Someone asked me once to describe J’Ouvert (Jou-vay), the early morning ritual that ushers in the first day of Carnival, sometimes still called Old Years Mas on the island republic of Trinidad & Tobago. I fumbled for words. J’Ouvert is wild. J’Ouvert is frenzy. J’Ouvert is pounding bass on a big truck, steel pan, rattling cowbells or just the “ting-a-ling ting-a-ling” of bottle of spoon. J’Ouvert is masquerade with or without actual masks. J’Ouvert is whining and “back back.” J’Ouvert is sexuality both liberated and restrained. J’Ouvert is the sacred and profane, the humorous and the macabre. J’Ouvert is the warning hint of a riot that organizes itself into chaos. J’Ouvert is ex-slaves with flaming torches and chains threatening to burn it all down. J’Ouvert is rum. Lots and lots of rum. J’Ouvert is devils–red devils, blue devils, devils dripping black tar and spitting fire. J’Ouvert is baby powder and paint. J’Ouvert is MUD. MUD. MUD. J’Ouvert in the end, is magic. Wonderful, fantastic, dangerous magic.
*photo courtesy of the film After Mas, taken by Joseph Mora
It’s that time of year again, Black History Month. Beginning every February in the United States, the country sets aside 28 (or 29 in a leap year) days to celebrate, discuss and engage black history. Innocuous enough. And yet what seems to happen every Feb. 1st, is the beginning of a 28-days long ritual of whining (how come they get their own month?), misconceptions and endless micro-aggressive racial faux-pas. And this isn’t just from the usual skyboxes of white privilege; there are black people (some of them noteworthy) who wade into…well…the stupid. So here are a few tips to better understand the month, both for those who have to endure the stupid and for those who might be enticed to engage in the stupid.
Peter Jackson has followed up with the second installment in his rendition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, titled The Desolation of Smaug. It’s a fitting name, because undoubtedly Smaugruns flys away with the film (move over Bilbo). Overall, it’s a significant improvement on part one of the stand-alone book turned cinematic trilogy. But like its predecessor, the movie still suffers from its inherent flaw–Jackson’s obsession to turn this children’s tale into one long drawn out prequel to Lord of the Rings. Once more, E is for Embellish.
“Whatever happens, we have got, The Maxim Gun, and they have not.”–Hilaire Belloc, 1898.
Peruse through a few images of steampunk dress and gadgetry, and the gun will make its appearance soon enough. Fitted into holsters, held haughtily over the shoulder, brandished in threat, tucked between bustles or even adapted to retro-futurist cybernetics, the gun has become a staple of the genre in both literature, film and cosplay. Given the era that steampunk attempts to navigate, recreate and/or re-imagine, the gun only seems fitting. But like so much else from our collective past, it comes with its own troubled histories. This was also an era of racialized subjugation, colonialism and imperialism. And the gun played a central role.
“…many Negroes and Mulattoes the property of Citizens of these States have concealed themselves on board the Ships in the harbor … and to make their escapes in that manner … All Officers of the Allied Army … are directed not to suffer any such negroes or mulattoes to be retained in their Service but on the contrary to cause them to be delivered to the Guards which will be establish’d for their reception …Any Negroes or mulattoes who are free upon proving the same will be left to their own disposal.”–General George Washington, October 25, 1781.
That time Washington had Patriot troops surround Yorktown to stop slaves huddled with the British from escaping. Wouldn’t know much of that watching Sleepy Hollow, where Washington wasn’t just a Founding Father, but a Savior of the Apocalypse and venerable Saint–”the good guys” in a war against evil where the Patriots are (literally) on the side of the angels.
I like this show. But sometimes it makes me wanna throw up in my mouth a little.
“If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans. . . We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.”–physicist Stephen Hawkins.
The last in a three-part installment on Christopher Columbus. How the destruction of the Americas and the legacies of colonialism and slavery, help shape the fears of our popular imaginings.