Amoeblog

Who's black and whose black?

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 17, 2009 12:00am | Post a Comment

As Black History Month rolls on, I asked myself a question that may seem stupid to most people: Who exactly is black and who is not? And how is it decided? Does the individual or society determine what we are or is it a combination of both? Are there other factors? Is this the Family Feud or actual objective science?
 

In 2009, all rational and educated people now accept that race is a human construct, which isn't to say that it's meaningless. As long as people are treated differently (preferentially, discriminatorily or just differently based on presupposed differences) on the basis of race, how society constructs and applies that race is worth thinking about. And, ideally, there shouldn't be any shame in recognizing broad cultural differences either. Why should "white pride" be offensive? Pride in er-one, I say. Minor caveat: to even assume that American society has reached a consensus on race defies reality – that's why Dave Chappelle instituted the racial draft. So step with me into a blog of shadows and substance, things and ideas into, to coin a phrase, The Twilight Zone.

 

Cinema of Mali

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 22, 2008 08:36pm | Post a Comment
Backrground of Mali

Ghana Empire Mali Empire  Sonhai Empire

            750 - 1076                                   1230 - 1600                                              1340 - 1591

Historically Mali was part of three Sahelian Kingdoms. The Soninke-dominated Ghana Empire, the Mali Empire (which established Timbuktu and Djenne as major cities) and the Songhai Empire. These kingdoms controlled Trans-Saharan trade of gold, salt and other precious comodities. It collapsed following an Imazighen (aka Berber) invasion. When the European nations established sea routes for trade, the Trans-Saharan trade economy collapsed. To make things worse, the region grew increasingly desertified. France invaded the weakened nation and occupied Mali from the early 1800s until independence in 1959. Today, Mali is economically one of the poorest countries in the world.

Malians outside a cinema
Malians outside a cinema

Culturally, however, it's quite rich. Like its West African neighbors, it's also highly diverse. Most of its people are Bamana. There are also large populations of Soninke, Khassonke and Malink are all Mandé. There are smaller numbers of Peul, Voltaic, Songhai, Taureg, Bozo, Dogon, and Moor.  Altogether, more than 40 languages are spoken. 

The future of Blu-Ray

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 9, 2008 09:05pm | Post a Comment

Batman
This town needs an enema
The Dark Knight was released today (December 9th) on DVD and Blu-Ray. It will, no doubt, be yet another enormously popular title on DVD -- but for Blu-Ray, it's being viewed by some as a make-it-or-break-it title. You may've noticed Blu-Ray commercials are beginning to sparingly pop up on TV. This is part of a curiously cautious, last ditch effort to boost the troubled format's fortunes. Last Christmas, sluggish sales of HD DVD resulted in that format's extinction the following spring. Some thought that Blu-Ray, as the victor of the so-called format war, would benefit from a sales boost from cautious buyers who'd been waiting to see what format triumphed. But instead Blu-Ray player sales dropped 40% in the first month of the year, then plateaued before dropping to less than half their peak sales not long after. Like LaserDiscs before them, Blu-Rays offer superior quality at a higher price but appeal only to a niche market. It remains to be seen if this market can grow sufficiently to keep Blu-Rays viable.

Monet's Japanese Bridge Japanese Bridge at Giverny photo

What is the deal with Somalia?

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 26, 2008 01:35pm | Post a Comment
Somalia in the news
If you're like me, you may feel like the media only provides confusing, fragmented glimpses into what remains, by and large, an obscure part of the world that makes regular appearances in the news regarding (usually) famine, war or piracy. And yet, the newscasters seem perfectly content to repeatedly ask, "What's going on?" and "Why do they kill us when we bring aid?" and (most inexcusably stupid) "Aren't pirates a thing of the past?" Yet they seem content merely to ask and never to attempt an answer. So, in the face of another wave of gawking, 30 second snippets provided by the news, here's my humble attempt to shed a little light on the region; one where long-simmering tensions and colonialist pressure have caused the Somali people considerable strife and difficulty for centuries, with no hope of apparent change in the future. And yet, I hope the music and cultural bits I've thrown in will provide a balance to all the misery.

Horn of Africa Horn of Africa 70

Introduction
Somalia's history (and the horn of Africa, for that matter) for the last few centuries has been a familiar history of extreme hostility and violent retribution. Begrudging neighbors are made pawns of European powers and played against each other with suffering resulting on all sides. Somalia, whilst one of the only countries with only one ethnic group, has never very unified. Originally the Somali people organized themselves on the coasts of the mostly barren country in tiny city states (and later, after conversion to Islam, Sultanates). 

Happy Martinmas

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 11, 2008 09:10pm | Post a Comment
Children on St. Martin's Day

Today is the feast day of Martin of Tours. Martin was a Roman soldier who gave part of his cloak to a naked homeless man. According to some, he gave the rest of his clothes to another naked man and rode Lady Godiva-style through the late autumn winds. God miraculously warmed the earth for him, which is why it gets warm after being cold this time of year (known by a few as "St. Martin's Summer"). That night, Martin dreamed that Jesus came to him, scantily clad in the portion of his cloak which he'd given to the naked guy. When Martin awoke from his homo-erotic dream, he decided to devote himself to Christ and was baptized at 18.


Eventually he became a bishop in Tours. He didn't want to be a bishop so he hid in a goose pen. The geese betrayed him with honking and that is why we traditionally eat goose today, a sort of revenge best served fairly hot.



In Tours he gained a reputation for his iconoclastic violence, destroying the polytheistic art objects and ancient, historic temples of the indigenous Druidic religion like some medieval representative of the Taliban. He even went a little nuts and cut down trees, to the locals' dismay. On one occasion, a druid consented that he could cut down the tree if he stood where it was likely to fall. He did so and, of course, the tree fell in another direction. The druids were impressed.

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