Huck Finn would think this is bullshit.

5 01 2011

Let me get this out of the way right at the start.

1.    I am not a fan of Mark Twain.  I think his writing is lazy and I think his stories are dull.  I think that if you want to read American fiction by a white fellow about a journey and the South you should read The Wild Palms by Faulkner.

◊  Or anything by Faulkner.
◊  I LOOOOVE Faulkner.

2.     I am not a fan of the word nigger.  I am using it in this post because I think that it is important in the context of the discussion but I don’t use it in polite company.  I don’t use it in impolite company.  I was brought up with a strict “Hit first ask questions later” policy with regard to the word ever being used to describe me.  I do not understand the desire to “reclaim” the word and I cringe when I hear people (of any race) using the “softer” version among themselves – particularly as a term of endearment.

So, you might think that I’d be relieved by the news that, because of the work of  Alan Gribben, a version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is now being released by NewSouth Books replacing the word with “slave.”

The idea of a more politically correct Finn came to the 69-year-old English professor over years of teaching and outreach, during which he habitually replaced the word with “slave” when reading aloud. Gribben grew up without ever hearing the “n” word (“My mother said it’s only useful to identify [those who use it as] the wrong kind of people”) and became increasingly aware of its jarring effect as he moved South and started a family. “My daughter went to a magnet school and one of her best friends was an African-American girl. She loathed the book, could barely read it.”

My first response to this was an Imperial facepalm.

My second response to this was, well eat an apple and convince me to paint your fence you lazy bastard!

Thankfully  I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Indeed, Twain scholar Thomas Wortham, at UCLA, compared Gribben to Thomas Bowdler (who published expurgated versions of Shakespeare for family reading), telling PW that “a book like Professor Gribben has imagined doesn’t challenge children [and their teachers] to ask, ‘Why would a child like Huck use such reprehensible language?’”

But soon even that academically-supported righteousness wore off and I was left with the hard cold frightened nub of why this move bothers me so.

It important that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (and, indeed any piece of literature) not be neutered for the sake of ease because – especially –  in this time of political revisionism art is one of the few things that we have to keep us honest.  It is important to keep a record of who are and who we were.

Replacing nigger with slave not only dilutes the text, it dilutes our history.  And that scares me.

Sure, people who were enslaved were referred to as slaves.  But  they were referred to as property, chattel, livestock and (specifically for those who were black and enslaved) nigger(s).   The use of the word is about power and privilege and was applied to all black people regardless of condition.

Because let’s be clear.  Slavery is a condition.  Nigger is a description, a qualifier.  This is an important distinction to me.  Black people all over our country didn’t hear slave as the last word that was said to them before they were lynched or humiliated and dehumanized in other forms.  They heard nigger.

Slavery is something that we abolished.  Something that we “overcame.”  Nigger is not.
In the novel Jim turns out to be a free man.  He won’t be called a slave anymore, but I bet he’ll still be called a nigger.

I accept that it’s difficult for people – especially children – to read novels filled with such an ugly word¹.  I dread having to explain the word to my future child.  But I am committed to doing it because I am committed to honesty.

It is too easy to remove the words and ideas that offend us from art and history.  It is too easy to give in to cowardice and hide our heads and dull our intellects in the sands of political correctness.

It is difficult to accept that our nation with all of its faults and warts and ugliness, its stops and starts  and shudders, is the nation the we love; the nation we make every.single.day.   It is emotionally wrenching and intellectually challenging to acknowledge that ours is a nation that is as much a reflection of its past as it is its hope for the future.
Nigger is a part of who we are.  And that is awful.  That is horrific.  That hurts me.  But that is the truth.

We must  preserve Huckleberry Finn (and other works) as they are to remind us of the work that we have done and to inspire us to do the work that we still have to do.  Especially in these tea-partying days.  We must do so because we are America, land of the brave.

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¹I accept that it may have been difficult for some of you to read this post which filled with such an ugly word.  It was hard for me to write.

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Olympics. Like Leap Year, but better.

24 02 2010

I am sure that you will be surprised to learn that I am very competitive.
I will take a minute for you to stop chuckling.

…Anyhoods, I’m competitive.  With me there is no such thing as a friendly game.

I am ashamed admit that I have ruined a New Year’s Eve celebration by accusing the opposing team of cheating during Cranium (a game, that I’d only just that night started playing again after a 5 year hiatus following a very bitter win over some other friends in another state over their gamesmanship) and yelling about the game being the cause of all of the wrongs in the world.
In 1994 I was banned from playing Taboo with my family after I threw the buzzer at my mother and it hit her squarely in the forehead and made the buzzing sound of doom as she – narrowly –resisted killing me.
I believe that the way one play’s Monopoly is a litmus taste by which you can measure how they play the game of life (and not that silly game with the pink and blue cars).  To be clear, I don’t play to Monopolize, I play so that you can’t.
The last time I played kickball, I sent a boy on the opposing team home in tears (he should not have taunted my kicking power without accounting for my superior stratagem and my speed.  Ah, to be seven again.).
I don’t believe in flag football.
I don’t believe that everybody wins.  If everybody won, there’d be no need for trophies.

I dunno, maybe it’s because I’m an Aries.  Maybe it’s because I like to see people crumpled in defeat.  Who knows… what I do know is that my competitive nature is really gratified by sport and there is no greater collection of sport than the Olympics.

I am an Olympics nerd.  This weekend alone, I watched 20 hours of Olympics.

RHS: That’s distressing hunny.
BPD: I love it!
RHS: Hunny, that’s what the kids call overkill.
BPD: That’s what you said about the cheese.
RHS:  And hunny, you had an eczema flair up after you ate that half pound of cheese.
BPD: Ah ha!  Olympics doesn’t give me eczema.

The Olympics takes precedence over all other TV watching.  I like to think of what I do is athletic Olympic watching.
I cried when Shen Xue and Zaho Hongbo finally won gold after skating together for 18 years.
I was on my feet when Shaun White won gold and unveiled the new Double McTwist 1260.

I cheered when Canada got its first gold medal on home turf.
And I introduced RHS to the wonder that is curling.
I love it.

And aside from cheering and crying and criticizing the the judges scores what I really love about the Olympics is imagining the internal monologue of the athletes.

Biathlon: We’re skiing with guns!

Alpine Skiing: Uhm, guys, why are they skiing with guns?

Cross-Country: Dudes, we are not sticking around long enough to find out.

Ski Jumping: Flying Squirrel!  Flying Squirrel!

Speed Skating: We’re prepared to throw our skates at them in a pinch.

Skeleton & Luge: Puh-lease we’re hurtling down ice-y tubes of doom on our back and stomach.  We don’t even flinch at guns.

Snowboard Cross: Ice-y tubes of doom – awesome!  Do y’all race four at a time like we do?

Bobsled: Hey, we’ve got tubes too!

Snowboard Halfpipe: Whatever brah, it’s not like they’re doing awesome aerials with the guns.

Hockey: Body check!

Ice-Dancing: The brutes.

Figure Skating: Biathlon has guns and Ice-Dancing has Twizzles.   If those two sports got married and had a kid it’d be Johnny Weir.

Curling: Yeahyeahyeah, Johnny Weir.  We’ve got the bigger stones.

I love it.

And also, those commercials that Morgan Freeman narrates make me cry.





NOprah

21 11 2009

I have three major influences in my life.

My mother, the obsessive compulsive, super-smelling, freakishly-strong for her size, shoe loving, potato-chip eating marvel of genetic design that she is, Barbra Streisand (I know, surprisesurprise) and Oprah Winfrey.

Strong Black Women

Since her first show in 1986 I have been an Oprah fan.  I was six and she was Oprah.  She was the best thing to hit my afternoon TV since Reva Shayne on The Guiding Light.  Sure, I stopped watching her show when I got to high school and it began to interfere with my busy life of show choir [I still, 10 years and two sweatshirts later, am a little bit foggy on what exactly “Expressions in Motion” means but that might just be because when I was motion my expression was singular: pained.] and shadowing Windsor HS’ stage-manger extraordinaire in drama club rehearsals.  But with Oprah the adage “absence makes the heart grow fonder” was true.  The less I watched her show, the more terrific her personality loomed in my mind.

Some people believed in Jiminy Cricket.  I believed in Oprah.

When you wish upon a star, chose either Oprah or Barbra.

When people were running around with those silly WWJD bracelets (Answer: He’d slap you for wearing those stupid bracelets.) I would scoff at them and secretly think, “WWOWD.”  I even wore my hair like Oprah. (Somewhere there is the photographic evidence of this.  Let’s you and I both hope that they are not in electronic form.)  Oprah was everything I wanted to be: respected, successful and powerful.

So while I understand that after 25 years Oprah is ready to move on to other things, I’m really floored.  I feel like she just told Harpo to beat me.
I honestly thought that the Oprah Winfrey show would outlive me.  I thought that Oprah Winfrey would discover the cure for aging past 60 and would just go on forever.  I know that she’s striking out on her OWN but it won’t be the same.  I won’t be the same.  And now you know that awful Tyra is going to want her own channel too, though ANTM does pretty much own the CW which I guess sort of counts as half a network.  That just sent shivers down my spine.

But I guess once you’ve beaten the meat industry and picked a President there’s not much left.

Oh-prah.





Let’s do the Time Warp again.

10 11 2009

Last week it seemed like it was 2001 (and we all know what a banner year that was for America) now it seems like it might be 1998.

Why?

Because Lilith Fair is back. I know that I’m the last to know (I am not on the email list), but it’s breaking news to me.  And secretly the young, I’m not quite sure if I’m a lesbian but I like it here because all of these ladies are super friendly to me and I do enjoy a compliment, BPD is pleased as punch because well, all of the ladies at Lilith Fair were super friendly to me and I do enjoy a compliment.

But still, one of my favourite people at work who I haven’t figured out a moniker for yet (and frankly doesn’t OOMFPAWWIHFOAMFOY seems a bit long? Awesome, but long.) and I were talking about how we just can’t get all of the way behind it.

Because I mean, the late nineties were all about ladies doing their best Joni Mitchell impressions what with their guitars and their scarves and their sing-songwriter with a little dash of now let’s all sleep with each other thrown in. Oh those Halcyon days, when all a girl needed was a sweet pair of overalls and a beaded necklace.

But we’re in the two-thousandsies (Dr. Rachel Maddow says it and so can I!) now and things have changed. I mean, sure, ladies are still super friendly to me and I do enjoy a compliment but the music landscape is totally different. I haven’t seen my overalls in a while now and I always give RHS the stink-eye when she ties on a scarf. Also, who’s going to play?

Miley Cyrus
Beyonce
Katy Perry
Lady Gaga

I mean, they’re nice girls and all, but I just don’t get the Lilith vibe from them, you know, and the former headliners are, well, former.

I mean, Sarah McLachlan hasn’t had a job in ages. Those ASPCA promos just don’t pay the bills.

The Indigo Girls have faded to just plain old blue. Emily went and got her heart broke and Amy Ray went and got… uhm, younger women?

Tori Amos has made it clear that she’s not into the Lilith Fair (Isn’t she just our favourite little megalomaniac outside of Barbra?) so we can count her out – again.

Who’s left?

Joan Osborn – haven’t heard from her in ages so I’m thinking that she got mugged by one of those strangers on the bus.

Shawn Colvin?
I’ve got no jokes about Shawn Colvin. Sunny plays with fire.

So you can see the dilemma.

Who’s currently happening in the industry that fits within the Lilith milieu? And does anybody still want to pay to sit on a lawn among the scarfed and questionably washed (friendly though they may be) to see them?

These are the tough questions facing the Lilith Fair promoters. And I know that there are lists all over the interwebs with dream line-ups and they’re alright and all, but I have one that beats them all.

Lilith Fucking Fair Bitches!

Patti Labelle
Not only did LaBelle release a new album a year ago but Pattie Labelle is prepared to sing herself into a diabetic coma. That is some showmanship. Ain’t no acoustic guitar toting girl (even you, Ani) can beat that.

Heart
How do we get them alone?

Karen Oh
Oh yes!

Meshell Ndegeocello
Who is she and what is she to me? One badass sexy lady. Who plays bass. And is badass and sexy. Why are there even questions about this?

Tina Turner
Her Buddhism will add the den mother factor. Also, she owns a white and a silver leather jumpsuit. That totally beats the scarves any day.

Barbra Streisand
Barbra Steisand is a colossus astride the earth (and with her don’t rain on my parade policy you are guaranteed great weather).

Liza Minnelli
You are guaranteed Quaaludes, mascara and an amazing wig-off with Tina Turner.

Crazy with a Z

Whitney Houston
Whitney needs a gig ya’ll. And frankly, you’re going to need someone who knows exactly how to revive you when you’ve had taken too many of Liza’s happy pills and had too many crack (oh, I’m sorry cocaine) laced pot-brownies.

Elton John
Bitch loves a party. And costumes. Win.

You know you’d rather see this line up than anything Sarah McMopelan can throw together.

Don’t front.





It’s all fun and games until someone gets married.

21 10 2009

So it occurred to RHS and I on Sunday as we were shoveling awesome breakfasty goodness  into our mouths having a nice Brunch Date to belatedly celebrate our 5 years of being a Team [That’s how we think of ourselves, as a Team. We even have a team name and a secret handshake.  That’s okay.  Take a moment.  It will still be true when you re-read it.] that we were less than a year away from our big come and celebrate the permanence of our relationship and bring us presents¹ party.

So yeah, we’re wedding² planning.

I know that this will be a surprise, but… I have not been planning my wedding since I was a little girl.  I’ve been planning it, seriously planning it, since Sunday.

RHS and I made lists and talked about options and made more lists and suddenly it occurred to me that I might end up with one of those god-awful wedding binders and began to panic a little bit, but then I calmed myself down by telling myself that if I had to have a wedding binder then I’d have to buy a new wedding messenger bag to carry the binder and that and the Bloody Mary made me feel a lot better.  That, and the thought that a god-awful wedding binder is kind of a tiny cost to pay to get hitched to RHS.

So yeah… wedding planning.

This means that every now and then there will be a post about the planning stages.  Posts like, Why can’t we just throw your ethics out of the window so that I can have that nice diamond ring, hunny?  Or the inevitable: People need mini-cheeseburgers more than they need crudites.  It’s a fact.

I hope that you (and RHS) can bear with me.

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¹Go look at the loading graphics of KitchenAid.com.  Those are kind of dirty, right?

²Maine has a big vote on Question 1 coming up.  Get out the word to your friends in Maine to show up and vote NO on Question 1 on November 3rd.





Wild Rumpus

17 10 2009

RHS and I saw There the Wild Things Are last night.

We laughed, we cried, we told each other which Wild Thing we thought we were and then we went home…

…and the soup was still hot.





I think my search for a theme song may be over.

14 10 2009


When work starts to get to me I channel my inner Barbra.  Specifically this Barbra.


It totally works.  You should try it sometime.


Oh, and by the way… you’re welcome.