Living the Good Life, Episode 2: April 8, 2016

Another week, another update. You know the drill by now, my friends, so I’ll just get right down to it!


WATCHAN:

Caught the first eps of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure (Part 4) and Macross Delta. Quick thoughts on what I saw:

Jojo started off well enough. The color palette is incredibly weird, and kinda makes me think I’m watching an old show from MTV (or Mission Hill, maybe) but it works. As for the episode itself, the voices were good, it was a solid retread of the first few manga chapters, so…yeah. Nothing but what I expected, and since my expectations were high, I’m happy.

Macross Delta: I haven’t had so much fun watching an anime while feeling like I was on an acid trip at the same time in…a couple of years, probably. I can sum up the first episode like this: There’s a space virus that makes people go crazy that can only be stopped by female J-Pop singers and breakdancing mecha, and oh yeah, some other mecha pilots who think they’re medieval knights or something show up too. It is so delightfully and deliciously crazy that I can’t wait to see what they’re going to do next.

PLAYAN: Ys: Oath in Felghana. It’s a very fun, fast-paced action RPG that’s a remake of a game I loved as a kid on the SNES—Wanderers from Ys III. Pretty much your standard “wandering swordsman gets caught up in a fight against an ancient evil and has to save the world” sort of thing, but it’s quite entertaining. It’s also good for a wide audience. The graphics are soft and cutesy, and there’s not much violence (there’s some blood, but you have the option to turn it off), only a bit of swearing, and no sexual content at all. Younger players can enjoy Very Easy mode, while adults looking for a challenge have Inferno mode. Very cool all around!

I’d intended to play Trails in the Sky after this. Trails is another game from the company that made Ys (Falcom), though a standard turn-based RPG rather than an action game like Ys. However, I hear it’s really long and involved, and Dark Souls III is coming out in a couple days (the 12th to be exact) so I don’t think I’d be able to finish it before that happy day. Instead of playing more games, I’m going to try and knock off as much of my reading list as I can in the 4 days before Dark Souls III arrives. So on that note…

READAN:

Freedom is Not Enough by James T. Patterson, an exploration of the historical background behind the Moynihan Report and its subsequent effects. At the beginning, Patterson says the book isn’t a biography, and that’s only half true, IMO—but in a good way! You can piece together a decent picture of Pat Moynihan’s life by reading the beginning of each chapter, but it’s all linked quite deftly with an excellent overview of what the Moynihan Report said, how it affected American discourse on race, and why many of its “prescient” predictions about the plight of the black family were not addressed till later. I’ve heard some folks say it’s a little too easy on Moynihan and his report (Susan Goldenbaum called the Report “cruel” while Patterson seems to rather like Moynihan) but I suppose I’ll have to see later.

After I finished that, I picked up Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America by Eugene Robinson, a prominent African American journalist. The book is easy but thoughtful reading on how African Americans are no longer really one group but four—a solidly entrenched “Mainstream” that’s more or less like the rest of America, an incredibly powerful “Transcendent” that’s made up of the rich (Barack Obama, obviously, but Oprah, Will Smith, and other influential black politicians, financiers, artists, etc. are part of this group), a benighted “Abandoned” that’s the standard unfortunate ghetto-dweller most are familiar with, and an “Emergent” group that consists of highly educated African and Carribbean immigrants, as well as biracial folks.

Again, Robinson is a journalist, not a historian, and his book is for popular audiences (i.e it’s not an exhaustively researched historical monograph), but in my opinion it was impressively historically literate. Robinson hits all the important parts of black history—the failure of Reconstruction, the migrations both north and south, the impact of the Immigration Act—in his explanation for why the black community has fractured as it has. You might be able to tell he raises many of the same points as Ira Berlin’s The Making of African America—IMO the books make excellent companions for each other, though this never really occurred to me before I read them in subsequent weeks like this. Disintegration isn’t perfect—I think Robinson runs into some trouble in his treatment of biracial folks; though he cogently argues why they deserve separate consideration (America’s peculiar “one drop” racial classification giving way to the contemporary acceptance of miscegenation we’re familiar with today), I don’t think they’re “emergent” in the same way African immigrants are. While the migration of free Africans to America of their free will may be a recent phenomenon (Remember, African slaves were by by obvious definition *not* free), biracial Americans have existed for a long, long time, even if they could only really escape legal oppression after Loving v. Virginia was handed down. But overall, it’s definitely a solid read I’d recommend to anyone interested in African American history 😀

While both of the above authors note that black immigration to America as a whole was limited until the 1960s, it was much more prominent before then in some cities—such as Miami, which is the subject of the third book I read this book: Nathan Connolly’s A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida. Now, in the interests of full disclosure, Nathan Connolly was one of my professors back as an undergrad and wrote me a recommendation that helped get me into grad school, so I’m obviously more than a bit biased in his favor.

Even if I didn’t owe him one, though, I’d still praise his book profusely. It’s an excellent historical monograph; I would argue it shows how a historian at his best practices his craft. It is also very dense and abstruse, however—definitely not something a popular audience can eat up immediately without a great deal of preparation, but definitely something professional historians and scholars should pay a lot of attention to. For the general audience of this blog, however, I’ll attempt to sum it up simply as I can. Essentially, Connolly argues that Jim Crow segregation, as reprehensible as we may find it today, was very profitable for landowners and other folks involved in real estate—and this applied to whites and blacks! For reasons ranging from pure pecuniary self-interests to beliefs about “respectability,” African Americans who owned apartments or other kinds of rental properties often opposed public housing or slum clearance measures often intended to help the black poor (though as we know, good intentions don’t necessarily translate into good results). As you can tell, this is a bit of a refutation, or at least a complication, of Eugene Robinson’s argument–even before the Civil Rights era, there was a significant degree of fracture within the African American community, both between native blacks and those from the Caribbean, as well as along class lines (landowners vs. tenants).

Now, Professor Connolly doesn’t portray this sort of division as reflecting badly on the quest for civil rights, much less praise Jim Crow or demean the struggle for racial equality—he’s a strong opponent of racism and proponent of integration; a point which his writing makes subtly but effectively—another reason I enjoyed his book so much. He does note, however, that they weren’t exactly villains or collaborators either, and that the struggle for racial justice was one waged not (entirely) between black angels and racist KKK devils, but amongst complex and fallible human beings who were often a little of both saint and sinner. Some quick quotes I rather enjoyed to give you a taste of the overarching argument:

Page 6: “Racially dividing real estate generated wealth because it limited the mobility of consumers, therefore confining demand, manufacturing scarcity, and driving up prices on both sides of the color line.”

Page 8: “because of landlord power, redevelopment only brought about the proliferation of concrete tenements  and the less overt and sturdier color lines that continue to define post-Jim Crow America.”

Page 42: “Particularly from the view of the globe’s white populations, an entire age, commonly called the progressive era, came to be defined by modern nations collectively reaching for efficient, moral, and bureaucratic means to engineer a taller and wider world of skyhigh buildings and skyhigh profits. This world was to be blanketed in a durable racial peace, or at least so-called progressives hoped, with explicit racial apartheid, at home and abroad, promising to bring unruly lands to heal. Order meant, among other things, protecting white commercial interests under the banners of capitalism, democracy, and modernity.”

So yeah, good stuff! That’s what I’ve been reading for this week—I’ve gotta get more done, I suppose. As for writing, well…

WRITAN:

Haven’t been writing much this week. Maybe I should, but I’ve been primarily occupied with reading, so…:p

TIMAN:

Again, not much to report here. STarseeker, my translator for Dragonar’s Japanese track, is pretty busy IRL and can’t work that fast. Maybe I’ll have another episode out next week.

And that should do it for this week! Aside from what I mentioned above, maybe I should also contact folks at Case Western university and the Spingarn-Moorland Center, in order to see if I can get some sources on George Fitzhugh and Martin Delany for mah dissertation…

LIFTAN:

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