Thursday was the first night of the Free Press Film Festival here in Detroit, and a few of us went to a screening of “T-Rex,” a documentary about Claressa Shields, the first woman to win a gold medal in women’s Olympic boxing, which she did in 2012. She was just 17 when she won, and is training in hopes of repeating in Rio this year.
Shields hails from Flint, and that’s where most of the film was set. As you can probably guess, she doesn’t come from money. In fact, she comes from some pretty grinding poverty – her mother, seen in only a few scenes, is missing most of her teeth and seems to be a pretty enthusiastic drinker. Her sister is a feral force of nature; in one scene, the sister tells us how she dislikes her mother’s current boyfriend. As if on cue, he steps into the scene and the two exchange insults.
She calls him a pervert. I sighed. How often do we have to learn this lesson? When a teenage girl calls mom’s boyfriend a pervert, pay attention to her, because she is telling you something very important. Sure enough, a little googling and look here:
There frequently wasn’t food much on the table. The family received food stamps, but the food stamps never seemed to turn into actual food.
“I honestly don’t know what happened to the food stamps, but I think she sold them for drugs,” Shields says.
But mostly what Shields remembers from those early years is the men. Her mother had a lot of acquaintances, she said, and every time she turned around, there was another one, it seemed.
Three of them, she said, raped and sexually molested her.
A friend of mine is a therapist, and did a stint in a low-income mental-health facility. She said sexual abuse of her clients was so common that it was easier to just assume they’d all been molested by someone in their lives.
Shields isn’t asked about this in the film; she only revealed it later. But the sister’s exchange with the boyfriend got a big laugh, I guess because she’s so sassy and all.
But the film was good. I’ve seen so many lousy documentaries I wasn’t expecting much, but it was shot well, the story was coherent and reasonably honest and the conflict that so many docs have to trump up was right there – Claressa fighting her way through qualifiers, trying to have a relationship with her sparring partner (a young man, as there were no other girls in her gym to spar with), and the classic athlete’s story of gradually growing away from the first coach who believed in her. The coach and his wife took her into their home, and for that they deserve a medal of their own. But sometimes you can’t go further until you change teachers; it happens, it’s not a tragedy, but it’s sad for the ones left behind.
Oh, and for those who assume an Olympic gold medal is a ticket to riches? She didn’t get one endorsement offer, not a single solitary one. With her strong features and stocky body, and her comments in interviews that she actually enjoys landing punches, I guess corporate America just couldn’t deal. Things seem to be going better this year; some of the rough edges have been sanded off, and of course, the attention paid to Serena Williams in the past year helped the world accept bad-ass black women.
I’m rooting for her, anyway.
And that was why no blog on Friday. Out late Thursday.
The rest of the weekend was spent relaxing. Sunday was ladies’ schvitz brunch, and I took a friend. We killed a bottle of champagne, sweated through a few cycles in the steam, went shopping and found myself a floor-length Tadashi Shoji gown at a vintage pop-up, for $5. The boobal area may need some special foundation wear, but I’m set for the next auto prom.
Eight years ago this blog picked up a few readers when I pointed out some plagiarism by a guest columnist in the paper I used to work for. The following isn’t precisely plagiarism, just extreme aggravated laziness by the editor-in-chief, to fill his always-mediocre Saturday column space. The column is here. The source material, here. He added one quote, from George W. Bush, one that Slate included in its Bushisms collection. Sigh.
Thanks to Deborah for pointing out this outstanding piece on Aretha Franklin, including a quote from the current president, when asked about his reaction to her recent Kennedy Center Honors performance. You might recall it; Obama shed tears.
When I e-mailed President Obama about Aretha Franklin and that night, he wasn’t reticent in his reply. “Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R. & B., rock and roll—the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope,” he wrote back, through his press secretary. “American history wells up when Aretha sings. That’s why, when she sits down at a piano and sings ‘A Natural Woman,’ she can move me to tears—the same way that Ray Charles’s version of ‘America the Beautiful’ will always be in my view the most patriotic piece of music ever performed—because it captures the fullness of the American experience, the view from the bottom as well as the top, the good and the bad, and the possibility of synthesis, reconciliation, transcendence.”
I’d bet a paycheck he wrote that himself, or gave the quote to the press secretary. What do you think?
A trip to Crazytown, with the full transcript of a recent WashPost interview with Donald Trump.
Finally, since y’all like dog pictures, here’s my Friday-morning editor. Wendy likes to suggest changes before I get too deep into the weeds:
Let’s all have a Monday, shall we?
Dexter said on April 4, 2016 at 4:04 am
That Wendy is some kind of special and photogenic dog.
The newest cable network I have is Viceland. They have an ad showing white screen blasted upon by banners, and one asks for help because the viewer has a serious problem: s/he tuned into Viceland and can’t turn it off. And it is true. This morning I watched a few episodes starring Thomas, a chameleon-type who takes on all challenges to educate us. He stayed with Dearborn Muslims during the fasting of Ramadan and prayed five times a day right there with them in mosque. He later went to LA for “Om” training, where he learned all about massaging the clitoris. He has been all over the world doing these things and I just cannot tune in and quit it. I’ll watch until I pass out. Amazing network. That show is called “Balls Deep.”
Suzanne said on April 4, 2016 at 6:51 am
Yesterday, I listened to the podcast of an NPR piece on drug addiction in Austin Indiana. Well done and incredibly depressing. I wish I knew what the solution was but there doesn’t seem to be one.
alex said on April 4, 2016 at 7:42 am
I always wondered how such a dolt could become the editor-in-chief of a newspaper. He was endorsing Ted Cruz long before the primary even started. He thinks climate science is bogus but Noah’s Ark was for real. Of course, I also wonder how this flaming lunatic ever became a surgeon or why she thinks she deserves to be elected to congress.
Connie said on April 4, 2016 at 9:53 am
Hey Jeff, looks like your church is rejecting Indiana for an upcoming conference due to the so called “religious freedom” bill. Good for them. I don’t say that about religious orgs very often. http://reverbpress.com/news/disciples-of-christ-church-moves-convention-out-of-indiana/
alex said on April 4, 2016 at 10:11 am
Connie, that was from a year ago. No doubt it contributed to the legislature’s hasty rewrite that so pissed off RFRA’s backers. This year the Indiana legislature tried to have it both ways by proposing LGBT protections in one bill and religious freedom to discriminate in another separate bill, neither of which went anywhere.
I just got through that Trump interview. Obviously he thinks he can bullshit his way through anything, but it’s one of the most cringe-inducing things I’ve ever read.
Connie said on April 4, 2016 at 10:30 am
Thanks ALex, I try to look for dates and sometimes they are just not there. Then there are the newspapr and tv news sites with no city names. In other news, today is supposedly National Hug a Newsperson day. I’m just not an acquaintance hugger, sorry.
Bitter Scribe said on April 4, 2016 at 10:51 am
Dear God, that “column” was a scream. How lazy can you get?
Bill Bennett put barely more effort into his Book of Virtues or whatever that stupid thing was called. Basically all he did was paraphrase a bunch of Aesop’s Fables and other stuff in the public domain. It became a bestseller and rocketed him to the heights of fame in…something or other. (I forget exactly what he was/did and don’t feel like looking it up. Guess I’m lazy myself.)
Wendy is a dear.
nancy said on April 4, 2016 at 11:08 am
I was astounded by how many people I sorta-liked and respected fell for that Book of Virtues bullshit, especially after Bennett was exposed as a high-dollar gambler at various casino poker tables. He remains a Platonic ideal of the wingnut-welfare gravy train.
Deborah said on April 4, 2016 at 11:11 am
I agree that Obama himself probably wrote that about Aretha. I thought it odd when Remick in his New Yorker piece added that Obama’s response was “through his press secretary”, seems like he could have just said it came from Obama. Did he feel obligated to say it that way for journalistic ethical reasons?
I had one of those dead to the world night’s sleep last night. I rarely do that, closed my weary eyes at about 10:30 and didn’t open them until 8:30 this morning. I’m going through an infuriating period of avoidance of tasks relating to moving. I bought 2 new books yesterday and intend to read them soon, anything to keep from having to sort and pack. We have so many books and yet I bought 2 more, go figure. One is the biography of Joan Didion, The Last Love Song. It’s an unofficial biography, I read that she was perturbed about it when it was being written. The other book is the book 1 of the series My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard, I started with book 4, which I very much enjoyed so I’ve decided to read them all (6 in all but a few have yet to be translated into English from Norwegian). It’s quite a saga, very well written. I realize I’m doing the sleeping and reading to keep from having to do or think about moving.
Also one of my husband’s uncle’s died yesterday, not the playground donor, this one had been an ace pilot during WW2. He flew a bunch of bombing missions over Germany and a few where he was the only one to fly back home afterwards. He apparently didn’t talk about any of it until his wife died about 6 years ago. She didn’t like for him to mention it, his son claims that his mother thought her husband was bragging when he talked about it. After she died he couldn’t stop talking about it. We found it fascinating, there aren’t many of those guys left. We’re going down to the funeral on Weds, to the small town where my husband grew up.
alex said on April 4, 2016 at 11:39 am
A bloody good postscript to Neil Steinberg’s column yesterday:
Julie Robinson said on April 4, 2016 at 12:16 pm
There’s also a Facebook group of the same name and the entries are hilarious. Flow on, sisters!
Also, Wendy is adorbs and makes me miss our daughter’s sweet little dog. Which makes me miss our sweet daughter.
Julie Robinson said on April 4, 2016 at 12:21 pm
In case you didn’t click the link the group is Periods for Pence. It encourages women to contact Pence and now Cox, to let them know the state of things down under, since it seems to be a preoccupation for those guys.
Deggjr said on April 4, 2016 at 2:14 pm
I read the ‘Book of Virtues’ when it came out and liked it a lot; it was very aspirational and inspirational. Then it was revealed Bennett lost 8 million dollar gambling. He denied the amount. Plus or minus a penny his denial was true.
Remembering Bennett is a great reason to remember Jack Nicholson’s great line about Buddha in ‘Anger Management’; “How does a guy who weighs over six hundred pounds have the balls to teach people about self-discipline?”
basset said on April 4, 2016 at 2:26 pm
Speaking of self-control, Mrs. B has managed to refrain from poisoning my coffee or slitting my throat while I sleep for 35 years as of today. Took her eagle – watching at Reelfoot Lake this past weekend to mark the occasion.
Sherri said on April 4, 2016 at 2:44 pm
Happy Anniversary, basset!
Since periods seem to be the topic of the day, this seems apropos: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/03/opinion/sunday/the-tampon-of-the-future.html
Deborah said on April 4, 2016 at 2:48 pm
The Period for Pence Facebook page is funny, my favorite was a post that said that in Indiana plastic bags have more rights than women, in reference to that ridiculous law that was mentioned here a few days back about Indiana municipalities not being allowed to ban plastic bags.
brian stouder said on April 4, 2016 at 2:58 pm
Eagle watching sounds marvelous! If the young folks and I are just driving around, we head for the wetland over off Engle Road. Don’t know that I’ve seen an eagle there, but you get a wide array of stuff to see.
Bennett was after my rightwing apostasy, so I never read his book. I recall reading several angry-right books; Tyrell leaps to mind, plus The Graves of Academe by Richard Mitchell – because although the book was not much more than an angry op-ed, that guy used $10 word after $10 word. It was a genuine vocabulary-builder!
Jeanne Kirkpatrick remains an old favorite, although I’m pretty sure if I ever picked up her Dictatorships and Double Standards again, it would end up serving as a coaster for whatever soft-drink I might have at the moment
Brandon said on April 4, 2016 at 4:02 pm
Nancy, I understand your disdain for Gwyneth Paltrow a lot more now.
basset said on April 4, 2016 at 4:52 pm
We get a few eagles around Nashville, Reelfoot is way up in the NW corner of the state near the Mississippi River and has lots of em and other wildlife. Got a fishing guide to take us around, water and wind were both real high so we didn’t see any animal life but Mrs. B got to see eagles and that’s why we were there. Petted a juvenile great horned owl at the state park nature center, too.
Deborah said on April 4, 2016 at 5:08 pm
I just read the Trump transcript with Woodward and Costis and like the previous transcript with Washington Post reporters it struck me the same way. It’s a way a speaking that’s very familiar to me because I’ve sat in on many a meeting with Real Estate developers. He sounds exactly like the guys (and they’re all guys) I’ve had the unfortunate task of having to listen to in a conference room. The blow hard bluster is sickening but familiar. They look at everything through the lens of the deal. Yes they know how to get stuff done, how to get stuff built under difficult circumstances and they think everything relates to that, and I mean everything. God save us.
LAMary said on April 4, 2016 at 6:14 pm
I had a landlord who tried to keep my security deposit because his roof leaked. He became the producer of the animated version of the Book of Virtues.
Deborah said on April 4, 2016 at 6:45 pm
Costa not Costis.
Scout said on April 4, 2016 at 6:59 pm
That DT interview… Jesus Christ, he spent one third of the interview dodging the question of what the deciding factor to run was for him. What a mental midget. He really is the wealthy male version of Princess Dumbass of the Northwoods. What motivates someone to want to swim so far out of their depth?
Mark P said on April 4, 2016 at 8:09 pm
Deborah @9 — I hate to think of all the stories that never got told by veterans of WW II. My father was in the 104th Infantry as a forward observer. Forward observers had a very limited life expectancy in combat, but he came through without a scratch. He told us stories about his experiences, and for years I urged him to write it all down. Finally he started. He gathered maps and stuff and would sit at his computer in the basement for hours. Some time after he died, I found what he had written. He had told all about his experiences in training (which lasted from when he was drafted in around 1941 until he was deployed in 1944), and he wrote about landing in Belgium (the 104th was the first US combat group that sailed directly from the US to mainland Europe.) His narrative went all the way up to the point that they were about to go into combat, and then it ended. He died before he could complete it.
Deborah said on April 4, 2016 at 9:42 pm
Mark P, here’s a video of my husband’s uncle telling stories about his experiences, that was made by students. It’s long but I think interesting. http://ilvets.ltc.k12.il.us/ilvets/VideoGallery/VideoPlayer/TabId/136/VideoId/232/Clyde-Brubaker-.aspx
Sherri said on April 4, 2016 at 9:42 pm
The Onion gets right to the heart of the USWMNT’s pay equity complaint: http://www.theonion.com/graphic/what-you-need-know-about-womens-soccer-equal-pay-c-52681