Friday, June 26, 2009

The Unbearable Success of Michael Jackson

The first music recording that was given to me was William Bell's "You Don't Miss Your Water (Till the Well Runs Dry)," but the first music recordings that were bought for me were Diana Ross's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and Michael Jackson's "I'll Be There." I do not recall if I'd requested the Diana Ross and Jackson 5 songs or if they were surprises that went with the new record player, my first record player, which I received for a birthday. I listened to the Bell song, the first song I played, and which I still remember, but I loved "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "I'll Be There" and I love them still.

Michael Jackson was a singer, a songwriter, a producer, he was a businessman and a philanthropist--he was a great artist of popular music. It is hard not to be ambivalent about people who are great, as they are often strange: it is sometimes strangeness that compelled them to be great, and sometimes it is greatness that made them strange. I have not stopped liking Michael Jackson's music, the old or the new music; but, although I felt a measure of concern and sympathy, I had become ambivalent about Michael Jackson the man. The changes in his face and the constant rumours and scandals made him too strange to me--I accepted that he would be unpredictable, but unpredictability is not a quality I value in others.

Michael Jackson wanted transcendence, as many of us do. The idea of transcendence is a beautiful idea, an important and seductive idea, but it may be a false idea, a lie. Instead of a moment of connection and illumination, it may be only temporary forgetting of all the things that make us who we are--very particular human beings in this time and this place. No one can live in a place of forgetfulness always---without becoming mad or monstrous.

What it means to be black is perpetually discussed but rarely accurately described or honestly expressed. I would name W.E.B. DuBois, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Lorraine Hansberry, and Toni Morrison, with a few others, as people who have come close to explaining and exploring what it means with authority and insight. As surprising as it may be to some, Michael Jackson expressed better than most what it means--it was in his voice, in the tenderness and rage that can be heard in many of his songs, in the ambition and terror that we could perceive in him and in his work. He was a man of tremendous pride, talent, and vulnerability. He was unique but he was also one of us. He was innocent--and there are many ways for the innocent to be broken in this world: and the most obvious is to become like the world, to change one's self to fit someone else's idea of value. Michael Jackson belonged to a tradition of blackness that was about both assimilation and self-improvement (and it can be hard sometimes to tell the difference between the two). I think it was James Baldwin who said that it is difficult to live with a bad reputation and that every black child is born with one. Indeed it is hard to live with people willing to believe the worst of you, even after you have given them the best. The meaning of what it means to be black may be changing (and evidence for that may be the election of the American president, Barack Hussein Obama, a man of intellect, masculinity and sensitivity, with private commitments rooted in love and public power founded on ethics); and it is sad to think that Michael Jackson will not live into that new time--although Jackson may have been, already, like too many of us, too much shaped by the past.

I love Michael Jackson and I love his music more--and I am sorry to say goodbye to him so soon: but I am glad that he is done with the trouble of this world, no more weeping, no more wailing, he is done with the trouble of this world.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I have been thinking about my own alienation, my own sense of terrible drift, but the larger matters of the world, such as the recent election in Iran and the claims of vote tampering, the resulting street protests, the punitive violence...produce a sense of both tragedy and possibility...

On the web site of, about the prospects for dialogue between Iran and the west (specifically the United States), Peter Philips states, “Too much conflict material has accumulated over the course of the past 30 years and as a result, another four years should not and cannot be allowed to pass without addressing these problems, especially because no-one actually knows what will happen at the end of this period. What is more, grounds for a dialogue already exist: Iran does not want to be told what to do and this is exactly the line that Obama has adopted” (“No Alternative to Dialogue,” June 15, 2009).

The online newsletter Flavorpill’s managing editor Leah Taylor writes of a timely New York exhibit: “The Chelsea Museum presents what has to be one of the timeliest exhibitions in its history: Iran Inside Out. With violence and political unrest roiling in that country, this exhibit takes a closer look at its inherent contradictions, tradition, culture, identity, and struggle — especially as faced by its younger generation of artists. Fifty-six Iranian artists (including those still living in the country, as well as those scattered across the diaspora) present 210 works, organized around themes like gender and sexuality (‘From Iran to Queeran’), or war and politics (the satiric ‘In Search of the Axis of Evil’)” (Flavorpill, June 2009)

Meanwhile, offers the perspectives of some Iranians, those “Iranian expatriates who care about their identity, culture, music, history, politics, literature and each other, as well as friends and family living in Iran.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Random Thoughts On A Very Hot Day

Artists love the content and craft of art rather than the business of art, though fame and fortune grant an artist various forms of authority and security and are aided by the business of art (and the whole machinery of marketing and sales). Funnily enough, hype is effective because it mimes genuine enthusiasm and passion…True criticism involves identifying, exploring, and evaluating the structure, content, and spirit of a work—and it is forever in danger as it works with knowledge against ignorance.

I heard an interview with Woody Allen yesterday on National Public Radio (NPR). His voice was pleasantly deep, and it was amusing to hear him distinguish himself from his characters (he claims he is less intellectual, more ordinary—the guy on the couch with a beer watching a sports game). Woody Allen said that people like to them of him as an intellectual, and that an intellectual image might add to the enjoyment of his films for some. It is true that human beings are referred to increasingly as brands—reputations, products; and that’s the triumph of capitalism: an enslavement to marketing and public opinion...Woody Allen’s new film is Whatever Works, starring Larry David...I recall many years ago having an argument with a couple of friends about whether the very famous Woody Allen was an independent or mainstream filmmaker—they said the former, I said the latter, though now he seems to me to have been both, which may be one definition of a good and successful artist. Meanwhile, there is a bicycle film festival tonight at the South Street Seaport in Manhattan, featuring bike movies and parties (the film festival is from June 17 through 21).

I used to know someone who tried to dismiss science fiction as a matter of course—she was trying to take a superior attitude to a genre she was ignorant of, a genre that imagines possible futures in both human relations and technology (imaginings that often come true), a genre that requires imagination and intelligence to be rewarding to the viewer or reader. Science fiction puts vision to hope and fears, problems and the knowledge needed to address them. Reading recently Daniel Shaw’s Film and Philosophy: Taking Movies Seriously, I was pleased to see these lines: “Science fiction is the most philosophical of literary genres, because it so often concerns itself with questions about the criteria for personal identity, the difference(s) between humans and machines, the implications of present trends for the future of the human species, the dangers of technology and social control mechanisms, and the possibility and significance of contact with alien species” (page 44). Some works are so good they exclude people who do not have the sensibility to appreciate their qualities.

Thirty years ago the Rolling Stones were controversial for claiming in a song that black girls wanted to have sex all night long: now black rappers call black women whores and bitches...Some Girls was a great album—is a great album, as were Diana Ross’s The Boss and the first Rickie Lee Jones album, all music from that time, the late 1970s.

The crisis in health care is like every other crisis—manufactured, claimed one conservative radio talk show this week. These conservative shows—whether devoted to religion or politics—spend a great deal of time misrepresenting the president of the United States, Barack Obama. The constancy of their dishonest, hateful, ignorant, manipulative talk is an example of evil, a far from banal evil...In an article on bitterness and its reasons and roots, a professor of literature, Christopher Lane, writes in Psychology Today in “Bitterness: The Next Mental Disorder?” about politics: “The Bush administration led the country into a protracted, illegal war, based on trumped-up evidence; ignored memos that said the country faced credible terrorist threats; locked up large numbers of suspects afterwards without trial or due process; lied to its citizens about the widespread use of torture; eliminated every sensible, necessary check on financial regulation to prevent a fiscal meltdown; mocked the facts of climate change; and sat on its hands as Hurricane Katrina devastated a large city” What did the conservative talk show hosts have to say about any of that?

Encore: United Daughters of the Confederacy

Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, and he is the forty-fourth president; and much has been made of him being the first African-American president, a distinction trumpeted so much on his inauguration day that it sounded like an official title. I thought the iterations of the man's ethnicity were a sign of how simple rather than how sophisticated Americans are, but days ago, I was in a south Louisiana library that is getting rid of some of its magazine stock and I saw copies of the United Daughters of the Confederacy magazine being sold for ten cents, and I looked through some of them and bought two copies as historical items. The United Daughters of the Confederacy publications are dated 1972 and they are reminders of how recently racism has been a proud fact of southern life.

The members of United Daughters of the Confederacy were not only old women whose fathers or grandfathers were involved with the American civil war on the side of slavery, but individuals who were very young, and both female and male, in 1972 (there are photographs of members in the magazine; and, I wonder, where are they now?). The September 1972 United Daughters of the Confederacy magazine issue features a "Beliefs of Our Forefathers" article on page 29 under the rubric "Children of the Confederacy," a regular feature of the publication. In the article on confederate beliefs, the writer, who goes by her husband's name, and styles herself "historian and news editor," Mrs. Charles L. Deevers, discusses a confederate "catechism" that includes a defense of states' rights, saying that what led to the war between the states was "the disregard of those in power for the rights" of the southern states, the right to self-regulation. She, Mrs. Deevers, asserts that the "people of the south did not believe that slavery was right, and many felt that the south could work out their own problems and would eventually free the slaves because they were becoming the white man's burden." The writer discusses the economic concerns of slave holders (the economic loss if enslaved Africans were freed; and the high tariff proposed by northerners) and the "historian" Mrs. Deevers insists that enslaved Africans were well-cared for because they were valuable property ("They were well cared for because they were important to their owners") and goes on to note the "many stories" of kindness shown to Negroes; but, she says the Dred Scott decision "caused more trouble" and Abraham Lincoln's election "was the final blow." These unreconstructed views are interesting to read, though repellent; and I am reminded--thanks to Wayne Parent's book Inside the Carnival: Unmasking Louisiana Politics, from LSU Press, 2004, that even after the 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution were passed, the south resisted respecting Africans and African-Americans; and southern states passed laws to disenfranchise blacks and prevent voting and civic participation, an exercise of states' rights, matters that made necessary the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. (I recall, too, W.E. B. DuBois's commentary on the south's behavior after the civil war in The Souls of Black Folk.)

In the November 1972 issue of the United Daughters of the Confederacy magazine, in an article under the heading "Children of the Confederacy" on education by "historian" Mrs. Charles L. Deevers (page 27), the author Mrs. Deevers notes that there were no public schools in the south before the war, that planters' children were educated at home, that northern textbooks drove "intelligent" southern male teachers out of the teaching profession (just as later, southern boys were inclined to leave the classroom for the battlefied), that a southern or confederate teaching assocication was formed in 1862, that girls schools were expensive, etc. It is a rather feeble attempt to affirm white southern intelligence and education, the kind of thing that is rebutted with even small research or logical thinking. For instance, in the book The History of Southern Literature, edited by Rubin, Jackson, Moore, Simpson, and Young, from LSU Press, 1985, Lewis P. Simpson in "The Mind of the Antebellum South" and Elisabeth Muhlenfeld in "The Civil War and Authorship" discuss the limits of southern intellectual and literary life. The south did have artists, intellectuals, and scientists, but because of their irrationalism and pride--because of their commitment to refusing to register or respect the humanity of Africans, and the southern dependence on and defense of slavery--the antebellum south had few lasting or significant intellectual or literary accomplishments. It is a great example of how response to others can lead to self-betrayal: limiting the empathy and imagination with which we view others can lead to intellectual limits that curtail what we can think and do.

It was just a few years after 1972, when Jimmy Carter was inaugurated, an event I watched with my class: and one of the students, a southern white boy, said something on the order of, "Well, we have the niggers to thank for that." (It may have been the same white boy who wrote me, just weeks ago, wanting to get in touch with me, his old classmate. I wonder sometimes, more and more, if other people do not remember the things that I recall.)

Politics, the struggle over resources and values, a struggle that determines the social order, is a realm of compromise and reconciliation at its best; and Barack Obama is a figure of reconciliation. Obviously the election of Barack Obama is a sign of enlightenment, though it does not augur a perfect age or a perfect people: for one thing, the United Daughters of the Confederacy remains an active group, with an online presence, and its current leader states, "I am a member of The United Daughters of the Confederacy because I feel it would greatly please my ancestor to know that I am a member. It would please him to know that I appreciate what he did and delight his soldier love to know that I do not consider the cause which he held so dear to be lost or forgotten."

(Original Post: January 29, 2009)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Southern Ignorance, Louisiana Hate

I grew up in Louisiana, so it is impossible for the state to disappoint me: I left as soon as I could, and, after decades away, I have been back for almost a year--more than enough time to be reminded of all of the reasons I left. I took a long walk home from St. Martinville the other day (June 8), walking on La. highway 347, and turned down a road, La. highway 680, that I think marks the half-way point of my walk and I heard the word nigger. I thought I might have been mistaken--I looked around and I saw a man and two children outside a brick home, the third house facing highway 680 from the turnoff, after the houses with mailboxes 1010 and 1020 in front of them: a brown brick house with a blue truck and a small boat in the yard (box 1030? box 1034?). As I neared the home and people, I saw the (white) man playing golf with the two tanned (white) children, boys, and the man loudly sang out, "In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight" and I knew his voice could carry the distance and he had wanted the attention, wanted me to hear him--and I knew the word had come from him. There were no other people outside at any of the nearby homes. I wondered if something in my perceived attitude had brought this on--but realized this man doesn't know me, will not know me. I thought it odd that someone would enthusiastically, at this late date, display hate and ignorance before his own children: and then I thought it funny that in the age of Obama--when more (black) children will be committed to education and high aspirations--that this white man and his people have committed themselves to ignorance and hate--and will be lost in an educated, multicultural world.


A Letter to the Editor

To Whom It May Concern: On Louisiana Racism

(c) 2011

It was April 12th, an anniversary, the one-hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of the American civil war, the military conflict inspired by the South’s commitment to the enslavement of Africans and those of African descent. I had read an article on the war in Time magazine (April 18, 2011) about the ongoing disagreement about the interpretation of that war, but other than that had not given the day much thought. It was history and I had my own concerns—getting an agent for a novel I finished about a struggling African-American woman filmmaker, submitting a survey article on recent films to a web magazine, sending out notes for freelance assignments, and getting in touch with diverse friends in far-flung places, all things I worked on when I walked into the Louisiana town of St. Martinville on April 12 and visited the library, which has an internet connection I lack out in the country. The internet is a connection to news of real civilization, to cosmopolitan life and the intellectual conversations and great museums and foreign films and serious literature and ordinarily sophisticated newspapers I miss, all things that were easy to access when I lived in New York. I had finished writing a short piece the week before on Amede Ardoin (Mama, I’ll Be Long Gone, a new retrospective recording), the great early twentieth-century Louisiana Creole musician whose work is the foundation on which many Cajun musicians built their songs and whom, reportedly, was beaten viciously by white men after a white woman gave Ardoin a handkerchief with which to wipe his brow during a dance performance; and I had submitted that article on Ardoin, with other varied music commentary, via electronic mail to an editor. On Tuesday, April 12th, I read an e-mailed note from an acquaintance asking me to read his online article on jazz and race and to give my opinion; and I, who have studied and written about international culture, read his jazz and race essay and told him that I thought it was an important subject but that I wished that African-American writers would demonstrate getting beyond race by thinking and talking about other things—and actually getting beyond race. I would be reminded a few hours later why that is impossible.

I had arrived in town in the late morning, and left town in late afternoon; and I was almost halfway on my walk back home when I was looking away from the oncoming traffic for a minute toward the road on which I would turn—and, though my thoughts tend to be the solitary, melancholy complaints and considerations of most artists who are not rich or famous and find themselves in a cultural backwater, I was thinking that the walk felt easier and quicker than I had anticipated, and there would be less traffic after I turned onto the next road, and of what I would do when I arrived home. I was wearing light green pants with a dark green shirt, and I had a walking cane in my right hand and twirled it; and rather than poor and tired, for a moment I probably looked carefree. Suddenly, I felt a hard hit against the upper part of my stomach, just below my ribs, and I looked down to see liquid on my shirt and lower arm—then I looked behind me and saw an open can of orange soda leaking on the ground, and looked further back to see a sleek, small black car driving away. Unfortunately, I did not see the license plate. (Would reporting it to the St. Martinville sheriff’s office do any good, the sheriff’s office to which I had reported the theft of my bike without results, the sheriff’s office that had stopped me previously on one of my walks, for no good reason? Note: I conflate the sherriff's office and the police department: the uniform of the officers who stopped me were dark, as was that of the officer to whom I reported the theft; whereas the sherriff's office uniforms are usually pale.) I was near the spot where someone, months before, had called out “nigger” as I walked. I took the towel out of my pocket, and began to wipe my shirt and arm, then looked back at the car driving away, and realized that this had been intentional. Some sick, stupid person was offended by the sight of a young-looking African-American male who seemed free and happy: the myth of the happy Negro is one the old South promoted for years—but the thought of a free and happy Negro is one some in the new South still find vexing, apparently. (You would think that someone riding in a nice, new car would be confident enough to ignore someone compelled to walk—but no.) Of course, some people dislike angry Negroes, happy Negroes, sad Negroes, intelligent Negroes, ignorant Negroes, well-dressed Negroes, shabby Negroes, any Negroes. I had been warned that other people of color riding a bike or walking had been attacked by bigots, some in big ugly trucks, with small ugly minds; and although I hoped to be exempt from that kind of experience, a lifelong hope and a hope not disillusioned for the first time, I cannot say I was surprised. Anyplace in which citizens have to be wary of that kind of behavior on an ordinary day is a stinking, swampy cultural backwater. Who knows what drives such hostile people? How often do blacks and whites have an honest conversation about anything of consequence in Louisiana? I grew up in Louisiana, spent decades in New York, and returned for different reasons, one of which was to finish a book project, and nothing like what occurred that afternoon on the Louisiana road had happened to me in New York, a place in which—whatever its difficulties—some equal and honest conversation is possible and happens daily. Of course on this particular afternoon, it did not matter what my attitude or thought might have been—it never does with prejudice: you simply fill in your own attitudes and project them onto the other person. For instance, you abduct people from the country in which they live, love, and work, and you force them into a chattel state, exploit their labor for your lasting economic benefit, creating family and industrial wealth, and beat and rape and kill these enslaved people and their descendants, and then convince yourself that your victim is the immoral one. Unacknowledged guilt, like disrespected pain, can turn into rage, I suppose.

In Louisiana, the civil war continues, though its skirmishes are often personal and petty; however, ignoring the presence and repressing the power of African-Americans in civic and political life are prevalent and more significant. While one can hear the insane conservative talk on the radio, and read the lying and vile conservative commentary (of people who voted for notorious racist David Duke but did not vote for eminently qualified and well-intentioned native son Barack Obama) presented as respectable editorials in newspapers, one rarely hears the cogent and critical perspective that many African-Americans have in public. There are few political representatives who embody and articulate the lasting concerns of African-Americans: the desire for equal opportunity and treatment, and the need for good education for children and decent jobs for adults, so that good futures are possible. The irony is that blacks and whites, especially Creoles and Cajuns, have things in common: a relationship to the land and similar foods and music (and sometimes listening to black and white voices on local public radio, one of the few resources for complex consciousness and culture in the state, it can be hard to discern significant differences—the kind of thing that happens when there have been common experiences). Neither silences nor words ensure safety and security; and yet an individual can live in a perfect hell and think of it as heaven.

It is obvious that black people think so much about race because white people do. I was reminded of the kind of question one of my favorite authors, the late great writer James Baldwin, used to ask: what is it that white people do among themselves to make them so evil, so crazed and cruel, when dealing with other people? Certainly people who are happy, or who have spiritual peace, do not act like that. (I am not religious, but I imagine that if a moral god did exist he would damn such a people with hurricanes and floods, with crop drought and pestilence, with the breaking of industrial machinery leading to the spoiling of water and wildlife and even human fatality—things that never happen in Louisiana.) I tried to imagine what that person in the little sleek black car might have been feeling. Hatred? Cruelty? Mockery? Humor? I do not know—I cannot know. I only can speculate. That afternoon, I had to force myself to remember the people of different ages, ethnicities, and genders who have been kind to me on various days as I walked, someone they did not know, offering a ride or simply waving at someone who has lost that habit of hand. I felt a certain danger and worry but I continued walking, thinking about other things, but I returned to what happened. The pain in my chest returned me to what happened, even as my dark green shirt dried while I walked under the hot sun. (There seemed to be no stain on my shirt, but the next morning there would be a bruise on my chest.) For several weeks I had been thinking that many people do not know that black men have feelings; and this was more proof. However, I was glad that I did not cry when I arrived home that afternoon or later that night, as I was half-afraid I might—dealing with cruelty and stupidity day after day, month after month, is dismaying and exhausting. I want to be let alone: my lifelong anthem, and, of course, a song that no one will help me sing. Tears do not do much good, whereas thinking often does. I recall what I told the jazz writer before that afternoon experience of mindless and reflexive racism: the most important thing is to see and appreciate the differences in the abundance of human existence and natural life. April 14, 2011]

Friday, June 5, 2009

Culture, Here and Elsewhere

President Obama’s recent trip to Saudia Arabia and Egypt acknowledges the importance of the Muslim world and makes possible a new dialogue, encouraging new politics. Interestingly, “Muslim Voices: Arts & Ideas,” is a ten-day festival, June 5 through 14, 2009, devoted to Muslim culture, involving important New York institutions: Asia Society, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and New York University Center for Dialogues.

The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts with The Museum for African Art has an exhibit, June 4 through September 14, on “Perspectives: Women, Art and Islam,” and on June 6th there is a talk at the Contemporary African Diasporan Arts museum in downtown Brooklyn by the exhibiting artists from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

“The art, the history, the traditions and the geographies of the Islamic world from the Far East to the Iberian Peninsula are the subjects of the exhibition The Worlds of Islam in the Aga Khan Museum Collection,” reports from Madrid, Spain.

The American Folk Art Museum on 53rd Street in Manhattan will be open, free, tonight for three hours, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Meanwhile, The Art Newspaper reports that museum shows in different parts of the United States, dependent on funding by private patrons, are being cancelled, due to the economic downturn and its effect on wealth.

Blues singer Koko Taylor and actor David Carradine have died, and both will be missed, and while Taylor is more important to her art form that Carradine to his (she is considered the queen of the blues and though respected he does not have anything resembling a similiar place in film or television), it is he who has been getting the network television attention, although NPR has noted her passing.

Amy LaVere’s album Anchors & Anvils begins with the most dramatic song—“Killing Him,” about a woman who kills the man she loves, a man whose responses have been making her crazy—and there are other songs on the album about domestic conflicts: ending the album with the song would have given the entire album the scope of an unfolding tragedy, but in our time, artists (in literature and film as well) are encouraged to present the most dramatic scene first—to engage public attention—whether or not that works aesthetically.

I saw, one evening this week, a PBS special featuring European classical musician David Garrett, blond, youthful, very casually dressed, performing live from Berlin before a large audience, a performance interesting for his commitment to blending classical music and rock. He is a very good musician and an even better entertainer (it’s obvious he loves sharing his music, which is key to entertaining).

It looks like singer Mariah Carey has been getting some good reviews for her acting performance in the new film Tennessee. (I have had a fondness for Carey for a long time.)

The International Federation of Film Critics—FIPRESCI—offers online reports on film festivals, including this year festival in Istanbul in April: “…The new Turkish cinema, as seen in the festival, shows an astonishing diversity of themes, styles, handwritings; and it shows an amazing number of debutants — such as Asli Özge, whose first fiction feature Men on the Bridge (Köprüdekiler) won the main prize, the 'Golden Tulip' in the national competition, over new films from established directors like Yesim Ustaoglu, Reha Erdem, Semih Kaplanoglu and Erden Kiral. Without any doubt, Men on the Bridge is an excellent debut which should make its mark, and which deserves the prize ... even if it seems a little unfair to prefer it to new films from Ustaoglu (Pandora's Box) and Erdem (My Only Sunshine)…” (May 2009 report)

David Hudson at IFC’s The Daily continues to produce a film digest worth reading, covering everything from festivals to film criticism to film productions plans. [Writer's note: Hudson, formerly of Greencine Daily, announced in late June 2009 that he would no longer proceed with The Daily at IFC in its existing format.]

C.D. Wright has won the 2009 Griffin Prize for international poetry: the prize, given every year, is estimated at a value of $50,000.

Newsweek has an article on Oprah Winfrey’s giving air time to people involved in alternative health therapies, a critique; and, Winfrey, is number two rather than number one on the list of powerful media people put out by Forbes: and last night talk show host Craig Ferguson attributed both facts to the need for controversy to sell magazines in an age when print media is suffering great declines. It’s fascinating how transparent that is.

Two CW shows “The Game” and “Everybody Hates Chris,” both featuring black characters, are being cancelled; and fans of both programs are outraged: they are entertaining shows, and, apparently, popular, but the network seems to want a different demographic. (Erin Evans at the online magazine The Root has an article on the subject.)

There was a local Louisiana television news report about Chinese drywall that has caused a problem for residents, and the legal issues involved (people will sue). It is another in a series of problems with Chinese products—everything from dolls to toothpaste has been an issue in the last few years, suggesting a lack of care and an equal lack of proper regulation. It’s an irony that a culture once known for craft has grown slack in an age of mass production—and fascinating that the Japanese seem to have found a way to continue high standards with new technology. (The subject is worth more research and thought.)

Louisiana State University may have to eliminate as many as 1900 jobs, due to state budget cuts, reports Louisiana’s Independent Weekly and television station WAFB. Education and health care are often sacrificed in difficult times, an unfortunate choice as that will affect the future...