Showing posts with label PBS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PBS. Show all posts

29 March 2018

March Miscellany

by Eve Fisher

Ah, March is almost over, and with it March Madness.  Look, I'll be honest, I'm not a basketball fan to begin with, plus, on PBS, it's also "Festival!", which really cuts a hole into some of my favorite viewing.  But - note to all ultra-conservatives who wonder why a GOP Congress never quite manages to cut all Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding?  Because out here in fly-over country, what station runs ALL the high-school and college basketball games, morning, noon and night, on all 3 PBS channels, for as long as they last?  Not to mention high-school track & field, and football playoffs?  PBS, not Fox News, CNN, or even ESPN.  You think people want to give that up?  No, they do not.  They want to see their kids, grandkids, and themselves on television.  The most conservative among them can easily ignore the PBS NewsHour in exchange for that, quilting, cooking, and travel shows, "Call the Midwife", "Father Brown Mysteries", "Nova" and Daniel O'Donnell specials ad infinitum.  Oh, and "Antiques Roadshow."

Meanwhile, we had volunteer refresher training at the pen this month.  This year we learned a lot about prison gangs and their tattoos.  We have a variety of gangs in the South Dakota Prison System, but they're not what they are on the east / west coasts.

Image result for gangster disciple tattoos
    Image result for white supremacist tattoos 88 boots
  • Up here the Gangster Disciples are mostly Native American.  Tattoos include Joker/Devil/Clown, 7-4, 612 (in Minneapolis), Devil with "C" handsign, upright pitchfork, Knight on a horse, and a few others.  
  • The Boyz / Wild Boyz / and Red Brotherhood are all also Native American, and rivals to the Gangster Disciples.  While they tattoo, they also do [bad] burns on the shoulder in a bearclaw pattern.  
  • There's the East River Skins, Native Americans, whose favorite tattoos are "ERS" and "Skins"
  • The Mexican Mafia, a/k/a Surenos use SUR 13, and others.  
  • And, of course, we have a wide variety and large number of White Supremacists.  Tattoos include:  Iron crosses, swastikas, German phrases, 88 (for "Heil Hitler"), Blood and Honor, SS lightening bolts, White Devil, crossed hammers with or without Confederate flag, 100% (for 100% white), White Fist, etc., etc., etc. 
Image result for gangster disciple tattoos
Hand signs made into
tattoos - many gangs use
the same hand signs

It's a whole language.

Speaking of language, I loved this "correction" of the New York Times tweet about the Austin bomber:

No automatic alt text available.  Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, text


I totally agree.  White boys/men who shoot up theaters, schools, or musical venues are all crazy, or quietly challenged, and/or from a broken home, and/or a good family, and therefore, there's nothing to be done except make all the white boys/men around us feel really good all the time so they won't shoot us.  (Or rape us - I'm still pissed off about Brock Turner getting probation because he was such a good swimmer with his whole life ahead of him.)  I call BS on that.  Simply put, anyone who's going around bombing random (or was it random?) American citizens, setting trip wires, etc., is a terrorist.  Period.  I don't care how "troubled" or "challenged" their life is.

Back in October, 2016, then candidate Donald Trump said “These are radical Islamic terrorists.  To solve a problem, you have to be able to state what the problem is, or at least say the name.”  Well, the Anti-Defamation League did a study and found that white supremacists killed twice as many as Islamic terrorists in America in 2017.  And that the numbers of white supremacist attacks are increasing around the country.  (ADL Report)   So, everyone, say it with me:  "Radical white supremacist terrorism."  Like 150+ years of the KKK.  (I can't believe that in this day and age I still have to say that the KKK and the Nazis are bad.)

BTW, ironically, as a Boston Globe article points out, being white doesn't protect you from white supremacist terrorism:  "The victims of white supremacist terrorism are often white....  the carnage of white supremacist terrorism should have been understood after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, where Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people of all colors. Fueled in significant degree by racial hatred, McVeigh was a devotee of The Turner Diaries, a white supremacist novel that imagined an American race war so grotesque that white women were hung for marrying African-Americans and Jews.  The carnage should have been understood after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado, carried out by Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. The two teens adored Adolf Hitler and were reported to have routinely used racial epithets. Yet most of their 13 victims were white."

Language matters.  How something is said influences more than we know.

I read on Facebook a story about a guy who asked a girl out on a date at high school.  The girl said "No, thanks" and walked away.  The guy grabbed her by the arm and said, "Come back here -" so she turned around and punched him in the nose.  Well, everyone came running after that.  The principal wanted her to apologize and he was going to suspend her.  The girl told everyone there, "Look, my mother taught me to never put up with someone laying hands on me when I don't want them to.  That I have the right to say no.  And now you're telling me that this jackass can grab me to make me change my mind?  Fine, suspend me.  But what you're doing is tell girls that we don't have the right to say 'no'."   

I'm with the girl all the way.  Because, when you follow that logic - that the girl should have been nicer to the man who grabbed her without her permission - what can happen is this:

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, ocean, text and water  Link to story

"Lovesick teen" a/k/a "heartbroken homecoming prince" - kind of perpetuates the idea that a girl can't say no, doesn't it?  That a girl shouldn't say no, because... she might make him so angry that he shoots her in the head?  And somehow she's in the wrong, because he's "lovesick"?  That somehow he has the right to kill what he can't have because of his emotions?  Jaelynn Willy was 16 years old when this possessive bastard shot her in the head.  She died three days later.  (See Jezebel for a much less "romantic" telling of this story.)

Meanwhile, 55% of female murder victims are killed by their domestic partner.

Up to 75% of abused women who are murdered are killed after they leave their partners.

The majority of the victims were under the age of 40, and 15 percent were pregnant. About 54 percent were gun deaths.

Strangers perpetrated just 16 percent of all female homicides, fewer than acquaintances and just slightly more than parents.

“State statutes limiting access to firearms for persons under a domestic violence restraining order can serve as another preventive measure associated with reduced risk for intimate partner homicide and firearm intimate partner homicide.” An abuser’s possession of a gun greatly increases the risk of female homicide.

Still, loopholes in gun laws mean that abusive spouses and partners often can keep their guns, even if they can’t buy new ones. And the consequences of those loopholes, for women, can be deadly.

Especially in the hands of a "heartbroken homecoming prince."











08 April 2015

The Wolf at the Door

by David Edgerley Gates


I was a big fan of the first two books in Hilary Mantel's trilogy, WOLF HALL and BRING UP THE BODIES, but I'm an easy mark for that kind of stuff. Historicals have always been high on my list - Mary Renault, Robert Graves, Bernard Cornwell, Patrick O'Brian, Norah Lofts - in part because you get to inhabit a foreign world, the past, and in part because they so often turn on the hinge of Fate, or a transforming moment: think Alexander the Great, the fall of the Mongol Empire, the Black Death.

The television adaption of WOLF HALL began its run on PBS this past weekend, and I'm queer for it already. Not that it's easy, mind. (Neither were the novels.) A broad canvas, a raft of competing characters, a complex political dynamic.


To cut to the chase, the Prime Mover of the narrative is Henry VIII's pursuit of a male heir, and everything follows from that. The rise and fall of favorites, Wolsey, Sir Thomas More, Cromwell, depend on the king's goodwill, and how effectively they manipulate the machinery of power, to get what he wants. When they don't, or can't, they're cast aside, left naked to their enemies, in Wolsey's phrase.  

The interesting thing to me about the Tudors - not Henry VII so much, but Henry VIII and Elizabeth I - is that they're about to step over the threshold of the modern age. Richard III, the last Plantagenet, was the last British king to die on the battlefield, and in a war of succession. This goes some way toward explaining Henry VIII's fierce obsession with generating a son. His pursuit of a divorce leads directly to his break with Rome, and the English Reformation. (Henry's place in folklore comes from sending two of his wives to the block.) The fracturing of the Church, and the authority of the Pope, erodes secular authority, as well. There is no Divine Right, and in two generations, Charles Stuart will meet the headsman. The religious issue becomes worldly. Henry creates this, He's a touchstone for the fall of kings. 

Another point WOLF HALL underlines is the rise of a commoner - Cromwell a blacksmith's son - to the office of Lord Chancellor. This is an enormous shift. promotion on merit, not the accident of birth. Ambition the spur, and Cromwell does make love to this employment, but he's neither a prince of the Church or a noble. He's nobody in the food chain, and beneath notice. A private secretary, Wolsey his patron. How he survives, and thrives, is in itself the story, that a man of mean antecedents can win the
king's confidence, not because he was born to it, but by his wits.  Not that he's entirely a ruthless bastard, either. He simply knows which side his bread is buttered on, and the currency he trades on is his service to the king, in all things. It gains him preferment, it lines his pockets, and it becomes his only purpose. He lives alone for it. This hasn't much changed, today. The difference is that Cromwell can even be chosen, in an earlier age.

WOLF HALL, the adaption, isn't for the faint of heart, any more than the books were. It helps if you know the basic storyline, and what's at stake. The politics, religion and its discontents, the maneuvering for advantage. You could get lost, and Cromwell himself is an unreliable narrator, a shape-shifter. You don't really know whether to trust him or not, and neither does anybody else. He seems all things to all men, but once you understand that what lies beneath is the fury of the king, and whether onstage or off, that it's Henry who whips the horses, then if they die in the traces, he's been well-served, at whatever cost. We hang on princes' favors, Wolsey says. (I'm quoting Shakespeare, here.)
     " ... I have ventured, 
     Like little wanton boys that swim on bladders,
     This many summers in a sea of glory,
     But far beyond my depth."

Is it a cautionary tale? Not exactly. It's about dangerous men in dangerous times, and treading water in the deep end of the pool.   



DavidEdgerleyGates.com

10 October 2012

CHARLES McCARRY: The Tears of Autumn



by David Edgerley Gates

[A late-breaking rant---

PBS.  It means to me, of course, TINKER, TAILOR, and DR. WHO, and THIS OLD HOUSE.  If you’ve got kids, it would conjure up Fred Rogers, SESAME STREET, and THE ELECTRIC COMPANY.  Some people first learned to read, or count, from watching these shows, and they introduced a framework for basic social skills, learning how to play well with others.

Quite a few years ago, the early ‘60’s, in fact, I worked as a cable-puller for WBGH in Boston.  This was back in the day of Julia Child and Joyce Chen, say, before they got to be household names, and before ‘GBH became one of the major PBS content providers.  It was pretty much a shoestring operation, and it wouldn’t have survived without viewer contributions and a subsidy from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

For reasons I’ve never understood, public television has been a target of the Right since the get-go.  Perhaps there’s a perceived Leftie, or elitist, bias.  Or, going in the other direction, the risk that so-called “public” broadcasting would simply be a government propaganda tool, like the Voice of America.  (In its early days, for example, the BBC was usually seen as a mouthpiece for whichever party was in power, Tory or Labor.)  But the most widely-used argument has always been the creeping Socialist one: taxpayer money shouldn’t support television programming.  PBS first got legs, it should be remembered, in the heyday of the commercial broadcast networks, NBC, CBS, and ABC, their shows collectively labeled by Newt Minow as a “vast wasteland.”  The point of public TV, known back then as “educational” television, was in fact that it wasn’t market-driven, and this alone seemed to lacerate the Right into a fury---public TV didn’t pay for itself.

Well, it’s not supposed to.  Public television is like public transportation.  It serves a greater good---okay, that’s the creeping Socialist in me, but the benefits seem so self-evident, to society at large.  Public TV provides a window on the world that isn’t hostage to money, although they’re always short of it.  Some of it is pablum, while some of it might be outside your comfort zone.  Its purpose is to entertain, certainly, but also to provoke thought.  It’s not meant to numb, it’s meant to evoke your curiosity. That’s what makes it necessary.

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled post.]


Charles McCarry doesn’t need me to plump him up.  I got turned on to him when a friend loaned me THE SECRET LOVERS ---one of the best titles in spy literature, if I may be so bold---and then another friend recommended THE TEARS OF AUTUMN.  (This is where I give a shout-out to Matt Tannenbaum and his long-running independent bookstore in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts.  McCarry hails from Pittsfield, and Matt knows him well enough to call him Charlie.)

McCarry was career CIA, or close enough as makes no difference.  Reading, for example, THE MIERNIK DOSSIER, his first book, where farce veers into tragedy, you feel a visceral sense of how the real world unhappily intrudes on the hermetic calculations of the spymasters.  McCarry is nothing if not unsentimental.  Nor does he have much patience with the Ayatollahs of Langley.  His concerns are more parochial.  He works in the trenches.  This isn’t to say his books have no political dimension, and in fact McCarry is well to the right of, say, LeCarré, whose active dislike of the Thatcher regime, for example, pushes his compass off true north, as a storyteller.  McCarry shows a few of these same weaknesses, on occasion, although from the other side of the aisle.  We can take the longer view, and forgive a partisan outlook, if these guys simply tell a rattling good story. 

No single event, in my living memory, generated more sorrow and more controversy, than the Kennedy assassination.  I’m of course of a certain age.  There are people still alive who’d say nothing affected them more than Pearl Harbor, or the death of Franklin Roosevelt, and younger people who’d point to John Lennon, or Princess Di, or the attack on the World Trade Center.  It depends whose ox is being gored, or what importance we attach to it, and where our sentiments lie.  It’s easy to forget that Jack Kennedy wasn’t really a very popular president.  He was roundly hated in certain circles, foreign and domestic, so when he was shot, fingers got pointed in a lot of different directions.

The first to circle the wagons were the Russians, who of course didn’t want it laid at the feet of KGB.  Then there was Castro.  Lyndon Johnson apparently believed up to the day he died that the Cubans were behind it.  And then there was the mob, in particular the New Orleans boss, Carlos Marcello.  They said he’d hooked Jack up with Judith Exner, or even Marilyn Monroe.  But maybe that was Sinatra. 

The genius of THE TEARS OF AUTUMN is that it doesn’t speculate about any of this crap.  McCarry cuts right to the chase.  In late October of 1963, a plot to depose the Diem regime was floated by disaffected Vietnamese generals  and Kennedy signed off on it.  The coup was effected, and Diem didn’t survive.  Kennedy was by all reports shocked by what he’d put in play, not realizing what the consequences had to be.  THE TEARS OF AUTUMN suggests that Vietnamese personal family honor, not politics at all, was behind Kennedy’s death, and McCarry lays in an utterly convincing back story, from Cuban mercenaries in Angola—--a great scene where Paul Christopher half-drowns a guy in a latrine trench---to their Russian patrons.

Do we believe any of this?  Does in fact McCarry?  I don’t know.  There are a lot of big ifs.  If, however, you happen to believe that Oswald wasn’t the only shooter, or that he was a patsy, THE TEARS OF AUTUMN has credibility.  Not some horseshit scenario, not Oliver Stone and how Clay Shaw was a right-wing queer in the pay of the CIA, or Howard Hunt was in Dallas that day, wearing the same fright wig he wore at Martha Mitchell’s deathbed, or why Marina Oswald’s dad was a GRU general.  (Actually, an intriguing question, that last.)  None of this is answered.

My own opinion, Lee was a lone nutjob who got lucky.  He was a Marine, you shoot iron sights at three hundred yards.  He was a discontented cranklypants.  He couldn't get it up, he had thinning hair or bad skin, who would care less?  The plain fact is, he was just an asshole.  They always are.



Why, then, is McCarry’s book so compelling, and what makes it so convincing?  Well, because the mystery isn’t in the end the assassin, the guy who shot Jack Kennedy, or the Archduke Ferdinand, or Abraham Lincoln.  The mystery is, as always, the rough draft of history.