Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Ideology of Whiteness and the Trayvon Martin Debacle

In the wake of the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida, the issue of race in America has once again hit the front burner of our national consciousness. The rhetoric of race has rippled through communities across the United States, this time fueled and aggravated by partisan television commentators and their army of devoted listeners who have taken their message to the internet. Race baiting for political gain may once again put our nation at risk of civil unrest and embarrass us internationally.

Different accounts of what happened surface daily in the press. If Florida doesn't adequately investigate this ambiguous incident, the Federal  Office of Civil Rights surely will. I remember the race riots of the Sixties and the Chicago Democratic Convention. Believe me, our country does not want to see a repeat of those times. It was a zero sum game for everyone, and some cities never recovered from it.

Racial discrimination against people of African descent has been a feature of the cultural and political landscape in America for over three hundred years, but its roots run deep in European history when white supremacy was taken for granted and Europe sought to master and control people of color to amass great wealth and political control. The Triple Passage of the Eighteenth Century made England rich and powerful, and planted the scourge of white supremacy in the New World with its legacy of racism.

The ideology of whiteness in America was further advanced by the American labor movement of the 1930s and 1940s. As jobs became scarce during the Depression, black men were discriminated against in hiring and could only get the dirtiest and lowest paid factory or foundry jobs. This priced most blacks out of the housing market and forced them into overcrowded inner city slums with substandard housing.

The problem of employment for black women was not as pronounced because of the large number of underpaid domestic service jobs available. Often, black women could get jobs when many of the men couldn't, which further destabilized the African-American community. The uniform of a maid only reinforced the imagery of subservience for black women and supremacy for the white women who hired them.

As industry burgeoned in the Twentieth Century and the labor movement took off in America, many of the old rivalries of the immigrant Europeans who worked in the factories had softened by the second or third generation. Now, these "white" workers organized and conspired against blacks from the South, who were arriving in the northern industrial centers in growing numbers looking for work and the promise of a better life.

The article linked below attempts to answer the difficult question: What is white culture anyway? It isn't as easy to define as you might think.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Dancing to "The Time of My Life"

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance clips from several of their movies are synced together to the song, "The Time of My Life," by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes from the movie Dirty Dancing.

Dancing with the Stars fans will appreciate the grace and skill of Fred and Ginger, as the film clip editors did a wonderful job bringing this iconic modern song to life with dance routines over seventy years old. The great dance numbers of the Golden Age of Hollywood musicals, which were often better than the movies they appeared in, are readily accessible on YouTube.

When I get tired of the clash and clutter of empty words, especially during an election year, watching a dance video takes me to the harmonious world of music and movement. It is a great break from the cacophony of everyday life.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Swing Diego - May 2012

Swing Diego is one of the greatest dance events in the United States. What began as a regional San Diego dance convention now draws the best West Coast Swing dancers in the world. In addition to dance competitions, there are plenty of workshops, and lots of "free" dancing on a huge dance floor.

West Coast Swing is the official California state dance. It is said to have been developed during the Second World War when soldiers and their dates crowded the dance floors of Coastal California.

Jitterbug took up too much room on the dance floor, so this "slot" dance was created with spins, turns, tucks, push breaks, and whips, which can be combined and choreographed in amazing ways. Once a "line of dance" (LOD) is established on the dance floor, more people can be out dancing without bumping into one another.

The dance is good for slow to medium speed R&B music, and it works well with many country tunes as well.

For anyone unfamiliar with West Coast Swing, watch the Canadian Champion, Tessa Cunningham, and her "Jack and Jill" dance partner, Terry Roseborough, have their way with each other on hardwood:

For the latest information on this year's Swing Diego, check out the link below.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Cleaning in Detroit

In recent history, much of  Detroit's urban redevelopment has been high profile building projects to lure people from the suburbs back to the city with its sprawling sports complexes and flashy gambling casinos. The long time complaint of many inner city residents is not enough is being done in Detroit's local neighborhoods.
In addition to clearing blocks of burned out or abandoned buildings, the city has instituted an ambitious program to repave streets, repair street lamps, and utilize the vacant lots for the benefit of local residents. Mayor Dave Bing and his administration are making slow but steady progress to rejuvenate areas of the city other than the downtown commercial area.

For more specific information on what Detroit is doing, check out the following link:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Going Viral - Every Writer's Dream

The publishing business has never been easy to break into, but in this brave new world of independent, digital on-line publishing, the business of writing is suddenly wide open.

With so many players in the game today, how do independent authors get their books noticed on a national and an international level?

First, write a great book; next, promote it; then, hope it goes viral on the net. Word-of-mouth sells novels. Blog it and flog it. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Try it sometime!

That's why I love articles like the New York Times story that I've linked below. Vintage Books is about to publish a trilogy that has been described by some critics as "mommy porn."

50 Shades of Grey has sold like crazy as an ebook on the net and garnered the attention of main stream publishing. The author recently inked a seven figure contact, and the publisher is creating a buzz in the book world - I hope it's more than just hype.

Friday, March 9, 2012

It Takes So Little To Save A Life Sometimes

A gentle reminder to readers of this blog: CPR can and does save lives.

Rather than panic and wring your hands until the EMS unit arrives, get down and start pushing firmly on the center of the stricken person's chest with a rhythmic action.

Be a hero in someones life. Read and see how now!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hurray for Hollywood - The Los Angeles Book Festival and DIY Indie Film Awards

Last evening, my wife and I spent a wonderful night in West Hollywood at the Los Angeles Book Festival and DIY Independent Film Awards held at the historic Roosevelt Hotel, site of the first Academy Awards in 1928. Located on Hollywood Boulevard - across and down the street from the Kodak Center - we were there on a Saturday night, and I couldn't help but feel like a tourist.

My novel, Zug Island, won an Honorable Mention in General Fiction. After a very nice awards presentation and the acceptance speeches, we viewed a dozen clips from independent films which had won awards. See the films yourself at the link below.

It was a fun night, and I got to meet some interesting and ambitious people. Hal Holbrook won an award for a children's book he had written, but he couldn't be there to accept it because he was on tour.

Some of the authors had remarkable stories to tell. I particularly liked the story about blind people using power tools to build toys and their self-confidence. Seriously!

Afterwards, I took my sweetheart to Mel's Drive-In and made a night of it. I couldn't help but think of Marion Ross and the Fonz - their pictures were all over the place.

Happy Days!