Category Archives: Art & Culture

The Master-Slave Relationship: More Kinship Than Cruelty?

The Paula Deen Implosion

I have mostly ignored the Paula Deen implosion. But a friend recently sent an email asking if I had seen her appearance at NY City’s October 2012 Wine & Food Festival. While there she gave a videotaped interview with The New York Times Atlanta Bureau Chief and, months before her recent trials and tribulations, it would not have been too difficult to see the mindset that would eventually get her into trouble.

Deen goes into some of her family history with a story of how her great-grandfather “was devastated” after the Civil War. He had lost his son and the war and “didn’t know how to deal with life, with no one to help operate his plantation. You know there was 30 something [35, actually] people on his books” [euphemism for “slaves owned] and then the next year zero. He committed suicide. She goes on to say, “I feel like the south is almost less prejudiced because black folks played such an integral part in our lives, they were like our family.”

(Presumably she was not thinking of dysfunctional families like the one in Cleveland where Ariel Castro is alleged to have kept three women and his child by one of them in captivity, often chained.)

The real highlight and moment of revelation that told me Cholesterol Queen* Deen is largely clueless, like many of her peers, was when she called one of her black employees Hollis Johnson, up to the stage. “He’s black as that board” she said, pointing to the stage backdrop, adding “Come out here Hollis, we can’t see you standing against that dark board!” The audience began to laugh and Hollis came up on stage as Deen talked about him, “This is my son by another father.” He bent over and gave her a peck on the cheek as he departed.

The whole scene was one of those encounters where you feel mightily embarrassed for all the people on stage. Deen, apparently, has no clue to how 21st century race relations ought to be conducted. It was similar to being at a dinner party where someone begins telling racial or ethnic jokes in a mixed-race crowd. It just isn’t done. Period.

See the lengthy New York Times event video here. Go to minute time stamp 40:09 for a look at her learning about her great, great-grandfather’s slave ownership. For her interaction with Hollis Johnson see time stamp 46:07 — 50:07.

*To be fair Paula Deen says she does not advocate eating, on a daily basis, the style of food she has become known for.

U.S. House Committee Hearings on Copyright Law

Where are the writers on the U.S. House of Reps hand-picked Copyright Principals Project?

On May 16th the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet held their first hearing on reform of the 1976 U.S. copyright law. The 5-member panel known as the Copyright Principals Project were the only witnesses. The five members are lawyers, professors and a Microsoft entry, all important voices, of course, but I will be following to see if other speakers are scheduled in the coming months.

 

Hooray! The Tropenmuseum is Saved

Well, at least until 2017

 

A view of the central interior plaza of the Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

 

As the public face of the Royal Tropical Institute, a foundation that sponsors the study of tropical cultures around the world, the Amsterdam’s Tropenmuseum (Museum of the Tropics) is one of Europe’s leading ethnographic museums. Established in 1864, it’s beautiful brick building dates from 1926 and sits alongside the spacious greenery of Oosterpark. Between its rich permanent collection, which reflects Dutch colonial history, and its vivid temporary exhibitions, visitors can glimpse the past, present and future of non-Western cultures around the globe. A visit to the Tropenmuseum is a journey through old Asia, Oceania, Africa and Latin America via art, household and religious objects, photographs, music, film and interactive displays. The museum is also renowned for its efforts in child-friendly exhibitions. Tropenmuseum Junior offers an educational, inspiring and entertaining program for kids (6 to 13 year olds), aimed at introducing them to different cultures.

The Tropenmuseum is one of the most fascinating anthropological museums in the world, but is in danger of being closed with its collections dispersed – or so I wrote to colleagues a few weeks ago as the museum and the Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen (KIT Research Library) was slated for closure. Over half of the staff was beginning to lose their jobs and the research library was closing (it is filled with one-of-a-kind publications from around the world from as early as 1400 A.D.)

The Dutch government promised to consider extending funding for the museum and library for two years if folks could get 40,000 signatures (Dutch and/or Worldwide) signaling that there was interest in keeping the museum and library alive. After this period the Tropenmuseum would have to merge with two other institutions.

Now for the good news!

The petition has actually helped: on June 20 the relevant Dutch ministers, in debate with the House of Parliament agreed to a transitional arrangement to fund the museum until 2017. The plan requires the Tropenmuseum, in the coming years, to merge its 175,000 objects into the Volkenkunde Museum in Leiden and the small Afrikamuseum in Berg and Dal. The price to be paid by the museum is that it will be cut loose from the KIT archives & library and that the collections become the property of the state.

The bad news: Regrettably, those curators and others who recently were cut from the staff as a money saving measure will not be coming back, an example of “the wrong way to save money” by losing all their expertise. But perhaps the best to be expected in these times of universal budget cuts for cultural institutions.

 

The organization that spearheaded this massive outpouring for the museum is Petities.nl. Note that their website is, of course, mostly in Dutch.

The museum itself has a searchable database in English at:

Many Thanks to all my friends who added their names to the petition!

I Wanna See That!

New York City PBS 13 Out-Realities “Real” TV

A great series of five advertising posters are appearing in the New York City Subway system during the month of June. Entertainment Weekly carried a quote from a press release by Jeff Anderson, Executive Creative Director at CHI & Partners NY (the ad agency that created the campaign), “It’s pretty scary when you look out there and see what’s on television these days… If New Yorkers want an inspiring and educational option, they need to get behind a network that we sometimes take for granted.”

 

 

Three of the five spoof TV show posters appearing in the NYC Subway system until June 30.