Decline and Fall

Biden: “He thinks wind causes cancer. Windmills. It’s the fastest growing jobs…”

Trump: “I know more about wind than you do. It’s extremely expensive. Kills all the birds.”

Try Harder (303/415)

In the email conversations I’ve had with students many of them have suggested they’d like to screen 1804: The Hidden History of Haiti for the film assignment. This choice is problematic for two reasons. First, it’s a documentary, not a fiction film. Second, it’s the outcome of only the most cursory research. If you google “haitian revolution film” it’s literally in the first couple of hits you get.

This latter point is very significant because it confirms that the Just Google It method of research produces homogeneous results. One of the weirdest and most threatening aspects of the internet is that if we let it, it will think for us. The search engine algorithm determines the object of our attention and thus the content of our thought.

Students who are interested in thinking independently, outside of a relatively narrow spectrum of Google-approved stuff, must try harder. Do a google search using the kw -.com, which weeds out some (not all) commercial sites. Use multiple search terms to narrow your focus. Refine your search as you go. Use the library. There are online books about the cinema of the African Diaspora. Access to those resources is essentially what you’re paying for (in addition to my disembodied voice, droning on endlessly).

Anybody who wants to actually Think Different, as the Apple Borg cube/monopoly insists everyone should, is going to have to work for it.

If We Must Die

Probably Claude McKay’s most anthologized poem. He wrote this during Red Summer.

If We Must Die

BY CLAUDE MCKAY

If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry doIgs,
Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

McKay was also a novelist. I’ve taught both Home to Harlem and Banjo, something I probably won’t do again any time soon.

Desert Fury

Eddie Mueller calls Desert Fury (1947) “the gayest movie ever produced in Hollywood’s golden era” and it’s true that only the lightest inference is required to read this desert noir as a story about clashing same-sex couples. John Hodiak (Somewhere in the Night) stars as Eddie Bendix, a gangster cooling his heels in the small town of Chuckawalla with his henchman Johnny (Wendell Corey) where he meets the restless daughter (Paula, played by Lizabeth Scott) of a former associate. Super-saturated Technicolor renders the landscapes incredibly vivid. With a mop-topped Burt Lancaster as Tom Hanson, the virile deputy sheriff. A standout performance by Mary Astor as Paula’s casino-boss mom!