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Category Archives: The My-Stery

The My-Stery: Magic, Mystery, Spooks, Superpowers and the Future in Blues


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A couple of days ago I was searching for blues artists that I haven’t heard of and I came across Willie Brown and his song, “Future Blues.” The song inspired me to create a short playlist with blues songs of a speculative nature. As for the title of the playlist, it comes from a book I stumbled across while looking for songs, Mark Winborn’s Deep Blues: Human Soundscapes for the Archetypal Journey. Also, for additional reading, here is Victor Kennedy’s essay called, Magic and the Blues. Enjoy!

Songs in Playlist:

Wilton Crawley and Jelly Roll Morton’s “Futuristic Blues”

Willie Brown’s “Future Blues”

Howlin’ Wolf’s “I Ain’t Superstitious”

Willie Dixon – “Seventh Son”

J.T. “Funny Paper” Smith – Seven Sisters Blues

Junior Wells’ “Hoodoo Man Blues”

Junior Parker’s “Mystery Train”

Memphis Minne’s “Hoodoo Lady Blues”

Bessie Smith’s “Blue Spirit Blues”

Bessie Smith’s “Cemetery Blues”

Bessie Smith’s “Spider Man Blues”

Muddy Waters’ “Got My Mojo Working”

Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Coochie Man”

Muddy Waters’ “I’m a Man (Mannish Boy)”

Koko Taylor’s “Voodoo Woman”

Koko Taylor’s “I’m a Woman”

John Lee Hooker and Carlos Santana’s “The Healer”

 

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The My-Stery: The “Label” of (Afro)futurism


I have not done this post in a while, so here it goes:

Recently, Shadow and Act reposted an essay from last year, “African Renaissance, How The Prefix ‘Afro-‘ May Arrest Imagination & Manifesto Salesmanship,” by Phetogo Tshepo Mahasha. I had a few thoughts about it that I formed during a private conversation with Cosmic Yoruba last year, but I never published them. So, I decided to do it now, especially after seeing Pumzi director Wanuri Kahiu’s TED Talk about labels:

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Posted by on June 11, 2014 in Afrofuturism/Afrosurrealism, The My-Stery

 

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The My-Stery: Top Reasons I Want to Go to Blogging While Brown


Brief break from regular programming:

Last year, I went to Blogging While Brown conference and I learned a lot. In fact, I am still learning a lot from the conference, following their facebook and twitter. So since the conference will be in New York City again on June 27th-28th, I will definitely like to go again.

1) To be re-inspired: There are times when writers and bloggers feel less motivated to continue blogging. Conferences like this give us a chance to meet and see other writers and bloggers who understand what you go through, form new connections, and get new inspiration for posts and how to build up your blog.

2) A refresher course: Since I am relatively new to blogging on my specific blog platform and all the tools and information related to blogging, it is easy to forget that information between the times of the conference, coming up with posts and doing other activities of daily life. The conference is a good way to remind me of all that information as well as learn new information.

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Posted by on April 24, 2014 in My work, The My-Stery

 

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The My-Stery: The Legba Circuit in Ellison’s ‘Invisible Man’


“After ‘Invisible Man’ by Ralph Ellison, The Prologue,” a 1999 photograph by Jeff Wall

Two of my favorites quotations from Invisible Man: “Beware of those who speak of the spiral of history; they are preparing a boomerang. Keep a steel helmet handy” and “The old is ever new.”

Today is Ralph Ellison’s Birthday and he would have been his 100th birthday. So, here is a taste (a short summary) of my essay, “’The Electric Impulse:’ The Legba Circuit in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man,” which I submitted to be in Afrofuturism 2.0, an anthology edited by Reynaldo Anderson and Charles Jones.

Inspired by Nikola Tesla’s quotation, “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration,” I argued that Legba (also associated with Eshu, Exu, etc.) is the guiding force of Ellison’s novel, incarnating himself through several of the characters in the book and under-girding the main themes of the book. 

When it comes to dissecting the novel, many will focus on the intersections of technology and race or even the musical aspects of it, since Ellison was a trained musician before becoming a writer, but rarely do they explore the spiritual, mythological and cosmic framework of the novel in relation to those other elements. Ellison had said himself that he uses myth and ritual as part of the process of his own writing in the Paris Review and he makes several references to those mythic ideas within his work. Thus, the novel intersects the two strands of spirituality and technology, much like the major guiding Legba-like character for the narrator, Rinehart, the spiritual technologist. Ellison uses the surface of technology to explore deeper questions of race, history, humanity, spirituality and understanding of the universe.

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The My-Stery: The Ghost of AfroFuture…


Art by Moragot

Social Death, Wounded Transformations and The Hauntings of Prophetic Tradition :

Tomorrow is Christmas and one story that came to mind in relation to afrofuturism, and especially after I watched Arthur Jafa’s Dreams Are Colder than Death, was Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and the story’s ghosts of past, present and future.

In the Western imagination, blackness, darkness and Africa (Heart of Darkness) to an extent has represented a kind of social and metaphorical death. For example, Edgar Allen Poe’s tropes of blackness and darkness representing death and evil in works like “The Raven” (the animal also representing the antithesis of the “human” in western construction) and his lesser known novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Even today, we still see the pervasiveness of it, such as Justine Sacco‘s tweet about Africa and aids, reinforcing the implication that Africa as a whole is a wasteland, a place of death only, or even ghettos across America where they are only viewed through lens of crime and death.

But that imagination also be observed within the diaspora as well. Jafa mentioned in the discussion after the film that in one particular West African indigenous group, if certain children were past the point of initiation, they were not able to be reclaimed and thus were left in the woods to die. He asked how did that relate to the diaspora; are we the monsters in the woods, the dark big bad wolf in a sense. Jafa emphasized that this was something we need to address to heal.

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Posted by on December 24, 2013 in Afrofuturism/Afrosurrealism, The My-Stery

 

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The My-Stery: The Social Brain, Psionic Ability and Shiftings of Mind, Body and Space


Source: Scientific American

While reading this morning Brainpicking’s, “The Science of Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect,” the article stood out to me because of its connection between sociality, survival and mindreading:

“[Matthew D. Lieberman] argues that this osmosis of sociality and individuality is an essential aid in our evolutionary development rather than an aberrant defect in it:

Our sociality is woven into a series of bets that evolution has laid down again and again throughout mammalian history. These bets come in the form of adaptations that are selected because they promote survival and reproduction. These adaptations intensify the bonds we feel with those around us and increase our capacity to predict what is going on in the minds of others so that we can better coordinate and cooperate with them. The pain of social loss and the ways that an audience’s laughter can influence us are no accidents. To the extent that we can characterize evolution as designing our modern brains, this is what our brains were wired for: reaching out to and interacting with others. These are design features, not flaws. These social adaptations are central to making us the most successful species on earth.

The implications of this span across everything from the intimacy of our personal relationships to the intricacy of organizational management and teamwork. But rather than entrusting a single cognitive “social network” with these vital functions, our brains turn out to host many…”

“The Social Brain and Its Superpowers”

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What Is Afrofuturism? Part 17: Decentering Cultural Space in Afrofuturism


Afrofuturism as an aesthetic and critical lens is known for its analyses and strategies of decentering and revising norms and stereotypes about race, gender, sexuality and class, but as Afrofuturism is expanding, there are other areas, besides the ones mentioned before, to still be worked on like issues of globalism (“the neoliberal vision of homogenising the planet”).

Is this ratchet/hoodrat stuff or futuristic? Source: Hoodfuturism

Going through the tag on afrofuturism on tumblr, conversations have been brewing about whether there is a need for a label for urban afrofuturism or hoodfuturism (here is one explanation). Some say no because afrofuturism is an all-encompassing term, whereas others say yes because it highlights specific subcultures and specific critical analyses of those cultures that may go unnoticed. In that respect, I have to agree more with later. Although afrofuturism is an umbrella term, much like blackness, there are specific identities and localities of being within it. Depending on where you are or where you come from, afrofuturism may have a different local ethno-cultural aesthetic (and issues of class may come into this as well).

This is not only a problem within afrofuturism, but overall. Dr. Yaba Blay mentioned in an interview with W. Kamau Bell on Totally Biased about the confusion between black and African-American and how Americans immediately conflate black with being specifically U.S. Black American. As a Ghanaian-American, she says, “African-American to me really reflects a type of American narcissism in a particular way.” And she is not disrespecting the label of African-American, she is highlighting a specific ethnic, cultural locality. A lot of members on tumblr have also been in arguments over this kind of American and Western centralism.

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Posted by on November 16, 2013 in Afrofuturism/Afrosurrealism, The My-Stery

 

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The My-Stery: Why STEM Fields Need an A(rt)…


Picture from boxset of science films of Jean Painlevé

A few days ago I witnessed a twitter battle between astrologist Sam F. Reynolds and Science Nerd/Blogger Rai Elise on November 5th (click on view conversation to read her tweets) over the legitimacy of astrology and the conversation highlighted some important and common conflicts between art fields and science/math/technology fields. Reynolds says some key things in his argument that I wanted to spotlight (I rearranged the tweets):

“Science is only as good as its tools, like everything else…The tools of science have their limits like anything else. People seek astrology for meaning. Science may do that less for ppl.”

“I don’t have a hope of an objective reality. Even with our scientific tools, we see the cosmos as we are…It’s not objective reality we’re talking about. It’s consensual reality…We’re not talking about tools of science, but what inspires them and the net meaning derived from them”

About electricity: “That’s still a consensual use of a force that most of animal kingdom has no use for. Not free of subjectivity”

“You say it’s not true, but do we have independent & known perceptions of things from other species on this planet?”

“Astrology ultimately comments on behavior using planets as references…Astrology isn’t about studying nature, but the study of human nature as symbolized by celestial phenomena…The natural world has its motions, but how we assign meaning is the province of all other arts. Are they less important? …Astrology is poetry applied to celestial events. What’s to prove with poetry?”

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The My-Stery: Holidays, Celebrations and The Pleasure of Racist Masquerade


Source: News One

Anyone on social media has probably already come across the shitstorm of white people dressing in blackface/brownface costumes. The recent events have included dancer and actress Julianne Hough‘s Orange is the New Black costume, the 21-year-old Australian woman’s “African”-themed birthday party, the Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman costumers, Italian fashion designer Allesandro Dell’Acqua‘s “Disco Africa” themed Halloween party and the San Diego high school football coaches who wore blackface for their Cool Runnings Halloween costumes.

When we look at these photographs, we see ignorance, insensitivity, prejudice, and disrespect, but often we do not examine how these ritualistic masquerades are part of a production of and investment in pleasure and community at the expense of people of color. The main reason why they continue is that their is an enjoyment and communal, identity-structuring power, albeit sickening, in doing so. It is no coincidence that often these blackface costumes are done during times of celebration and joy, like Halloween, birthday parties, and Christmas, as in the tradition of Zwarte Piet in The Netherlands. As holiday season comes, we see the greater occurrences of these costumes. wrote a post, “The Delicious Pleasures of Racism”  about the sadistic kind of pleasure white Netherlands enjoy from dressing up as Zwarte Piet:

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The My-Stery: Tribute to Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes


After reading Shadow and Act’s review about the TLC biopic, Crazy Sexy Cool: The TLC Story, I was reminded of how much Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes is underrated as an artist. In TLC, some thought of her as mainly the wacky and crazy rapper of the group who burned her boyfriends house down. But if we listen to her raps and works, they show that she was also an intelligent, sensitive, and beautiful thinker.

The biopic itself lacked the depth I wanted to see in the film; it felt rushed, focused too much on the drama of their relationships and gave slightly one-dimensional portrayals, even if the acting was good. At times, the film did hint at Lopes’ positive mind and spirit. For example, she was the only member who explicitly disliked the song “Creep” (which I admit that although I like, is a foolish song about cheating on your man because he cheated on you), her wanting to go in a different direction with the group, including take inspiration from Parliament and sci-fi, then her attempt to release her Outkast-like album Supernova, and her final spiritual journey. But I wanted it to show more of that side of her. By the way, she was also the TLC member who introduced us to the music group Blaque, who are know for their futuristic videos. She was definitely the most interesting member of TLC and I wonder what she would be doing today in her career with TLC and as a solo artist.

Lisa Lopes was a complex, inspiring and creative person and I wish we had more time with her to appreciate her. RIP Left Eye.

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