Sunday, October 25, 2009

Good Hair - Some Feelings

Yesterday I went with my partner to see "Good Hair", Chris Rock's new film about Black Women and their hair. As I expected the relatively small audience was predominantly Black and mixed race couples (such as we are). A "Black Movie" rarely draws an audience of more than token White People (while "White Movies" draw Blacks, Whites and others.

Blacks are forced to live in a "White World" much of their lives, but we, White People, when rarely aware of "Black (and other) Worlds", even less commonly choose to learn of and be a part of these "different" worlds.

Summarizing the movie is both easy and difficult. Blacks, with 12% of the population, are 80% of the U.S. hair products market. Korean-Americans own much of the basic market where giant companies like Revlon do not dominate - besides the Black owned hair salons (and for Black men the barber shops) which are a very important social (and significant) part of Black America.

The movie focused significantly on "relaxers" which straighten Black hair and hair extenders, which are sewn and otherwise connected into many Black women's hair. The natural hair added comes predominantly from India. Women spend a minimum of $1000 and sometimes much more for the extenders. Where women have extenders they require significant maintenance in salons and keeping one's hair dry (e.g. no swimming with one's head under water or carefree "sexy" showers with men or even having one's hair touched by one's lover or others - as it may damage either the extender or how one's head looks.)

The movie was both humorous and sobering! My partner focuses significantly energy on her hair and her general appearance as most Black women do. This has been an education for me since we met nearly 7 1/2 years ago. I think of the $80 - every 4-6 weeks and time spent as "different" at best. Her involvement in this culture is far, far less than many women's involvement.

For me the deeper issues brought up in the movie are far more important! It is so sad that "kinky" - "natural" hair is to Be Avoided and "Ugly"(except where fashionably kept in braids and similar) and Straight (e.g. "White") hair is "Beautiful". It is tragic that this is both a historic fact and Very Important today!

It is sad to me that Hair and general appearance can be So Important to so many people. Oft times hair can be equally or even (in a few instances) be more important than food, shelter, education and other things that seem Much More Important to me. I seriously wonder how we can possibly conquer serious ills in our world such as: Poverty, Militarism, Domestic Violence, Homophobia. Such issues often are seen (or hidden) in contrast to the more steady, visible importance of the surface perspectives put forth by popular musicians, actors/actresses, models and others around us.

I feel "alone" and "different" in finding things such as the beautiful fall colors of the trees and our nearby creek's bubbly nature far more beautiful and important than much of popular culture. I Know that I am a dinosaur lost in a world where I-Phones and Video Games are a foreign, distant mirage and the Lindsay Lohans/Johnny Depps/Beyonces/Michael Jacksons are generally mere names I hear or don't hear.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Recession - Recovery ??

Massive amounts of money have been poured into the US Banking and other Financial sectors to "save" us from "disaster". As a result of the actions of the end of the Bush Administration and the first almost year of President Obama's leadership, we now seemingly have two distinct "results" or from my perspective "economies".

Large investors and those with a Lot of Money seem to have been helped by the economic policies. We are told, based upon supposed economic activity, that "the recession is over". The Dow Jones Industrial Average is at 10,000, not a "high", but a recent high.

Strangely though there seems to be another "economy" which is that of the "working class" - which increasingly seems to draw in formerly "upper-middle class" and other middle class people. If they are still employed, their overtime is gone. They may be working part-time now, instead of full-time. Their wages are not going up and may even be going down. More and more are laid off and there are many applicants for each job opening.

It is somewhat unclear what exactly is going on. It is apparent that major industries are not borrowing money to hire more workers. What investment is going on seems to be borrowing at low interest rates to get a good rate of return, not to invest in building our economy.

It is unclear how 10+% unemployment rates continuing for another 1-2+ years will allow people who are not "investment class" to spend money helping to build the economy. It is similarly unclear Why producers of products and other commercial enterprises are going to look at "the bigger picture" and invest in our people and economy in general, when they see a lack of short-term profits being possible and other ways to "make money" now.

In the end it seems obvious to me that Until and Unless Obama and other political leaders see the need to actually Help - those who are losing their jobs and homes, rather than helping the Banks, that little will change for the better. Perhaps it was necessary to save the financial system, however now that it is "saved", helping our People and building from "the bottom up", rather than "top down" seems obviously necessary.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Some of the Chickens are Coming Home to Roost

In the news this morning, the Government of Pakistan is apparently not quite as stable as we had previously thought it was. The Taliban and Al Qaida are of course prime among the "suspects". Terrorist attacks are increasing and U.S. worry is obviously growing.

We, in the U.S.A., of course Fail to go back at least as far back as the 1980's - in our trying to look at what has and is happening in Pakistan and elsewhere. We forget that then "anti-communism" were the Important buzz words and "Muslim fanatics" and similar weren't in our vernacular except perhaps in some of the games we played between Iraq and Iran in helping to keep them at War with each other.

In the 1980's the Russians were the "bad guys" and the Muslim "Nationalists" were our allies. It seems strange how - Saddam Hussein - was "our man" - against Iran - but then became "Mr. Bad Guy" - when he no longer took orders from the U.S.A. Strangely in Afghanistan and Pakistan those "Muslim Fundamentalists" took root and now we can't stop them like we used to do with "our leader" in Pakistan.

We never seem to see the patterns in our meddling in World Affairs. We translate issues in other parts of the World into what suits our political purposes and then always have others to blame and "enemies" to keep arming and fighting with and against.

Very strange! Thanks!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Afghanistan - Obama and Us

An interesting summary of the history of Afghanistan can be found at:

I get a little confused with terms which come up repeatedly justifying U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan (and elsewhere) related to:

1. 911
2. Al Qaeda and
3. The Taliban

To the best of my knowledge Afghanistan itself had little (if anything) to do with 911. Al-Qaeda is described frequently as if it is a "worldwide conspiracy" much as "Communism" was viewed during the 1940's-1980's.

"Al-Qaeda (pronounced /ælˈkaɪdə/ or /ælˈkeɪdə/; Arabic: القاعدة‎, al-qāʿidah, "the base"), alternatively spelled al-Qaida and sometimes al-Qa'ida, is an Islamist group founded sometime between August 1988[5] and late 1989 and early 1990.[6] It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless arm[7] and a fundamentalist Sunni movement calling for global jihad.

Al-Qaeda has attacked civilian and military targets in various countries, the most notable being the September 11 attacks in 2001. These actions were followed by the US government launching the War on Terrorism. Between three thousand and four thousand members of the network have been captured, and many thousands more killed on the front in Afghanistan.

The section describing Al-Qaeda seems as reasonable a "popular" definition as is available.

The Taliban (Pashto: طالبان ṭālibān, meaning "students"), also Taleban, is a Sunni Islamist, predominantly Pashtun radical religious and political movement that governed Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001, when its leaders were removed from power by NATO forces. It has regrouped and since 2004 revived as a strong insurgency movement governing at the local level and fighting a guerrilla war against the governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan, allied NATO forces participating in Operation Enduring Freedom, and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).[4] It operates in Afghanistan and the Frontier Tribal Areas of Pakistan.[5]

I am somewhat confused about the War conducted purportedly against both Al-Qaeda and The Taliban in Afghanistan as well as related actions in Pakistan. It is unclear to me What we are trying to accomplish and How we can Possibly "succeed" in such an endeavor. It has been alleged by various people that we are fighting a "War Against Terrorism" and are trying to prevent future "911's".

It is unclear to me how U.S. and a few other "allied" troops in Afghanistan are preventing future 911's? It seems to me that many, if not a majority of the population of Afghanistan dislike Both The Taliban and the U.S. Government Forces in their country. It seems that what we are fighting is a continuation of many hundreds of years of wars of outsiders invading an area which rarely has been unified as "a country".

It would seem perhaps naively to me that we could do a lot more to prevent terrorism and future wars and similar by:

1. Seriously resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict,
2. Working to support "mainstream" people in many countries in the Middle East and elsewhere economically and socially, but not militarily,
3. Seriously Changing the Perspective and Image of the U.S.- becoming a "friend" and an "ally" and a "good neighbor" - unlike the images put forth in such areas as: a. "Banana Republics", or b. The Phillipines - in the past,
4. Seriously working to deal with our Own Local Problems - such as Racism, Sexism, Classism, etc.

Silly Me! Thanks!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Badgers and Boobs - ? ?

I was in the parking lot of the gas station when a "peer" (50's, White, Male) of mine, seeing my bright Red Wisconsin Badger shirt said: "Oh, are you a Badger?" I replied, "yes, are you one also?". He said, "No, I used to be a Hawkeye (University of Iowa)."

We both went inside the station within a few seconds of each other. I told him of how in Wisconsin there were- "Cheddarhead" shirts and that one of them noted Iowa with a "Cornhead" character. He replied: "I always thought that Wisconsin girls had bigger boobs than Iowa girls." I responded with something like: "I don't know". He made some further comment as to why Wisconsin was (evidently) significantly better or more interesting because of its large boobed young women.

After that the young (male) clerk entered the dialogue talking of milk consumption - growth hormone - as it evidently might affect the size of female boobs. Naive old man that I am, I was somewhat floored by the conversation and basically stayed out of it.

In thinking about what transpired I feel somewhat "out of the loop" and bewildered. It would have been pointless to confront the Man - which I thought of doing - related to his sexism and generally inappropriate statements.

I guess that we men have our own world(s) apart from women where such conversations are commonplace. I do enjoy looking at women's boobs, however I am, if anything, embarassed and self-conscious about my desires and enjoyments in this area. I can't imagine a world around me where such Blatant Objectifying comments with a Total Stranger are seen as "normal".

I am reminded of how I was as a Young Man - when my visions of life were perhaps different. I believe though that even then I wouldn't have said something similar.

Ah, isn't life interesting ..... Thanks!