This 'n' That

Thursday, October 05, 2017


In the 1994 film Barcelona, written and directed by Whit Stillman, two characters have the following exchange which concerns shootings in America.

Woman:  You can't say Americans are not more violent than other people.

Fred:  No.

Woman:  All those people killed in shootings in America?

Fred:  Oh, shootings, yes.  But that doesn't mean Americans are more violent than other people.  We're just better shots.

The film takes place in Barcelona, Spain.  Hence, the female character speaking above is Spanish.  And Fred, an American, is a United States Naval officer posted in Barcelona.  The sad truth about the exchange between the two fictional characters is that the Spanish woman is correct in what she has to say.  America is the most violent country in the world when it comes to gun violence.  It was true in 1994 when the film was released and it is still true today in 2017 more than twenty years later.  

Shootings in public places such as the movie theater in Colorado and Sandy Hook Elementary School, not to mention the most recent shooting committed by a possibly mentally deranged man, Stephen Craig Paddock, during a Country and Western concert in Las Vegas which left 58 people dead and over 500 wounded, was the worst loss of life as a result of gun violence here in America.  Guns are more accessible here in the United States than any other nation in the world.  More people in the United States possess a gun than people in other parts of the world.  Why?  Fear?  Paranoia?  Both?  Or could it be that we, as Americans, have forgotten how to communicate, express ourselves.  Instead we seek to find a quick fix.    

We become frustrated, upset, angry and instead of expressing our emotions in civil, verbal terms, because we have forgotten how to, we reach for a gun.  A short cut to alleviating emotional turmoil.  There.  It's finished.  Over.  I've done it.  I won't have to deal with that anymore.  Sigh of relief.  And then comes the ripple effect of the life or lives violently taken.  The grief of survivors, family, friends.  And, sometimes, anger leads to vengeance.  A culture of cruelty is what we have become here in the United States of America.

How does the United States of America do a better job at preventing so much gun violence?  First lawmakers in Washington, D.C. must pass proper legislation in order to make purchasing gun weaponry more difficult.  Particularly military type guns.  And then it is necessary that more research be done on how to improve mental health and how to detect mental deterioration.  Finally we need to learn how to communicate.  Discover proper outlets to express our emotions, good or bad.  Holster our weapons and talk with one another in a civil tone of voice.  It has gone past the time for us, as the most democratic nation in the world, to set a good example of what it means to be free of violence in general, but especially gun violence.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


Is a popular phrase used by Steve Harvey on his daily syndicated television program, Family Feud.  An innocuous one to say the least.  But recently Mr. Harvey has had to post an apology on his Twitter account for his choice of words he used in reference to Asian men.  Here it is below:

“Wanted to share this today,” Harvey tweeted on Tuesday, along with a screenshot of the Notes app where he had written a short apology: “I offer my humblest apology for offending anyone, particularly those in the Asian community, last week. It was not my intention and the humor was not meant with any malice or disrespect whatsoever.”
It is in response to Eddie Huang's essay published by the New York Times Saturday, January 14th, in the Sunday Review Opinion section titled, "Hey Steve Harvey, Who Says I Might Not Steal Your Girl?"  Eddie Huang is a restaurateur, television host and author of "Fresh off the Boat:  A Memoir" and "Double Cup Love." Here is Mr. Huang's summation:

"That’s why this Steve Harvey episode is so upsetting. He speaks openly about issues facing the black community, he is a man of God, and he has a huge platform to speak from. Unfortunately, he’s also the type of guy who orders Krug champagne for himself and Cook’s for every one else. For his own personal profit, he’s willing to perpetuate the emasculation of Asian men regardless of how hypocritical it is. He isn’t the only one doing this in 2017, but as I told myself on New Year’s, I’m not drinking anymore of this Cook’s they’re trying to pour, and neither should you."

After his meeting with President-elect Donald Trump, Mr. Harvey spoke of a need to "...Sit at the table..."  He had received criticism for the meeting from some in the African American community because the meeting took place on the heels of Mr.Trump's negative tweet response concerning John Lewis and Mr. Lewis' comments that Mr. Trump's presidency would be illegitimate.

It would seem that Steve Harvey is sending mixed messages, as he has forgotten who he is and where he comes from.  Hubris.  Not necessarily because of his rubbing elbows with President-elect Trump.  But because of his pejorative comments about Asian American men.  That said.  Is he a good choice for President-elect Trump to be discussing how to improve certain troubling conditions in urban neighborhoods?  One would think not.  And Mr. Huang would possibly agree.  

Perhaps it is time for some self reflection on Mr. Harvey's part.  Sit at the table and have a serious discussion with Steve Harvey. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


is the title of George S. Schuyler's satirical novel.  Originally published in 1931 by The Macaulay Company, New York, its main concerns are racial identity, racial bias and politics.  More relevant today, probably, with all the discussions taking place in the American media that concern race relations in the United States.  

Mr. Schuyler's book begins with Dr. Junius Crookman, a black physician, who discovers a scientific method to..."turn darkies white..."  He opens a sanitarium in Harlem and sets out on a grand plan to rid America of its "race problem..."  "To either get out, get white or get along..."  As he says in an interview with a "Negro" reporter:  "In three days the Negro becomes to all appearances a Caucasian." 

 Dr. Crookman's conversion process, though successful, causes a myriad of unforeseen complications for Negroes who take him up on his offer.  One of them is Mr. Schuyler's main character, Max Disher, who becomes a white man from head to toe after Dr. Crookman works his magic on him in his Harlem sanitarium.  But Max Disher's life, who renames himself Matthew Fisher, takes a dramatic turn when he relocates to Atlanta, Georgia from New York.  

Soon after his move Matthew Fisher ingratiates himself to The Knights of Nordica, a white Supremacy Organization.  Its agenda is similar to that of the Ku Klux Klan.  In an ironic twist, the Reverend Henry Givens, The Imperial Grand Wizard, is the father of Helen Givens.    She is the same young woman who rejects the former Max Disher's invitation to dance at a Harlem club patronized by "white and black folk..."  It occurs before the Negro Max Disher reinvents himself as the Nordic Matthew Fisher.  After an unpleasant exchange between Max and Helen, she turns to her friend and says, "Can you beat the nerve of these darkies?"  Naturally, Max is hurt and dejected as he slinks back to his table.  

Now, in Atlanta as a bonafide Caucasian, Matthew Fisher once again encounters and is free to pursue the affection of the alluring, green eyed beauty Helen Givens without hesitation or fear of rejection, because he is a Negro.  And so he does.  But first he becomes a trusted, influential advisor to her powerful father.  Unbeknown to Henry Givens, Matthew's aim is to subvert the political goals of The Knights of Nordica.  Furthermore, the now blond and blue eyed Matthew Fisher is in the dark about the relationship between Henry Givens and Helen.
Until the day he once again sets eyes on her.

The now Caucasian Matthew Fisher's relocation to Atlanta is fraught with seemingly an unsurmountable amount of obstacles.  Though, throughout his amorous pursuit of Helen Givens and his tense filled determination to bring down her father and his organization, The Knights of Nordica, the Negro Max Disher never forgets nor rejects his true racial identity.  There is a marriage and a pregnancy thereafter.  How will it all turn out for Matthew Fisher?  Will his child inherit the Caucasian appearance of his wife, Helen?  Which would enable him to continue his quest of destroying her father's racist organization?  Or will Matthew be forced to own up to his true racial identity after the birth of his Negro child and possibly face his own physical demise at the hands of Helen's father, the Reverend Henry Givens?

In 1948 Ray Sprigle, a white journalist published a series of newspaper articles about his experience passing as a Black man in the south titled, "I Was a Negro in the South for 30 Days".  It was followed by John Howard Griffin's nonfiction book, Black Like Me, first published in 1961.  It is an account of Mr. Griffin's odyssey passing as a Black man through the southern states of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, which were all racially segregated at the time.  Black Like Me was adapted into a film of the same title released in 1964.  It starred James Whitmore as Mr. Griffin's alter ego. 

The title of Mr. Griffen's book was taken from the last line of a poem, "Dream Variations", by Langston Hughes.  Here it is in its entirety.

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently.
Dark like me---
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance!  Whirl!  Whirl!
Till the quick day is done
Rest at pale evening...
A tall, slim tree...
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Is an extraordinary film.  Superbly written by Emma Donoghue, based upon her novel of the same name, and directed by Lenny Abrahamson.  A gifted artist, to say the least.  The entire cast, including the smallest of roles, all deserve Oscars as well as the film itself.  Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, who portray mother and son, should win Oscars this coming Sunday when the awards are handed out.  And Joan Allen is a treasure.  It comes near to being the best film this writer has ever seen.  Given it's title, the previews that have been shown, it is absolutely nothing like what one would expect it to be.   

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


It was on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in the early nineteen eighties.  During Eddie Murphy's stand up comic routine, he announced to the audience that on the count of three or maybe five, he and the audience were going to say aloud the forbidden, racist word that some people used in reference to black people.  As Mr. Murphy began his count down, one could sense the tension, the uneasiness audience members began to feel.  They didn't know whether or not he was serious.  And if he was, how should they respond, if at all?

Mr. Murphy paused at different intervals during his count down to admonish the audience that he wanted to hear them say the "n" word and not other derogatory words commonly used to insult black people.  He then began to list them:  "Alabama porch monkeys"; "Spear chuckers"; "Burr head", etc.
Nervous laughter.  There was some.  One can only surmise that the majority of those in attendance at The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson were white.  Not that those in the audience who may have been black would have felt more comfortable speaking the word out loud.  Nonetheless, nearer the time came for them to join Mr. Murphy in enunciating the epithet, the more prevalent the dreadful silence became.  Finally, Mr. Murphy chuckled and released the audience from what they feared they would have to say.  Instead he spoke a word that was completely innocuous.  Which resulted in cheers, laughter and relief from the audience.

The power the "n" word carried over three decades ago, still holds sway today.  Why?  In a television interview with Barbara Walters also in the 1980s, Eddie Murphy challenged Ms. Walters when he told her that everyone had used the "n" word at least once.  When Ms. Walters seemed to doubt Mr. Murphy, he asked her if she had ever used the word herself.  Wisely, Ms. Walters demurred and did not respond.  Her silence spoke more truth than anything she could have verbally expressed.

When President Obama, the first Black President elected in the United States, used the "n" word in a podcast interview with Marc Maron, it seemed to have accumulated more power than ever before.   Negative as it is.  President Obama dared to say what Eddie Murphy challenged people to say out in the open.  Inadvertently or otherwise President Obama also may have challenged us all and offered an opportunity to begin positive discussions about race in America.  A subject that seems to cause distress and therefore, fear and hatred.  And sadly violence.  Why can we not speak openly about how we think and feel when it comes to the subject of race relations?   We desperately need to.  It may be one way we can exorcise the demons of our dark and evil past that continue to haunt us in the present day and, perhaps, provide a brighter future for generations to come.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Laurence Jarvik has an interesting, to say the least, point of view about Steven Spielberg's film, Bridge of Spies, starring Tom Hanks.  See the full review at laurencejarvikonline.

"What can one say about a movie which makes Soviet spy Rudolf Abel into a dignified and sympathetic protagonist, the US government into an undignified and unsympathetic antagonist, and portrays ordinary Americans as paranoid, hysterical, hostile anti-Communist fanatics who persecute a noble dissenter dedicated to human rights?

That it was directed by Stephen Spielberg? That it stars Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance? That it was based on the U-2 crisis in the Eisenhower administration, and subsequent multiple spy swap in the Kennedy administration? That it was filmed in Brooklyn, Berlin, and Poland? That it is titled Bridge of Spies?What can one say about a movie which makes Soviet spy Rudolf Abel into a dignified and sympathetic protagonist, the US government into an undignified and unsympathetic antagonist, and portrays ordinary Americans as paranoid, hysterical, hostile anti-Communist fanatics who persecute a noble dissenter dedicated to human rights?

That it was directed by Stephen Spielberg? That it stars Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance? That it was based on the U-2 crisis in the Eisenhower administration, and subsequent multiple spy swap in the Kennedy administration? That it was filmed in Brooklyn, Berlin, and Poland? That it is titled Bridge of Spies?"

Sunday, October 04, 2015

LaurenceJarvikOnline: Sir Vidia's Pale Shadow: Paul Theroux in the Deep South

In Laurence Jarvik's most recent post, he directly addresses the question(s) as to what truly motivated world traveler and author Paul Theroux to travel down south and write a book about it.  Now.
LaurenceJarvikOnline: Sir Vidia's Pale Shadow: Paul Theroux in the Deep South