Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

30 September, 2006

"Banned" Looney Toons 5: "Sunday Go to Meetin’ Time"



"Sunday Go to Meetin’ Time" is a Merrie Melodie that was released on 8 August 1936 and is another of the "Banned 11", a group of 11 Merrie Melodies/Looney Toons shorts that were removed from circulation in 1968 for offensive racial stereotypes.

The short begins with a scene of a small town. Chickens are running in the streets but there are no people. A church bell begins ringing and the shot zooms into the steeple in the background. We then cut to the door of the church and out walks a portly preacher onto the stoop. With his big white lips, he is most definitely a stereotype. He starts singing in a rich baritone voice, calling his flock to church and greeting folks as they walk inside. When I first watched this scene, I found that the preacher reminded me of Paul Robeson, the great black actor and activist who basically told the House Committee on Un-American Activities to shove it.



The bells continue ringing and we are shown scenes of the townfolk as they prepare for and make there way to the church. The montage is full of caricatures of black people.





There's even a sequence involving a woman putting black polish on the heads of her children and having their father polish them so that their scalps are shiny.





You can see that the woman is a complete mammy stereotype - e.g. - Aunt Jemima. Many blacks shined shoes for a living during this time which, I assume, explains the polishing here. I also presume that this explains the racial epithet, "shine".

We now cut to another mammy figure calling out for her husband, Nicodemus. She finds him behind a fence shooting craps.



Notice the "Mamy's Barbeque Pit" poster on the fence.

She drags Nicodemus to church despite his protests that are voiced in a totally stereotyped, "Yes, mastah" kind of voice.



Nicodemus then sneaks out of church. Walking down the street, he comes to a chicken coop. He grabs a board and sneaks in.



His plot to steal a chicken doesn't go quite the way he had planned and he ends up getting knocked out cold. While unconscious, he has a dream. He falls down to hell where he is judged by Satan himself.





Reviewing Nicodemus' life, Satan uncovers a list of his crimes which are a litany of stereotypes: shooting craps, stealing chickens, missing church, raisin' dickens, stealing watermelons. Satan reads the list to him but, curiously enough, leaves out the last charge. Nicodemus is then tormented with such things as falling from a tall cliff and being thrown into a life-sized pinball machine before being brought before Satan once again.



The torture resumes with Satan's mini-minions poking Nicodemus with their tridents.



Poor Nicodemus wakes up to find that the poking is coming from the hens in the coop.



Now fully realizing the error of his ways, he heads back to church for some serious repentance.



After I finished watching "Sunday Go to Meetin’ Time", I found that I thought about stereotypes a lot. They are present here aplenty. But how do they emerge? What got me thinking along these lines was the chicken stealing. Chicken stealing is mentioned in various blues songs that I've heard. The singer remarks on stealing them from the white master as revenge or just taking one from the nearest coop because he is hungry. When you compare this film with various country blues songs, you find a lot of shared imagery – chicken stealing, church, the Devil, women trying to run men's lives, and gambling.

Think of a stereotype, any stereotype. I'll be you a dollar to a doughnut that there are some people on this planet that conform to that stereotype perfectly. So, in terms of the media (such as cartoons), where does reflecting reality end and stereotyping begin? How do we "enlightened" viewers in the 21st century "know" to be offended at this cartoon? Unfortunately, I can't find this short posted at YouTube or Google Video but I'm sure many people would have reactions similar to mine. Watching it again, I wonder why is it that Nicodemus serves as the most potent stereotype or why is it that the traits of his character are the ones that I feel the filmmakers wanted viewers to associate with all blacks? Nicodemus is the only townsperson that the audience sees stealing a chicken; he's the only one we see that gambles; he is the only one we see that declares he doesn't want to go to church. The implication here is that the rest of townspeople shown are good, happy, church-going folks. As a viewer, I shoved aside these positive elements of the majority of the townspeople and instead concentrated on the negative of one townsperson. I felt like I was supposed to view all blacks as gamblers as opposed to all blacks as happy church-goers. So why did I feel like the film was using Nicodemus to comment on all black people rather than the other folks in the town?

A lot of this has to do with me as a viewer in 2006. We are more "sophisticated" and "media-savvy", right? (Does this not also stereotype audiences and media creators from, say, prior to 1970 as not being savvy, as being simpletons?) For example, we "get it" and aren't offended when a television show today uses a stereotype but undermines it. Take Apu from The Simpsons. As an Indian who owns a convenience store, he is a stereotype. But the writers of The Simpsons play with and undermine the stereotype. The problem is that not every episode can fully do this for all the stereotypes on the show. So, you have episodes which focus on Apu. The viewer gets to see different sides of him. He has a home life, obligations to his parents, etc. Over the course of the show's 16 years, Apu's character has really been delved into and it is much more than a simple two dimensional cardboard cut-out. But I think one can cherry pick and find an episode that focuses on another character but has some of the plot driven by a visit to Apu's convenience store. Here, taken out of the larger context of the show, Apu is very much a shallow stereotype.

This occurred to me after reading this page about the mammy stereotype up at the Ferris State University website. Read this paragraph:

This was the mammy caricature, and, like all caricatures, it contained a little truth surrounded by a larger lie. The caricature portrayed an obese, coarse, maternal figure. She had great love for her white "family," but often treated her own family with disdain. Although she had children, sometimes many, she was completely desexualized. She "belonged" to the white family, though it was rarely stated. Unlike Sambo, she was a faithful worker. She had no black friends; the white family was her entire world. Obviously, the mammy caricature was more myth than accurate portrayal.

I noticed that a major element of the stereotype – the relation to the white family that a mammy would serve – is missing here because there are no white people in "Sunday Go to Meetin’ Time". Is it possible the Merrie Melodies folks were toying with or trying to undermine a stereotype here? It seems unlikely to me. But I still wonder about the audiences back then. I can definitively tell you how I feel watching these cartoons and, I think, give a sense of what audiences in 2006 fell about them, but I'm on much shakier ground when it comes to audiences from 70 years ago. Did people back then sitting in theaters see their own conceptions of race mirrored in these cartoons? Or perhaps they were conscious of the stereotypes but reveled in them because it was permissible?

We still use stereotypes in our media today. There are new stereotypes and they are often times used differently than 70 years ago, but they persist. And we barely bat an eye at some stereotypes in some older films. I would guess that millions of otherwise racially sensitive white folks watch Gone With the Wind each year and never stop to think that Mammy is a horrible stereotype. For some reason, Gone With the Wind and lots of other fare that you can watch daily on TV get a pass when it comes to racial stereotyping. It makes we wonder what people's reactions would be if these Merrie Melodies/Looney Toons were drawn so that the black characters did not have a black face look and instead appeared more realistically. (Or at least as realistically as Looney Toons could be drawn.) Watching these "banned" cartoons, it seems like, if you were to take away the Al Jolson look, you'd be left with material that's perfectly acceptable today at outlets such as Turner Classic Movies.

"Herr Meets Hare"
"What's Cookin' Doc?"
"Goldilocks and the Jivin' Bears"
"All This and Rabbit Stew"
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Friday Skin (on Saturday)

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28 September, 2006

India and Polonia All in One Day

I don't know about you folks, but I'm going to start my weekend early and in culinary heaven with a trip to Chicago. My friend Jason emailed me a couple weeks ago about making a sausage run and now our plans are coming to fruition. Initially, the idea was to just hit Andy's Deli and stock up on all manner of Polish sausage. However, our plans have expanded. Neither of us are tied to a schedule to we're going to hit a few more places as well as spend a lot more money.

The plan is to start in the Jefferson Park neighborhood which is where Andy's is located. The area is Chicago Polonia so, in addition to Andy's, we'll probably also hit Ideal Pastry, the produce joint just north of there as well as the bakery next door to the produce store. If you've ever shopped at Alex Polish-American Deli here in Madison, then you've tasted some of the treats at these places. Alex's bread comes from Ideal while their sauage (if not all of their meats) come from Andy's. I cannot remember the produce joint's name but they carry quinces year-round and it's the only place I've ever seen raw olives for sale.

Once we're done in Polonia, the next stop will probably be Devon Avenue. Devon is known for its large Indian/Pakistani populations and their attendant stores & restaurants. A stop at Ambala is required so I can feed my addiction to Pista Barfi, Pera, and the rest of the delectables there. The owner is very friendly and knows that I'm the guy who comes down from Wisconsin for his sweets. Considering the size of Madison, I think we have a fair number of Indian restaurants & stores but the 2700 block of West Devon probably has more Indian folks than all of Dane County. This means a much greater variety of shops, stores, and restaurants. It also means that a restaurant on Devon is the only one I've ever eaten at that makes Vindaloo how it should be - hot! I had a vindaloo at a restaurant there that made me cry it was so spicy. Now, THAT's livin'! No matter how I plead at Maharaja and the other Indian joints here in Madison, I always get a weak-tit vindaloo. Tasty? Most definitely. But spicy hot they ain't.

Moving west down Devon from Little India is an area full of Eastern European goodness. My buddy Charles wants me to bring him some pelmeni and I am keen on stopping at the only Georgian bakery in the country - Argo Georgain Bakery. They have these hachepuri which is a kind of cheese bread. From the descriptions I've read, they sound like these pockets of puff pastry dough filled with feta cheese and other delights and I am dying to try one. Other stops in this neck of the woods could be Globus and Three Sisters Delicatessen & Gift Shop. Don't know much about them other than they have Eastern European/Russian goodies. Oh, and Jason wants to find Russian vodka too.

Depending on time, I think we're going to hit some Korean stores just south of Devon on Montrose in the Albany Park area. To round things out, I want to stop at Serrelli's Grocery to get some of their Italian beef. My brother swears by Jay's but I'm a Serrelli's man. I think their gravy is better-seasoned and Jay's is a bit on the salty side. I grant you, there's a Jay's on Narragansett which is pretty close to the Kennedy, but why fuck around when you're driving 130 miles?

We'll be bringing at least 4 coolers along. Just one email from Jason and my iPass will be set up. I'm trying to fit into the itinerary a swing by the Swedish Bakery. Not only do they have great bread and cookies, but the last time I was there, they had a great selection of mommies out shopping. Hispanic, Middle Eastern, black, white, Asian American - they were all there looking fine. Ooh! I also wanna hit New York Bagel & Bialy on Touhy. I definitely want to get pictures so I've gotta get my camera batteries charged. What would the trip be without photos of the gorgeous Polish women that work at Andy's? And the dark-skinned beauties in Little India? And...
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27 September, 2006

Lectures Tonight

There are a couple interesting lectures to be had this evening.

Firstly there's "The Dilemma of Fundamentalism", a lecture by theologian Martin E. Marty. It's part of the continuing series of lectures about the Middle East sponsored by Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters. The presentation starts at 7:00 and is being held at the Capitol Theater.

Secondly we have "From Biology to Ethics: The Biological Foundations of Morality", a lecture by Francisco Ayala. It an installment of the Humanities Without Boundaries series by the Center for Humanities. It will be given at the Central Branch of the Madison Public Library starting at 7:30.
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On the Gramophone

This week I've got a video instead of the usual audio file. Watch "The Hokey Pokey" by Brave Combo.

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Word of the Week

albocracy (al-bok-ruh-see) n. government by white people
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26 September, 2006

Cooking German Once Again

In addition to sampling the Hop Whore this past weekend, I also did some cooking. I decided to return to my exploration of German cooking and made Graupeneintopf (Baked Barley Casserole) and Apfelbettelmann (Beggarman's Apple).

Since Becca and Stevie would be eating with The Dulcinea and me, I whipped us some appetizers. I bought a small jar of pickled herring, boiled some shrimp & made cocktail sauce, and made some Kase "mit Musik" (Cheese "with Music").



To make the Kase "mit Musik", I started by marinating some Swiss cheese in olive oil, vinegar, and pepper. The slices sat in the frig for a few hours before being patted down a bit and put on a plate. Technically you should use big slices of cheese that fit on a slice of bread and eat with a knife & fork but I had smaller pieces of cheese and a mini-loaf of cocktail pumpernickel bread suitable for fingers.



Here's how to eat it:

1) Butter a slice of pumpernickel.
2) Lay a slice of cheese atop the bread.
3) Sprinkle some minced onion on the cheese.
4) Eat.

As I prepped the Graupeneintopf, I found that we were out of salt so I had to grind up some really coarse sea salt that I had in my mortar & pestle. Graupeneintopf is a very simple dish. First you saute some finely diced onion and celery in butter. I deviated a little bit and used half butter and half lard. Then you add your meat of choice. In this case, it was ground beef.



Let the beef cooking a few minutes and throw in your barley, a few cups of stock, and some tomato puree. Season. Then throw in the oven. It'll dry up on ya so I added more stock after about 45 mintues. This is what I got in the end:



It's not a fancy dish, by any means, but it was a good hearty meal on a chilly fall day. Oh, and I fried up some spuds.



Then there was the Apfelbettelmann for dessert. It's akin to apple crisp but, instead of oats, there's pumpernickel bread crumbs. Since these were unavailable at Woodman's, I made them myself. They formed the crust along with sugar, and booze. So you layer things in the pan: crust, apple slices, rum-soaked raisins, and then grapes. Once all the strata are in place, I threw a generous number of bits of butter on top and threw it into the oven.



And here's the final product, two-thirds eaten.



With the weather turning, I look forward to huddling 'round the hearth more often.
|| Palmer, 4:32 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

An Open Letter to Richard Dawkins

Mr. Dawkins,

I am writing to tell you what an evil man you are. First you start this wonderful organization called the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science to promote, well, reason and science. And then you write a book which sounds like it will be an extremely interesting read - The God Delusion. Finally, you schedule a book tour but YOU NEGLECTED TO SCHEDULE AN APPEARANCE WITHIN EVEN A FEW HUNDRED MILES OF ME HERE IN MADISON, WISCONSIN.

You see Mr. Dawkins, Wisconsin is afflicted with folks who should be urged to use their faculties of reason. Ours is a very rural state and so we have many small communities that do not value science or, indeed, anything else in our schools' cirricula. Sports is all that matters in these areas. We also have people like gubernatorial candidate Mark Green who seeks to cripple stem cell research because he thinks that a tiny group of cells is actually a cognizant person with a soul. And then there's folks like Thomas Reeves who, while intelligent, discards all reason and instead sounds like a broken record as all he can manage is to repeat how much better society was when he was a youth.

So, please, please Mr. Dawkins, please come on up to the Land of Cheese at some point on your tour. I'll even assemble a welcome basket for you. I'd throw in some of our magnificent cheese, a six-pack (OK, twelver) of great Wisconsin beer, and whatever other local treasures I can find. Oh, and please bring your lovely wife along too. I'd like to have the chance to inveigle her into having her picture taken with me as I my Doctor Who scarf.

If you don't make it to Wisconsin, I swear I will not buy your book until it's released in softcover.

Sincerely,
Palmer
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25 September, 2006

Pubic Hair Panties

Finally there's an antidote, of sorts, to the horrible trend of women shaving, waxing, and lasering off all their lovely pubic hair. From Germany comes the Winterfell ("WinterSkin") pubic hair panties.

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More Bitter Than Death

This weekend I got a change to try Tyranena's Hop Whore. It's part of one of the latest trends in brewing which is to be like sports and go extreme. In this case, the object is to make the hoppiest beer possible. Good examples of this trend are the 60-Minute, 90 Minute, and 120-Minute IPAs from Dogfish Head. Hop Whore is an Imperial India Pale Ale and, as you can imagine, it is really fucking hoppy. If even a slight bitterness in your beer sends you running, then, by all means, avoid this beer. On the other hand, if you like the bitter, then make a date with the Hop Whore.

Personally, I found the stuff to be great. To paraphrase the early Christian apologist Tertullian, "More bitter than death is the Hop Whore". Sure, there's that initial blast of bitterness, but, once you get beyond that, well, hops are just full of bright flowery, herbal goodness. While I wouldn't make this my session beer, I found that it complemented richer food well, especially soft, mild cheese. Even my roommate Stevie, who is usually found drinking Corona or Bud Light, found it to be tasty. Get the stuff while it lasts to make room for Tyranena's next seasonal, a barley wine.
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What's To Become of the Majestic?

The Club Majestic is now officially for sale. The Majestic was built in 1905 as a vaudeville theater before having a third story added and morphing into a cinema. For the last few years, it's been a music club. The last time I went to the Majestic was a year or more ago for a Cherry Pop Burlesque performance. I must admit that I was a bit disappointed when I first heard that it would cease to be a cinema and instead be a club. Being a dorky white guy in my mid-30s, I'm more interested in hearing a bunch of Swiss folk play alphorns or some fellow Poles crank up the squeeze box for a polka than I am in techno or hip-hop. But hip-hop fans need a place to socialize and better a club than closed.

Unfortunately, the past couple years of the club's existence have been marred by violence at bar time. Patrons funnel out onto the street and stay there. There have been brawls, stabbings, shootings, etc. Neighborhood residents, owners of nearby businesses, and the city have been up in arms about the problem so it seems unlikely that a new owner would come in and continue hip-hop nights. So what's to become of the Majestic?

Personally, I'd like to see it become a movie theater again. It would be really neat if someone came in and put in decent seats and screen and a quality sound system. The University Square Cinemas are gone and the Orpheum can't pick up all of the slack. It'd be nice to have it run a mix of films. Perhaps a current Hollywood film in addition to arty fair. It would also be great if it could be a part-time revival house. Older films get a run at a commercial theater but only if it's there's a newly-struck print circulating and/or a director's cut. Why not play an old film just because it's good? Classics, cult faves - there's so many great films to choose from. We're a college town which means that each fall thousands of kids move here needing indoctrination. Yet there's a a paucity of Monty Python films, David Lynch, Mel Brooks, et al. How about a blue movie to remind them that people used to watch pr0n in actual theaters and not at home on a computer screen? I suppose this wouldn't fly here, Madison being too PC. (30+ years ago, there were blue movies at the Union, if I'm not mistaken. And back then they rioted to end a war. Nowadays, there's no porn and no riots. Is there a connection here?)

Hell, the owner could make a pitch to families. I attended a showing of Mary Poppins last year in Chicago which was jam-packed with parents and their kids. It was a sing-along version with the lyrics to the songs put onscreen with a little ball bouncing atop them to help the audience.

While the joint certainly can't be all things to all people, I think they'd have to do some counterprogramming to survive. Find some way to complement the Orpheum's programming yet, at the same time, carve out a niche of its own.
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24 September, 2006

Chomsky #1 at Amazon

While I'd heard about Hugo Chavez's speech at the U.N., I didn't know until this morning that he urged Americans to read Noam Chomsky.

At the start of his talk Wednesday, Chavez held up a book by Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance, and recommended it to everyone in the General Assembly, as well as to the American people.

"The people of the United States should read this ... instead of … watching Superman movies," the long-time critic of U.S. foreign policy later told reporters.


I looked at the Amazon sales ranks a short while ago and lo & behold, Chomsky is atop the list.

|| Palmer, 8:18 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

23 September, 2006

Happy Autumn!

Well, autumn has finally arrived. Soon there will be leaves to rake, chilly days filled with rain, etc. But there's also fun to be had. Halloween is only about a month away and there's plenty of harvest-related activities going on. This page has links to listings of corn mazes, pumpkin patches, apple orchards, and cranberry harvest celebrations. Although traditionally an Advent drink, it's getting chilly enough at night now for some glögg. Here's a recipe.

While I'm on the topic of potent potables, the White Winter Winery up in Iron River is now selling their Black Harbor.

Our Black Harbor dessert Mead is made with black currants and honey which have been produced by small, family run farms and apiaries from our area.

This is truly a regional drink, full of the rich taste of the fruit, well balanced with the residual sweetness of honey and toasted vanilla from French oak.




Now I'm getting thirsty and have a hankering for some brackett...
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Letter to a Christian Nation, etc.

Sam Harris' latest book, Letter to a Christian Nation, was released earlier this week. From what I've read, it's really just an expansion of some of his critiques in The End of Faith. Of course I'll be checking it out anyway.

Also, read his take on the controversy surrounding the Pope's quote about Islam being spread by the sword in "'God's Rottweiler' Barks".

Finally, read his article called "Head-in-the-Sand Liberals" from the L.A. Times. In it, Harris chides the Left for not taking the threat of Muslim extremists seriously and for believing that this threat only came about because of the policies of the Bush administration.
|| Palmer, 11:49 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

R.I.P. - Sven Nykvist

Sven Nykvist as died.

Sven Nykvist, one of the world’s foremost cinematographers, whose poetic use of light illuminated many of Ingmar Bergman’s greatest films, died yesterday in Sweden after a long illness.

Mr. Nykvist, who won two Academy Awards for best cinematography with the Bergman films “Cries and Whispers” (1972) and “Fanny and Alexander” (1982) and an Oscar nomination for best cinematography for “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” (1988), pioneered the expressive use of naturalistic light in filmmaking.
|| Palmer, 11:43 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

The NWO's Latest Member - Me!

I have been welcomed into the fold of the New World Order!



My post about 9/11 conspiracy mongers and the frauds that made the video Loose Change, linked to the Screw Loose Change website and they picked up on my words. And so they've made me a member of the NWO. I'm not sure what my responsibilities are now but I'm looking forward to learning the sacred handshake.
|| Palmer, 11:31 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

PKD News

If you look to the right at the Coming Soon section, you'll see that a previously-unpublished Philip K. Dick novel will be coming out in a few months - Voices From the Street. It sounds like it's from the 1950s and is not sci-fi. I presume it will be more like Confessions of a Crap Artist than Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.

Also in the PKD world, there's news of a couple biopics on the horizon. This is from The Guardian newspaper:

Now, in typically serendipitous Hollywood fashion, two separate film projects about Dick's life have been announced within weeks of each other. The first to declare was Panasonic, a low-budget indie comedy to be directed by Matthew Wilder, a former pop star, which will reportedly star Bill Pullman.

The second, so-far untitled film has a considerably higher profile, and is the first to be directly produced by the Philip K Dick estate under the auspices of its newly formed Electric Shepherd Productions. Paul Giamatti, star of Lady in the Water and Sideways, is playing the writer. Giamatti, a lifelong Dick fan, is also co-producing the film under his own banner, Touchy Feely Films. A director has yet to be named, but the film will be written by British screenwriter Tony Grisoni, no stranger to the subjects of drugs and paranoia after his work on Terry Gilliam's film Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas. Grisoni is planning to weave elements of Dick's fiction, particularly his last, unfinished novel The Owl in Daylight, into the story of his life. "I'm not really interested in the literal truth," he says.
|| Palmer, 11:26 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

"Banned Looney Toons 4: "All This and Rabbit Stew"



This week I'm going to look at "All This and Rabbit Stew". It is a Merrie Melodies installment released on 13 September 1941 and the name is a parody of the 1940 film All This and Heaven Too. The reason for it having been pulled from circulation is obvious from the get-go: the racial stereotyping of black people.



The guy is slowly walking along with his gun trailing on the ground behind him. Ambling along, he sings to himself in a ragged voice, "I'm gonna catch me a ra-a-a-a-a-a-bit". Quick-witted this guy ain't. According to the Wikipedia article on the episode, this character was modeled after Stephen Fetchit, a black actor and comedian whose persona was that of a listless, unintelligent black man. Stumbling upon rabbit tracks, it isn't long before Bugs' hole is discovered.



At this point, the viewer knows what is to transpire a the short has the now-typical storyline of Bugs Bunny eluding his stalker. Here in 2006, lovers of Looney Toons know this routine by heart: hunter finds Bugs; Bugs eludes and toys with hunter; a few minutes of hijinks later, there's some goofy denouement as Bugs wins the day. Aside from the racial stereotyping, "All This and Rabbit Stew" is quite unremarkable.

Bugs comes up with a subterfuge that leads the hunter into a cave inhabited by a bear.



Then there's old hollow log trick.



And so on. Finally, the hunter corners Bugs and he screams. (This was, for me, one of the two funny moments in the film. The other being the shot above of the hunter with his gun pointed in Bugs' hole. The hole actually moved which caused me to chuckle.)



Unable to escape, Bugs pulls out a couple dice which really perks up his would-be killer.



They duck behind a bush and roll the bones. In the end, Bugs wins the hunter's clothing and then assumes his persona.



This storyline is very familiar to viewers today as all one has to do is replace the black character here with Elmer Fudd. Interestingly, replacing the black caricature with Fudd, who is arguably a white caricature, doesn't elicit charges of stereotyping or calls for the cartoon to be hidden away in a vault. When I think about how the black hunter here was modeled after Stephen Fetchit, I wonder how viewers in 1941 felt about this short. Most folks today have no idea who Fetchit was so someone watching "All This and Rabbit Stew" 65 years ago certainly got something different out of it than do viewers here in the 21st century. It occurs to me that the personas of black actors appear in cartoons today. What exactly is the difference between the parody of Fetchit here and that of Cliff Huxtable seen in Family Guy? Fetchit was the stage name of Lincoln Perry while Huxtable represents the persona of Bill Cosby. Once you get past your initial repugnance of the hunter, you can see that the cartoon is engaging in what shows like Family Guy and The Simpsons do all the time – use, manipulate, and parody shared cultural figures. It's just that Stephen Fetchit is a cultural figure that isn't widely shared any longer.

One question we might ask is this: who or what is being parodied in "All This and Rabbit Stew?" Is it Stephen Fetchit specifically? Or black people generally? Perhaps black people via Fetchit? Our 21st century sensibilities probably lead us in the here and now to think that it pokes fun at black people generally. But what did the cartoon's creators and the audiences of 1941 think? Will a viewer 100 years from now who doesn't know of Arnold Schwarzenegger think that McBain from The Simpsons denigrates German people in general? How would his or her reaction change when informed that McBain is a parody of the characters that made Schwarzenegger famous?

While I don't maintain the stereotype in "All This and Rabbit Stew" is not offensive, I would argue that there's more going on here than the overly-simplistic "Oh, everyone thought blacks were that way back in those days". Issues regarding race are complicated and so too are the ways in which the media and our culture work. To look at this cartoon and brush it off as an open & shut case of the thought above is to portray the cartoon's creators and the audiences of the early 1940s as merely being two-dimensional racist automatons.

Behind Stephen Fetchit was Lincoln Perry who, when not acting, was a writer for the Chicago Defender, a well-respected and influential black newspaper. Race and culture and two very complicated subjects that overlap a great deal and often lead to contradictions. Things perhaps aren't always as they seem.

Someone has posted this "All This and Rabbit Stew" on YouTube so you can watch it for yourself.



"Herr Meets Hare"
"What's Cookin' Doc?"
"Goldilocks and the Jivin' Bears"
|| Palmer, 9:13 AM || link || (3) comments | links to this post

Friday Skin (On Saturday)

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21 September, 2006

"So...do you...do you suppose we should...talk about money?"

I referenced Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut in my last post and, in doing so, was reminded of how it came up brief in conversation on Saturday night. B said that he enjoyed the movie and was the only person he knew that did. I felt much the same way as I really liked it as well but can't think of anyone I know who feels as I do. This brough to mind a review I read last week of the film called Introducing Sociology: A Review of Eyes Wide Shut by Tim Kreider. Kreider's premise was that the movie was panned largely because viewers had false preconceptions of what the film would be. Namely, they thought it would be about sex and that there would be a lot of it in the film. They were, of course wrong, and Kreider argues that this left many folks unable to read the text of the film:

Critical disappointment with Eyes Wide Shut was almost unanimous, and the complaint was always the same: not sexy. The national reviewers sounded like a bunch of middle-school kids who'd snuck in to see it and slunk out three hours later feeling horny, frustrated, and ripped off. Kubrick was old and out of touch with today's jaded sensibilities, they said. The film's sexual mores and taboos, transplanted straight out of Arthur Schnitzler's fin-de-siecle Vienna--jealousy over dreams and fantasies, guilt-ridden visits to prostitutes, a strained discussion of an HIV test that echoes the old social terror of syphilis--seemed quaint and naive by the standards of the sordid year 1999. One last time Stanley Kubrick had flouted genre expectations, and once again, as throughout his career, critics could only see what wasn't there.

Kreider argues that, while audiences couldn't get beyond the lack of sex, they missed the critique of class in the film:

The real pornography in this film is in its lingering depiction of the shameless, naked wealth of millennial Manhattan, and of its obscene effect on society and the human soul. National reviewers' myopic focus on sex, and the shallow psychologies of the film's central couple, the Harfords, at the expense of every other element of the film-the trappings of stupendous wealth, its references to fin-de-siecle Europe and other imperial periods, its Christmastime setting, even the sum Dr. Harford spends on a single night out-says more about the blindness of the elites to their own surroundings than it does about Kubrick's inadequacies as a pornographer. For those with their eyes open, there are plenty of money shots.

I appreciate that Kreider looks at EWS as part of Kubrick's oeuvre and his reading of the film is, in my opinion, appropriate for most of Kubrick's work. It was not uncommon for Uncle Stan to ask the viewer to look beyond the main characters towards their environments in order to grasp meaning. Think about it. How many of Kubrick's characters have much depth or are meant to be utterly likable? Take 2001. Do you sympathize much with Dave Bowman? Does HAL have a lot of depth? No! What about the protagonist of A Clockwork Orange? Alex is a sadistic bastard. The film isn't about him; we don't get to see what caused Alex to be the way he is. Instead, ACO is about what happens to him and what is done to him. Kubrick's films really aren't character studies - they're examinations of the larger contexts in which people find themselves.

Now, you may have no interest in Uncle Stan's method of storytelling and that's fine. But I agree with Kreider in that it's unfair to be critical of EWS for failing to be something that it's not trying to be.
|| Palmer, 7:29 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

20 September, 2006

Masquerade Fest



Friday night is Capital's Masquerade Ball in celebration of Middleton's 150th birthday.

Yes, masks are required!! There will be masks [of a very basic design] on hand should you forget yours.

Costumes are highly encouraged! This year’s theme is leaning towards a medieval feel. Contests and prizes for the best overall costume and best handmade mask. Winners will be decided by crowd votes.

If you wish to participate in the contests, email us at capbrew@capital-brewery.com or speak up boldly upon your arrival.

Viviani’s Catering will supply the medieval feast for this Fest and the fare should keep you going while you dance the evening away among all the masked attendees. At $7.00 per plate (roast chicken, pork loin, ribs, potatoes, cabbage, and fresh fruit) even we peasants can eat like the royals!!


I'm thinking about pulling out my Eyes Wide Shut mask and hoping for some music by Jocelyn Pook...
|| Palmer, 9:06 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

19 September, 2006

Discovering the Peg of Damocles

After Corn Days, I dropped Miles off at his father's, The Dulcinea at her place, and then went home. I opted to take a nap before she and I went out again that night to Mistress Rena's place. Apparently she, Gray, and others of their kinky company were none too impressed with the Bondage Ball being held at The Inferno so an informal get together at Rena's was planned as an alternative. The plan was to watch a DVD or two of Osada Steve in action and just let things go where they may. Osada Steve, if you're wondering, is a shibari expert. If there's a title for this, I am unaware of it.

The Dulcinea and I arrived around 9. B & B from our erotic writing group were there in addition to Gray and his wife. I got to meet Rena's significant other for the first time plus there were a few ladies and a gentleman who were not part of the writing group and whom we'd never met before. People were generally attired in black with B and Rena being notable exceptions. B had a schoolgirl outfit on while Rena looked fantastic clad in a robe with a corset or bustier hoolie pushing up her large breasts.

Not having fully woken up from my nap, I forgot to bring some homebrew (it as BYOB) and my camera. You see, The Dulcinea was keen on having Gray tie her up and this of course had to be documented for posterity. We stopped at a gas station on the way there and I bought some soda and lemonade as I felt like, if I brought some beer, I'd drink all of it. That's one of the lingering effects of having been an alcoholic - it's hard to have just one. I decided that retaining some sobriety would be a good idea since I would be with people whom I barely know and probably others I didn't. Besides, The Dulcinea brought a bottle of wine.

We gathered ourselves together before a big screen and Josh, who was upstairs playing multimedia guru, started the first DVD. Osada Steve is a tall, long-haried German who, Gray explained, moved to Japan a couple decades ago to practice shibari. His performances were quite neat. His model was an extremely slender, yet very muscular, Japanese woman. Steve tied her up, suspended her, and swung her about with the greatest of ease. Even if bondage holds no interest for you, one had to be impressed with his great skill. One also had to be impressed with the model who found herself in some positions which had to be extremely uncomfortable. Obviously many of the positions were not the result merely of the ropes holding her but also of her ability to hold her limbs and the rest of her body in shapes that seem unnatural to most mortals.



At one point, I bent down to grab my Coke and, upon looking up, I noticed something off to my right, namely, labia. A woman had appeared from another room wearing only a modicum of bondage tape. The black tape contrasted sharply with her pale skin. A single strip was wound around her chest and a garter belt made of the tape was all that covered her. On the one hand, I wasn't expecting it because no one else was in a state of undress yet, on the other, it seemed perfectly natural considering there was a bondage video playing and we were in the home of a dominatrix.

With a few of Osada Steve's performances under our belts, folks began to wander off. I didn't notice at first but, upon hearing the moans of a woman coming from an adjacent room, it became quite apparent. I think that Gray was getting a bit excited because he got up from the couch in front of the screen and grabbed a black case. Opening it revealed a whole lotta rope. Next thing I know, The Dulcinea is taking off her shirt and skirt until she is down to a one-piece slip. And then Gray got to work.

I sat on a chair and would alternately watch a bit of the video and then Gray doing his thing. As it progressed, I took to a different seat in order to give him more room. It was fun to watch as The Dulcinea was obviously enjoying herself. Seeing Gray ply his trade made me wish I could do with rope as he can. Then it struck me. I'm not sure what thought it was or what led to it but I then felt really jealous. I've been jealous before. I mean jealous to the point of almost hitting a girlfriend so I was disconcerted. So I leaned back in my seat and took a sip of wine. About a minute later, my mind shot back into phase and all was well again.

When he was done, Gray handed me a vibrator which I would trace along the ropes for her pleasure. The thing immediately broke. Not to fear though, as the odds of finding another vibrator there were as good as finding roach clip in the young Bill Clinton's dorm room. When another one was laid in my hand, I set to work. I presume it felt quite good to have the vibrations set to work on her skin via the rope based on The Dulcinea's facial expressions and sighs.

As I was doing this, the woman whose moans I'd heard earlier emerged clothed but with some fresh hickeys. At one point I heard some slapping and turned around to see B spanking B, who was on his lap.



With rope round one over, Gray started in on number two with The Dulcinea. This time he would use flax rope which is quite stinky. He bound her at the knees and his tie involved the use of a big wooden crocheting needle. It was precariously placed just beneath her ass so the act of sitting would have to be done with the utmost care. I referred to it as the Peg of Damocles. When he was finished, The Dulcinea wandered around a bit enjoying the feeling of restraint. Now free, Gray restrained the young woman clad only in bondage tape as a spanking was administered. After this, Mistress Rena brought out a blade and engaged in a little knife play. Other than dragging it across the woman's skin and cutting the tape, I'm not totally sure what it entailed. Whatever the case, the woman (an aspiring bondage model) seemed to have enjoyed it later as she was putting her clothes back on.



The festivites ended around midnight. I know The Dulcinea had a great time and, while I had a good time, I suspect I would have enjoyed it more had I actually not been so sleepy. It was apparent that The Dulcinea has gotten to know my fellow erotic writers more than myself. I guess it helps to have a LiveJournal as do some of our fellow writers. Everyone can then make her a Friend and she them. So it goes, I guess.

A last addendum here. The Osada Steve Drinking Game was born that night and here are the rules as per Graydancer:

Take a drink of your beverage whenever:

~~~Osada Steve makes the model swing back and forth
~~~Osada Steve tosses a rope away
~~~A song from Moulin Rouge comes on
~~~You must be drinking for the entire duration of oral sex being performed on the model
~~~You must be drinking whenever Osada Steve is exposing the models pussy – but have two fingers in your glass as you drink it down

In addition:

~~~You must drink a shot of hard liquor whenever Osada Steve spins his model
~~~Any time the stage begins to rotate, you must pass whatever you're drinking to the person on your left.


So there ya go.
|| Palmer, 1:32 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Thai Coup

Scratch one constitution and enter one king.
|| Palmer, 1:26 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Cheese Days '06

This past Saturday, The Dulcinea, Miles, and I swung down to Monroe for Cheese Days. It was a nice sunny day though a bit on the windy side so The Dulcinea had to keep an eye on her skirt lest it fly up revealing her naughty bits.



Since Miles was with us, I wasn't allowed to head down to the Berghoff tent to enjoy some bier. I had told Old Man Standiford that I'd meet him there but, when I got to town, I realized I didn't have his cell number. So the 3 of us wandered around the town square and enjoyed some tasty food and some music.

Despite the presence of pizza and French fries, the celebration is really about a bunch of crazy Swiss-Americans who make cheese.



The cheese tasting tent was mobbed.





I bought a block of Brick cheese with garlic which is incredibly tasty, I can assure you. I think The Dulcinea bought peppered Havarti. Here's some guys from the cheesemaking demonstration covering a copper hoolie. I wish we'd been there for when they were actually doing a full-on demo.



Here's some other sights:





No doubt this couple remembered the days when this truck was actually in use.



"I want my garmonbozia!"

As we wandered the square, I'd alternately hear yodeling and alphorns. Strolling towards the stand selling chocolate-covered cheesecake, I found the tent from which the alphorns emanated. It was the hospitality tent or some such thing. At first I peeked in but eventually took a seat right up front as the alphorn blowers were just finishing a piece. When done, they gave a brief history of the instrument, syaing that they were generally made from pine and used to be blown from mountain tops to give signals to the folks below or on other peaks. Audience members were then invited to try one.



This was followed by singing/yodeling and some accordion music.





The accordion player gave a little introduction before he played in which he credited a cousin of his for getting him to start playing the instrument. He also remarked that very few people play the instrument these days and so he encouraged the young folk to take it up.

Soon enough, we had to head back to Madison. Hopefully I can find more time and less children for the next time. I would have liked to have sampled more cheese, had a brew, and have been able to listen to more alphorns and accordion.

At the corn stand, I found that one could get your corn either dipped in butter or wtih mayo & cheese. Now, when I grew up, we used butter (and some pepper) exclusively. The idea of putting mayo on corn never occurred to us. So, where did this practice originate?
|| Palmer, 10:34 AM || link || (3) comments | links to this post