I see dumb people


Sometimes when a group of wealthy self-made youngish men get together, they talk about sanity. And I do stress the ‘self-made’; idiot heirs who contribute little or nothing to society might have held superior rank in the Old World, where work was ‘icky’, but less so here, where ‘What do you do?”* becomes a centrally defining question and “Living off my mother/daddy’s money” not such an admirable answer; and I also stress the ‘men’, because in this post-dot.com arena of wealth I have yet to meet the self-made women, although I know at least a few of them are out there.

Sanity. As in: who has managed to deal with their wealth and success without going completely bonkers in the process. As in: not losing your grip on reality. Drugs tend not to help. (“Let’s get coked out of our minds and drive a million-dollar racecar in the rain! Really fast!”)

Not that you need wealth to go insane; obviously you don’t. Wealth just helps you do it in bigger and better ways, surrounded by as many yes-men (and yes-women) you feel you need to reinforce your particular view of that pesky thing known as ‘reality’ ( “Yes, Ashlee Simpson, you are a talented, edgy singer who worked really, really hard to get where you are…and I love your punk influence!..It makes you so unique! You and Avril!…by the way, does either of you know who Black Flag is? Sonic Youth? Well, they’re before your time so you don’t have to, right?..Right! Who cares about stupid history! You grew up listening to Green Day in a Britney Spears world, and that’s just so admirable and rebellious of you!”)

This is just my long irritable (read: pre-coffee) rant up to the fact that our Notorious Neighbor was recently featured in the LA Times in an interview/article that would appear to be a PR piece gone bad. Ah, NN, I kinda like you for what some might consider completely inexplicable reasons, and I’d like to see you get yourself together and buck the odds, despite the burden of your many millions. It might be time for a face-saving trip to rehab, you know. There seems to be a lot of that going around lately.

* Which could just mean, “Do you do anything?”


Nice interview with Susan Straight over here, talking about her fiction and observing the experiences of her three mixed-race daughters, the latter of course feeding the former:

SS: People don’t quite know what to make of them. And my oldest one, who is going to be 17 in a couple of weeks, looks like Halle Berry but has hair down to her waist, she just got 790 out of 800 on her SAT. She’s been around books. She brought me Rolling Stone in February and Kanye West was on the cover. And there’s an interview with him and Gaiyla is a big Kanye fan. And she said, “Mom, I want you to look at this.” And in there is one where Kanye is asked about this song about leaving for a white girl. So the interviewer says, “Are you against race mixing?” And Kanye’s like, “No, I am all for race mixing. If we didn’t have race mixing we wouldn’t have video girls.”

RB: [laughs] Race mixing presumes racial purity, which doesn’t exist.

SS: There are no pure races. But for him to say there wouldn’t be any video girls and then the next line he says, “No, my friends and I love mutts. We think mutts are great.” And Gaiyla’s like, “I’m not a mutt.” And she says, “What is this ‘video girls’? It means girls who look like me are supposed to be dancing around wearing bikinis. I am not supposed to be this intelligent.” So the characters in this novel are intelligent.

RB: Is Riverside or Rio Seco a retarded community? Where does the idea that three variously colored girls would be automatically looked upon as dumb?

SS: Not dumb. [Just] not expected to be intelligent.

RB: And the difference?

SS: What I am saying is, where we live everybody is mixed-race. That’s why we find it funny. It’s when we go outside Riverside. When I was married in graduate school at UMass-Amherst, my husband and I never experienced the kind of things we experienced until we got to Massachusetts. Do you know where we have been made to feel like that? Here, on the East Coat. When people meet them—

RB: I can imagine them at a mall.

SS: What happens is people meet my kids [here on the East Coast] and they say this and that and then, “Oh so what do you listen to, 50 Cent?” And my daughters say, “No we listen to Cake. What do you listen to?” “Don’t you and your friends listen to rap?” What I am saying is the expectation is that of certain people. In the novel I am writing about this girl who is mixed-race and she is very intelligent and you could own someone’s body during slavery but you couldn’t own his or her mind. So if you imagine all the wasted brilliant genius minds in 200 years of slavery. Also there are white characters, white female characters. I felt quite tender about Céphaline, the girl who dies early in the book. She dies because they’re trying to fix her pimples and make her hair beautiful. They have put mercury on her face and they put lead on her hair. So she dies of lead and mercury poisoning. People used mercury back in colonial times to treat everything and most of the patients died.


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