrel Poster Collection - Al "G" Field

Musicals1o1.com
page on Minstrel performances

The New York Public Library Performance Art Desk Reference - The Birth of American Popular Music Pages 239 - 242 and the NYPL On-line search collection for Minstrel Shows

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Minstrel Show or I've Seen This Before?

I only have a surface understanding of the minstrel show. In the late 1960s and 1970s I was raised during a time of black power, affirmation and determination.

I knew about vaudeville. I knew about white performers in black face. It was a history I could read then walk away. It was gone. There were other things to learn about.

So I thought.

Some of you have no idea of what I am talking about. This is a clip with Slim Williams, performing in black face make-up, his mayoral political stump speech:




Have I Lost My Flipping Mind?

No.

I have been getting mighty steamed up by the constant flow of stupidity, mendacity and flat out hate on hate political expression. It is politics mixed with sexism, racism and the damn near avocation of gender repression in order to fix the economy.

Why I am seeing this inane fear based rhetoric again and again? Something familiar but cloaked in time.

I think I can show that there are contemporary 2011 examples of this old theatrical art form. Or hate speech. Institutionalized power plays at being powerless in a safe fantasy world. Stage craft.

Call it whatever you feel comfortable with but understand that genesis of the minstrel show was based on observation and exaggeration of Africans and African Americans.

It is a theatrical form of bondage and domination where the oppressor gets to play at being a smart happy submissive. Not that I know anything about bondage and domination except for that workshop I sat in on a few years ago by accident.

Very informative. Honest, it really was a good workshop about power and control issues. There is an element of that in the structure of the minstrel show.

I want to look at modern political and entertainment videos that communicate power and control messages. Before I can do that I need to share the reason for doing these posts and the structure of minstrel performances.

This is a difficult exploration. This can be painful and not the ways you might think. My goal is to point out the performance style that is being applied to contemporary videos and by political operatives.

You might not want to come down this path for dozens of really good reasons. That is okay. I guess I'm trying to give a blanket trigger alert but it is impossible.

One more thing. This is not about white people bashing. There are black folks and other types of minstrel shows masked as advertisements and music videos. I saw a young black woman in a wig bathed in infrared light who performed a sexual jig with her amplified white lips.

A straight up minstrel performance. She isn't the only modern performer doing 21st century race based American minstrel performances.

Research Starting Points:


There is a web site that I've been hanging around for a few days. Ken Padgett's Black-Face.com where I've been reading about the origin and history of these types of performances. There is also a YouTube channel that has scenes from a 1951 film called "Yes, Sir Mr. Bones" that showcased some of the white and black performers.

I have been researching other sources as well from a theatrical and sociological perspective. In the next post, Minstrel 101.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My Inner Child Required This Purchase

I was born with the frugal gene. I come from a long line of women who can indeed stretch a dollar or two. Yes, I have weaknesses but books are more a necessity than an expense.

My point is that I don't spend willing on clothing. Cameras? Yes. Books? Of course. Clothing? Meh.

I'm minding my own business as I am procrastinating up a storm when I see this photo of the t-shirt.

Dr Who Hair Icons
You gotta understand. I had no choice. In the name of Doctors #4, #7, #8 and #9 I had to do it. I can't get to view the tenth or eleventh Dr. Who shows because I don't freaking live in the UK or have access.

Yo, BBC - how is that subscription smartphone app coming along? You and me can do cash business. We don't need no stinking cable operator to hook up.

I don't have an iPad but if you could make it work on multiple Android phones or soon to be Windows OS tables I think this could be a wise investment on your part. Beeb, just let me know which way to go and we can work out the details later.

My t-shirts arrived today. Yes, I got two. One to sleep in and one as a valuable heirloom.

Geek and Nerd girls unite! May the sonic lipstick or screwdriver be with you.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Where The Heck Have I Been?

I've been down in the dumps. Not a fun place to visit and you don't want to live there. There are legions of people who will tell you that you should fight your way out, just do it.

Move forward and seize the day. Kind of like pull yourself up from your bootstraps. My bootstraps are stressed. I need new boots. My feet ache. Metaphorically speaking.

The phrase loving kindness. popped into my head. I need to apply it to myself. So I have.

I need to have a time out except I can't take one. So I've pulled back a bit. I have given myself permission to only post two things a day. With planning I can contribute to other blogs that I've promised to kick in a word or two.

As for the Stoop, I've been shameful and working on reconnecting. The gurus say my blog should have a focus. I say that my blog is what I need it to be at the time.

It evolves. So do I. I'll try to do a better job of having stuff in the pipe to tide me over when the brain goes on strike.

I am trying to plot out fun time, however I define it. Fun time does not include Samy's camera, that is an obsession and I can only go to the store once every three months or so. This is not hard. I just have to read the ad in the newspaper so that I can confirm to myself that there is no reason for me to be in the neighborhood.

There are a bunch of staycation activities to keep me engage until I can slip out of town.

Anything else? I have one more poet in the video pipeline and a couple of street performances. I'll see what I can do but there is that inner hatter critic that I have to sedate first.

Oh, yeah. I am diddling with the design of the blog. Things are in flux and may change. Or not.

Friday, June 03, 2011

I've Never Been to Me on the Finally Friday Freakout

I'm still searching for an adventure to juice my imagination. I've become a drone. I was gong to take a cooking class just to experience taking a day long cooking class. It was cancelled.

I just missed out on a photographic workshop in New Mexico. It was happening this weekend. Couldn't do it on short notice. Ah me. Unlike the lyrics of this song, I need to find a bit of paradise so I can get my bearings.

This is Charlene singing her hit, "I've Never Been to Me."



I've made mistakes this week and survived them. Took naps when I needed. Finally faced up to the fact that concepts like organization and planning are not dirty words. I've never been to this part of me that is spending time fighting information and task overload.

I've never wanted to be so organized it would take the spontaneity out of life. I use to be able to hold everything I do in my head. That is past tense. Or just tension cuz I can't do that anymore.

There are reasons why you need to write things down and then make sure you read the list. What got me moving toward being more willing to accept organization skills was iTunes.

I was looking for a podcast to subscribe to and I cam across Merlin Mann's 43 Folders.

Took a listen. Let me forewarn you that Merlin sometimes uses the full breath of the English language. The ancestors would say he "can be a little salty."

This means that he has the potential to cuss up a storm. Sometimes. Only when he needs to get you to focus. Or he is ticked off.

Rooting around the podcast archives there is good stuff about creativity, procrastination and making changes that may or may not involve tools. Merline also calls B.S. if the tool becomes more important than the task.

I like his videos even more than the podcasts. Dude take it to the edge and bring it home more of the time. You should view his presentation at Webstock.

Dang. So yes, go visit yourself and then if you have time check out some of Merlin's videos or podcasts.

One more thing. I now understand that Merlin is a really famous Internet person. Some are gonna say "Duh, where have you been?" "Why didn't you know?" or "For real?"

I didn't. I was not in a time or mental place that I would have listen to a podcast on organization and creativity. Creativity yes, organization, no.

When I was ready I found the right person at the right time.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

I Need A Road Trip or Something

I'm thinking that I need to go some place else. Do something different. I don't necessarily want to take a typical vacation.

I don't want to jump bungee of a bridge either.

I like the idea of a learning retreat. Then again I like the idea of going to a total new city and taking a photography or video workshop. Maybe to New Mexico or Washington State.

I don't know.

I do know that re-creation is important. I'm almost but not quite burned out.

There are a lot of "I" in the above sentence. This is a good thing. I'm usually thinking of what others require of me. What do I have to do to honor my obligations?

The obligations are wearing me down. I've been burnt out before and it takes way too long to recover.

I speak from experience. It is much better to not let it get to that point.