Archive for June, 2011

Eyeless in Gaza?

From Wikipedia:

Alice Malsenior Walker (born February 9, 1944) is an African American author and poet. She has written both fiction and essays about race and gender. She is best-known for the critically acclaimed novel The Color Purple (1982) for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Walker was born in Eatonton, Georgia, the youngest of eight children, to Willie Lee Walker and Minnie Lou Tallulah Grant. Her father, who was, in her words, “wonderful at math but a terrible farmer,” earned only $300 a year from sharecropping and dairy farming. Her mother supplemented the family income by working as a maid. She worked 11 hours a day for USD $17 per week to help pay for Alice to attend college.

Living under Jim Crow Laws, Walker’s parents resisted landlords who expected the children of black sharecroppers to work the fields at a young age. A white plantation owner said to her that blacks had “no need for education.” Minnie Lou Walker said, “You might have some black children somewhere, but they don’t live in this house. Don’t you ever come around here again talking about how my children don’t need to learn how to read and write.” Her mother enrolled Alice in first grade at the age of four.

Growing up with an oral tradition, listening to stories from her grandfather (the model for the character of Mr. in The Color Purple), Walker began writing, very privately, when she was eight years old. “With my family, I had to hide things,” she said. “And I had to keep a lot in my mind.”

In 1952, Walker was accidentally wounded in the right eye by a shot from a BB gun fired by one of her brothers. Because the family had no car, the Walkers could not take their daughter to a hospital for immediate treatment. By the time they reached a doctor a week later, she had become permanently blind in that eye. When a layer of scar tissue formed over her wounded eye, Alice became self-conscious and painfully shy. Stared at and sometimes taunted, she felt like an outcast and turned for solace to reading and to writing poetry. When she was 14, the scar tissue was removed. She later became valedictorian and was voted most-popular girl, as well as queen of her senior class, but she realized that her traumatic injury had some value: it allowed her to begin “really to see people and things, really to notice relationships and to learn to be patient enough to care about how they turned out”.

The reason I chose Alice Walker today was not for her gifts as a writer as much as it was to recognize her activism. It began when she was a student meeting M.L.King and registering black voters in Georgia and Mississippi, and has continued to be an important part of her life to the present, where her appearance on this morning’s “Democracy Now” newscast informed me that she is one of a group of noted activists who are sailing to Gaza to break Israel’s naval blockade. She hopes to bring aid and attention to the plight of the  Palestinian people.

From the transcript of the Democracy Now show:

“Israel continues to threaten a group of international activists planning to sail to Gaza this week with humanitarian aid. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said participants in the 10-boat flotilla are seeking “confrontation and blood.” Last year, Israeli forces killed nine people aboard the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara. Meanwhile, activists say one of the 10 boats scheduled to sail to Gaza has been sabotaged in a Greek port. Saboteurs reportedly cut off the propeller shaft of a ship shared by Swedish, Norwegian and Greek activists. Organizers say the boat will be repaired in time to sail to Gaza. One of the other ships that will try to reach Gaza from Greece is the “Audacity of Hope.” It’s set to carry up to 50 U.S. citizens carrying letters to Gaza residents. One of the ship’s passengers is the acclaimed author, poet and activist Alice Walker. She has written many books, including “The Color Purple,” for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. On Monday, Alice Walker spoke at a Freedom Flotilla news conference in the Greek capital of Athens. “I am going to Gaza because my government has failed, it has failed us, it has failed to understand or to care about the Gazan people. But worse than that, our government is ignorant of our own history in the United States,” Walker said. “For instance, when black people were enslaved for 300 years, it took a lot of people in the outside of our communities to help free us.” “

Still active.

Grace Lee Boggs (born June 27, 1915) is an author, lifelong movement activist and feminist. She is known for her years of political collaboration with C.L.R. James and Raya Dunayevskaya in the 1940s and 1950s. She eventually went off in her own political direction in the 1960s with her husband of some forty years, James Boggs, until his death in 1993. Still active at 95 with new book The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century, written with Scott Kurashige and published by University of California Press.

Born Grace Lee in Providence, Rhode Island, she was the Chinese-American daughter of a restaurant owner. Her mother acted as an early feminist role model. She studied at Barnard College on a scholarship and graduated in 1935 where she was influenced by Kant and especially Hegel. She received her PhD from Bryn Mawr College in 1940 where she wrote her dissertation on George Herbert Mead. Facing significant barriers in the academic world as a woman of color in the 1940s, she took a job at low wages at the University of Chicago Philosophy Library. As a result of their activism on tenants’ rights, she joined the far left Workers Party (US), known for its Third Camp position regarding the Soviet Union which it saw as bureaucratic collectivist. At this point, she began the trajectory that would follow her for the rest of her life: a focus on struggles in the African-American community.

All the above is from Wikipedia. I am learning along with you (if you had no prior knowledge of Grace) and always eager to hear what a clear thinking individual has to say about our current problems. Here’s a recent interview with this long-time activist, philosopher and author.

Katharine Houghton Hepburn (May 12, 1907 – June 29, 2003) was an American actress of film, stage, and television. Raised in Connecticut by wealthy parents, Hepburn turned to acting after graduation. Favorable reviews of her work on stage in 1932 brought her to the notice of Hollywood. After a few early film successes, including her first Academy Award, for Morning Glory, Hepburn endured a string of flops, which led to her being voted “box office poison”. She arranged with playwright Philip Barry to write a play with her in mind, one that smoothed over her prickly public image. This play, The Philadelphia Story, turned out to be a huge success on Broadway. Securing the film rights for herself with the help of Howard Hughes, Hepburn sold them to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on the condition that she reprise her leading role as Tracy Lord. The hit film adaptation revived her flagging career.

Throughout her six-decade career, Hepburn co-starred with screen legends including Cary Grant (Bringing Up Baby, Holiday, The Philadelphia Story), Humphrey Bogart (The African Queen), John Wayne (Rooster Cogburn), Laurence Olivier (Love Among the Ruins) and Henry Fonda (On Golden Pond). Her most successful pairing was with Spencer Tracy, with whom she made a string of hit pictures, starting with 1942’s Woman of the Year. The last of their nine films together was Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), which was completed shortly before Tracy’s death.

Hepburn holds the record for the most Best Actress Oscar wins with four out of 12 nominations. She won an Emmy Award in 1976 for her lead role in Love Among the Ruins, and was nominated for four other Emmys, two Tony Awards and eight Golden Globes. In 1999, she was ranked by the American Film Institute as the greatest female star in the history of American cinema.

My favorites are "African Queen" and "Lion In Winter", Which are yours?

Everybody, save the religious right,  is celebrating New York’s recent legalization of same sex marriage. The timing of the vote coincided with the annual Gay Pride Parade to multiply the momentum as New York became the sixth state to come to its senses. The jubilation has spread throughout the country making this a party weekend to remember. I am taking this occasion to reprint a TAH from September of 2010 featuring Judge Vaughn Walker who overturned the California proposition which voters passed to stop same sex marriage in that state.

 I try to pick Amazing Humans with whom I have things in common, so I can be Amazing vicariously. For instance Vaughn Walker and I were both born in 1944. Both of us will soon be retired. He has a few more months to go, and so do I. Both of us look good in black, his robes, my T-shirts.

For someone appointed by George W. Bush, he made strange history last August by striking down the voter-approved Prop. 8, which specified that the joys of marriage could only be experienced by a man and a woman, no other combinations of gender would be sanctified. VW thought differently and said we should use the Constitution for this decision instead of the Good Book. The Constitution doesn’t seem to deny this particular right to anyone because their equipment is the same or different.
Of course this decision has been appealed and  will have to be bandied about in the Halls of Justice before it is eventually confirmed, maybe years. Maybe never if the you-know-whos get elected. Anyway, he makes this momentous decision and now he’s moving on into the sunset and some cushy private practice.
It is refreshing to see that even a judge who is appointed by a Republican president can make a “fair and balanced” decision, even if he is gay.

It seems that there is a belt of radiation around the earth, and it’s named after this guy, and that’s all I know about it. I’m afraid this is one for Wikipedia:

James Alfred Van Allen (September 7, 1914–August 9, 2006) was an American space scientist at the University of Iowa.

The Van Allen radiation belts were named after him, following the 1958 satellite missions (Explorer 1 and Explorer 3) in which Van Allen had argued that a Geiger counter should be used to detect charged particles.

Cosmic space man.
  • September 7, 1914: James Van Allen was born in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. His boyhood home, once maintained as a museum to him, is slated to be demolished soon. The new owner, Lee Pennebaker, has chosen not to demolish the home. It will be donated to the Henry County Heritage Trust, which plans on moving the house next to the old Saunders School which will be the home of the Henry County museum [1][2]
  • 1931: Van Allen graduated as valedictorian of Mount Pleasant Public High School.
  • 1935: Van Allen received his Bachelor of Science degree, summa cum laude, from Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant. During his undergraduate years, he studied with Professor Thomas Poulter, a first-class physicist. He tracked meteors, conducted a magnetic survey of Mount Pleasant, and measured cosmic rays at ground level.
  • 1936: Van Allen earned his master’s degree in solid state physics from the University of Iowa.
  • 1939: Van Allen received his Ph.D. in nuclear physics from the University of Iowa. His doctoral research was on measuring the cross-section of the deuteron-deuteron reaction.
  • 1940: As a staff physicist for the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C., Van Allen worked on developing photoelectric and radio Proximity fuses for bombs, rockets, and gun-fired projectiles. It was here that Van Allen acquired his interest in cosmic rays.
Think Pink.

I’m developing a nasty habit of choosing entertainment personalities for my Amazing Humans subjects. My inherent laziness seeks to undermine my fledgling work ethic, eroding my steadfast randomness with easy choices. And speaking of nasty habits, here’s John Waters.

I often consult this link,, which takes me to a page which lists famous people by state. It’s fun to look at each state and find out who the list-makers think are the most amazing folks there. I went to the great state of Maryland today ostensibly to make a random selection from the list of esteemed personages, but knowing full well that I would end up with , the Pride of Baltimore, Mr. John Waters. Who wouldn’t want to draw this guy? The Super Scion of Socially Acceptable Sleaze. To get to the point, the listmakers committed the sin of omitting Waters from their list of 25. Yet somehow Francis Scott Key, the guy who brought us the most violent, unsingable national anthem on the planet is in the house. What an outrage!
Wikipedia:John Samuel Waters, Jr. (born April 22, 1946) is an American filmmaker, actor, stand-up comedian, writer, journalist, visual artist, and art collector, who rose to fame in the early 1970s for his transgressive cult films. Waters’ 1970s and early ’80s trash films feature his regular troupe of actors known as Dreamlanders—among them Divine, Mink Stole, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, and Edith Massey. Starting with Desperate Living (1977), Waters began casting real-life convicted criminals (Liz Renay, Patricia Hearst) and infamous people (Traci Lords, a former porn star).

Waters skirted mainstream filmmaking with Hairspray (1988), which introduced Ricki Lake and earned a modest gross of $8 million domestically. In 2002, Hairspray was adapted to a long-running Broadway musical, which itself was adapted to a hit musical film which earned more than $200 million worldwide. After the crossover success of the original film version of Hairspray, Waters’s films began featuring familiar actors and celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Edward Furlong, Melanie Griffith, Chris Isaak, Johnny Knoxville, Martha Plimpton, Christina Ricci, Lili Taylor, Kathleen Turner, and Tracey Ullman.

Although he has apartments in New York City, San Francisco, and a summer home in Provincetown, Waters still mainly resides in his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, where all his films are set. He is recognizable by his trademark pencil-thin moustache, a look he has retained since the early 1970s. Some of his film-related material and personal papers are contained in the Wesleyan University Cinema Archives to which scholars and media experts from around the world may have full access.


Aldo’s favorite actor.

Undoubtedly Jack Nicholson is an amazing person. He’s done just about everything that could be done on a movie screen (with the exception of dressing in drag, correct me if I’m wrong). But he is a guest on my blog purely at the request of my dog, Aldo. Jack is his favorite actor because he’s the star of Aldo’s favorite movie, “As Good As It Gets”. Not coincidentally, a dog which looks very much like Aldo also appears prominently in the film. When the film aired this morning I noticed that Aldo would even sit through 5 commercials to wait for the movie to resume. Now that’s entertainment (attention span).


John JosephJackNicholson (born April 22, 1937) is an American actor, film director, producer and writer. He is renowned for his often dark-themed portrayals of neurotic characters. Nicholson has been nominated for Academy Awards 12 times. He has won the Academy Award for Best Actor twice, for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and for As Good as It Gets. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the 1983 film Terms of Endearment. He is tied with Walter Brennan for most acting wins by a male actor (three), and second to Katharine Hepburn for most acting wins overall (four).

But enough about Jack. Here’s a picture of Aldo watching Jack’s Oscar Winning performance.

Aldo watching:                                                              

What Aldo is watching.

                        Click the photos to enlarge.