Racism and Brilliant People

It’s always painful to realize that people you admire and appreciate have flaws and limitations, but it has come to my awareness that people of real intellect can also be incredibly arrogant and engage in Racism and other stupid practices. While preparing to write the article on Morrissey which I recently published, I was doing research on my subject and discovered some real racist actions on his part. At first, I considered deleting the post and never publishing it, but decided to address the issue more head-on.

Later my partner and I were watching a PBS series that the British constitutional historian, David Starkey did called The Monarchy which is very intelligibly researched in deep historical detail through many and many years. One can appreciate the work that went into his work, and his perspective as well as the presentation. It was also very disappointing to discover, when reading his biography rude, and arrogant behavior and Racism, saying the lower classes in England were becoming like the “Blacks.” How can someone characterize whole groups of people like that?

Of less intelligent and more ignorant people, I would not be surprised, in fact I suspect the extremes of racism, for instance like the KKK, the Klans, The Aryan Nation, etc., are examples of ignorant people who have limited intelligence, are frustrated by their own limited skills and lack of education, and the economic challenges that come from these realities.

My mother also Gifted who wound up with an Ed.D in Special Education, who had worked with the handicapped for years grew up in Philadelphia, PA. Her father was a a cop who rose to be captain of detectives during the bad years. She remembered stories with his Racism. He had a limited education, but was intelligent. He retired, and years later got a second Dachshund, which he named “Tar Baby,” a clear racist reference. My mother was furious and the name was changed.

People can take offense to racism, because it offends our basic values and sensibilities and affects people we know or have known, but it’s important to consider the science around racism and stereotypes, which set racism in motion.

Racism is not the only type of prejudice, and one can add homophobia, sexism, classicism, antisemitism, ablism, agism and other isms, as well as xenophobia or fear of the other.

In social Psychology and Cognitive Psychology thinking suggests that stereotypes arise from our brain’s tendencies to use heuristics or shortcuts which help us manage information overload. The problem is these heuristics help our brains process much information, but causes us faulty thinking at times. Along with this, our brain also from the same mechanisms favor those of groups like us, and fears groups who are different from us. This is called the ingroup/outgroup bias. Given this, we are all susceptible to stereotypes and prejudices, and even racist tendencies. We need to rise to our best selves, and challenge our own tendencies toward stereotypes and prejudices, and challenge those of those around us.

Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel)

 

I was watching the wonderful production of The Grinch who Stole Christmas  complete with Boris Karloff’s voice and the wonderful lyrics thinking about all the wonderful words Dr. Seuss created for us. I grew up in the 196os and read Dr. Seuss’s books with much joy. It’s been said the the word Nerd which gifted people are often accused of being was created by Dr. Seuss. If the word was created by Dr. Seuss, than I am glad to be one.

Theordor Seuss Geissel (1904-1991) grew up in  Springfield MA, and went to Dartmouth in NH. He was the editor of the school’s humor magazine. His father wanted him to become a professor, so he went to Oxford which he found boring and began a career as a cartoonist. Though too young to be a soldier he served in the signal core making training films, where he learned how to do animation.

The bo0k, The Cat in The Hat, came out of a illiteracy campaign, where he was given a list of 400 words, and asked to reduce it to 250 words, he used 220 words in the book. When he wrote Green Eggs and Ham, he was challenged to use 50 words, the book was written, but the bet never paid.

By the time of his death, he wrote and illustrated 44 books, that were read by millions. There is a museum in Springfield, MA.

 

Finishing the Hat by Stephen Sondheim

 

In a recently published book Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1988) with attendant comments, principles, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes by Stephen Sondheim the prolific Broadway composer of legendary shows including: “Gypsy”, “West Side Story”, “Sweeney Todd”, “Follies”, and his more recent works, “Passion”, “Into the Woods”, “Assassins”, “Sunday in the Park With George” and others. The book details shows up until “Sweeney Todd” and the failed musical “Merrily We Roll Along.” In addition to the lyrics, he discusses his comments on how the shows came to be, why certain decisions were made and his reactions to the Musical Theatre’s positives and negatives. For instance Sondheim takes issue with earlier lyricists having all performers in a company number sing the same lines, where as he asks, were they thinking the same thoughts? One of his examples is Oscar Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma.” He is very insightful in his discussions and comments. We see his handwritten notes, typed pages and photographs from the productions. A new volume Look Ma, I Made a Hat is in the works discussing his later works.

It strikes me reading the book that Sondheim is definitely gifted and maybe a genius in his own right. Here is a man with his love for complexity, who is not very demanding and not easily satisfied. In many ways other writers work, for instance “Oklahoma” and others the music and story are far more simple and less complex. Compare it to “Sweeney Todd”, or “Into the Woods,” which are far deeper, more complex with characters with far more complexity. Like many gifted people, Sondheim exhibits divergent thinking which leads his work and the work he chooses into darker places. For instance “Assassins” is a musical about all the presidential assassins or those who attempted, in the history of the U.S. with John Wilkes Booth encouraging Kennedy’s assassin Oswald and the common theme “Everyone’s got the right.” In “Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” which he wrote with Hugh Wheeler, is about a man wrongly accused, comes back to murder the judge who rapes his wife and is now  lusting over the teen-aged daughter Joanna, and slices the throats of many until the judge gets his. Mrs. Lovett, originally played by Angela Lansbury, makes meat pies from the remains.

Sondheim Review, a magazine dedicated to Sondheim

Review of Finishing the Hat in the NY Times.

Gifted Musical Artists

I have had on my mind some musical artists who are likely GT.

The two artists I have been thinking about are Siouxie Sioux who people may remember as being part of Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Creatures. The other artist that I have been thinking about is an Australian band called The Church http://thechurchband.com, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Church_(band).

 

s-i-o-u-x-s-i-e-s-i-o-u-x-ju-ju

My partner is a big fan of Siouxsie. Siouxsie has been performing for over 30 years, and has now moved into a solo career. Siouxsie had never gone farther than High School, though listening to her, the language in her songs, the words and language she uses in interviews, she is far more intelligent the knowledgeble than someone who never went farther than High School. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siouxsie

 

Church membersus09_admat_red_sml

The church is a band that I have been following for a long time. They have been around for about 30 years. I have particularly focused on the lead vocalist and writer of many of their songs Steve Kilbey. In addition to writing most of the lyrics, he also plays on the songs in addition to being the lead vocalist. The lyrics are very ecclectic, intelligent, complex, and divergent. Themes in his songs from his interests include the dark side of people, complex relationships, mysticism, legends, myths, poetry, literature. He is also an accomplished artist and his work has been on many of their albums. He is also a complex person, who has had a dark side, including serious drug addiction. Recently I had heard of a concert in New York and decided to go. The audience, a bit more geeky older and intelligent, I felt very much at home and felt that I was among other GT folk, though it also seemed a bit autistic in some ways. It turns out money from sales of merchandise is being sent to a Autism charity. Aparently recently introduced as a Biography about Him and the band called No Certainty Attached. It is very honest and not appologetic about any of the dark side. In reading the biography reading about his upbringing and his education and development, there are many clues pointing to a GT person. The other members of the band who have been together. except for the drummer, the entire 30 years, the drummer came in the picture later. They are also very talented and one wonders about the other members, who may be GT as well, though one would want to know more about them.