Sunday, February 24, 2013

Will the Real Uncle Tom Please Stand Up?

I first heard about Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, when I was a child.  Until now, I had neither read the book nor seen a theatrical rendition of it.  Until now, when I heard the term "Uncle Tom" used in a derogatory manner, I knew precisely what it meant.  At least, I thought I knew exactly what it meant.

This was my utterly erroneous image of Uncle Tom:

An aged, stooped, weakling of an emasculated black slave, who would betray other slaves just to prove his loyalty to his master.  A slave who favored his master's praise over the welfare of his fellow enslaved blacks.

Boy, was I wrong.  So wrong, in fact, that I have to fight the urge to apologize repeatedly to Uncle Tom.

So why do people think so poorly of this title character?  Because of the minstrel shows that rose from Mrs. Stowe's Magnum Opus.  The minstrel shows (and other theatrical works from that era) portray Uncle Tom as the simpering weakling that is our current image of the character.  These versions of Uncle Tom are impostors.  In actuality, the character described in the novel is a tall, muscular, Christlike man of around 40 years old.  A man who gives his own life to protect those of his fellow slaves.  Uncle Tom was strong and principled.  He is the sort of person that we should all strive to be.  As a matter of fact, the New York Times did a story on him.

Rather than continue in our ignorance, we should all read Uncle Tom's Cabin.  There are at least two abridged versions available and the original is available for free, courtesy of the Gutenberg Project and Librivox, as an ebook and an audiobook, respectively.

Uncle Tom's Cabin is a difficult book to readmostly because the author did not sugar-coat very much.  As a black woman reading the novel, I experienced simultaneous feelings of indignation, fury, sadness, pride, and pain.  But this story is part of the history of the United States and all people living in the U.S. should endeavor to know the country's past.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013


I have learned that there are at least two sorts of stress.  The kind that makes you want to curl up in a fetal position (after you've yanked all your hair out in a fit of rage) and the kind that makes you want to go out and get shit done!  Today, I am suffering from the former.  I shan't dwell on that, though.  I'd much rather talk about the latter.

The latter, we shall term 'creative stress'.  I was thinking about copyrighting the term when I found out that someone else had already coined it!  C'est la vie.  Anyway, I took a look at the guy's website and learned that our ideas of creative stress are similar, though hardly identical.  From what I could surmise (he wrote a book about it), he thinks of creative stress as the conversion of negative stress into something that can help to build a person into a better version of him/herself.  I agree that creative stress can and will, in fact, make a person better, but I do not necessarily believe that negative stress can be transmuted in this way.

Negative stress is, by definition, negative.  How one responds and grows in the face of negativity is the key to one's self-improvement.  Creative stress, on the other hand, is any stress which, in and of itself, boosts one's creativity.  Creative stress spurs us into action, it makes us think of things as we never have before, it gives us so many ideas that we don't know what do with them.  It makes us bigger, faster, stronger.  Better.  I've done my best work under a great deal of stress and am certain that I wouldn't have done as well without the stress.

So how does one harness the power of creative stress?  First, you have to recognize it as such.  Unlike its negative counterpart, creative stress is an infusion of energy.  You may feel restless, hyperactive, excitable, and you need an outlet.  At least, you feel as though you do.  Don't let that energy go to waste.  Use it as the Lord intended!  And there is no wrong way to use it.

Some people write (I can't say I'm one of themmine is far more systematic).  They write in journals or diaries.  They write poetry, prose, and who-knows-what-else.  Others paint or draw or make music.  I think some people make love.  I do busy work.  Work-related busy work and finances and spreadsheets and study reports.  And I do them well.

Creative stress = creative energy.  If we are receptive to it, we open up myriad possibilities where there may have been very few before.  And creativity, as noted from my examples above, isn't necessarily artistic.  As adults, some of us have allowed our creativity to stagnate under the burden of negative stress (or mere hubris).  We need to take back the creativity, own that creative stress, and make it our bitch!

And then do the same for negative stress.  But that is a post for another day.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


I found a few wonderful sites, chock full of Vintage photos from Africa.  I've been perusing all morning and must say that the photos give me a surge of pride!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

And Speaking of Hair... and Erotica

I got a hair cut.

Much, much shorter than I had anticipated, but nice.  I'd post a picture, but it's been a long day and I look like hell.  No point in immortalizing that on the web.  My hair, in its current form, is easy to handle.  It won't be so easy in three weeks, when my new growth starts kicking in with a vengeance.  Oh well.

My cousin, F. C. Cole, said I should try whipping my hair back and forth.  I tried and have nothing to show for it but a raging headache.  Thanks a lot, Mr. Cole!  Along the lines of hair advice from family members, I've been strong-armed by my daughter to go natural, so I'll try it for a few months and see how it looks.  My hair is short enough that I should be able to work through it for the time being.  Wish me luck!

As for the Erotica.  Say it with me: erotica, erotica, erotica.  I have a new post.  Here.