Saturday, August 12, 2017

Disney Gets Ready to Stream the Magic Kingdom

TECHNOLOGY has blown a hole in the traditional entertainment business model. That’s been true for some time — at least since 2007 when Netflix vastly reduced its position in the DVD rental business and committed to streaming content directly to consumers. Now, Disney, the whale in the waters of entertainment content, has announced plans to get into the streaming game.

Disney announced on August 8 that it’s planning to start two streaming services: one, aimed at sports fans and capitalizing on the ESPN brand, will launch in early 2018. The other, geared toward Disney’s legions of entertainment fans hungry for its vast movie library, is set to kick off sometime in 2019. ...

The new streaming strategy is risky for Disney, and only some of it may be navigable at this early stage. No price for the prospective new services has been revealed yet, for example, so it’s anyone’s guess whether the cost of Disney streaming services will be competitive with Netflix. Safely assuming it will be, though, other risks remain for streaming the goodies in the Mouse House. ...

Read the full story at Geeks

Image credits: Disneyland fireworks: Michael James (screenshot from You Tube). Netflix logo: © 2017 Netflix. Geeks logo: © 2017 Jerrick Media.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Rhinestone Cowboy rides away:
Glen Campbell (1936-2017)

Glen Campbell, the Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, guitarist, actor and TV show host whose performing career was as panoramic as his talents, died Tuesday. He was 81. ...

Campbell, who had been living in a long-term care facility in Tennessee, was diagnosed with the degenerative brain disorder Alzheimer’s disease in late 2010, and it was announced publicly in June 2011.

Over his career, Campbell — perhaps best known for the 1975 hit “Rhinestone Cowboy” — released more than 60 albums and sold 45 million records, many achieving gold, platinum and double-platinum status and posting hit singles on the country and adult contemporary charts. He won 10 Academy of Country Music Awards, six competitive Grammy Awards and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. ...

Read the full story at TheWrap

Monday, August 7, 2017

Seeking adult supervision on the Trumptanic

IF WASHINGTON politics was Wimbledon tennis, the events of the last two weeks would show the Trump administration is holding serve right now, and it is glaringly obvious. All the screams from the baseline, all the huffing and puffing at the line judge won’t change a thing. House Trump is in what appears to be a permanent defensive crouch, even when they’re on offense.

This White House is in a predicament rare for an administration this young: on a kind of war footing with much of the American public that helped Trump get elected, and, weird enough, on a war footing with itself.

The polling tells part of the story. To go from the politically ecumenical reaction to his first six months occupying the Oval Office, Trump has inspired by accident a bipartisanship he couldn’t possibly compel on purpose. Democrats oppose Trump, that’s hardly breaking news. But what’s emerging in a flurry of new and recent polling indicates something bigger, wider, and more dissatisfied under his own tent:

The Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday, Aug. 5: “Since the election, in which he received 46% of the vote, Trump’s popularity has slumped. Polls by a half-dozen nonpartisan survey organizations in the last week have shown his job approval dropping again after several months of a stable, albeit low, plateau. Fewer than 40% of Americans have a favorable view of his performance in office, the polls indicate.

“Trump’s drop in polls has featured a notable decline in support among independents and a smaller, but still significant, decline among moderate Republicans. That decline was reflected in all three focus groups, both a Republican-dominated one and two that included Democrat-sympathetic voters.”

◊ ◊ ◊

There’s been more, of course. Lot more. Some of last week’s debacle was self-inflicted, the walkback as blowback, much of it from Congress. Look at Wednesday, Aug. 2. Rick Wilson of the Daily Beast did:

“On Wednesday, Trump was forced into signing the bipartisan Russian sanctions bill. Passed by overwhelming, veto-proof majorities in both the House and Senate, Trump was trapped like a Russian mink in a snare. After pretending the dog ate his homework for a day by claiming the White House didn’t have the bill, and with the knowledge that he would face the staggering political loss of a veto override, he grudgingly, reluctantly, painfully signed it.”

House Trump’s breathtaking levels of organizational dysfunction, already bad before, took a turn into the Shakespearean over the last two weeks. Weaved in between the various polls were White House dramas too thick and fast to be believed. “You don’t know the players without a scorecard,” the old saying goes. But since January 20, with the installation of Donald Trump as president*, it’s been hard to know the players with or without a scorecard. Some of them aren’t in the game long enough for a scorecard to matter in the first place.

◊ ◊ ◊

AS THE TRUMPCARE bills self-destructed on the floor of the Senate, various people were called on to fall on various swords. Communications director Mike Dubke resigned after Trump’s first foreign trip; Politico reported that Dubke bolted “after Trump criticized him for not fiercely defending the firing of former FBI director James Comey.” Then came press secretary and word-salad enthusiast Sean Spicer, who was cashed out on July 21. But the events of the days that followed made a bad situation ... a lot more interesting.

Despite his being a chief of staff — the one presumably in charge of daily operations, the White House’s air traffic controller — Reince Priebus never really had much control over anything. From July 28 Politico: “From the start, Priebus—whose presence was intended to give the Establishment wing of the Republican Party a line into the White House, and to smooth Trump’s relations with House Speaker Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders on Capitol Hill—was hemmed in, with senior advisers like Bannon, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and Kellyanne Conway reporting directly to the president.

Politico: “The unpredictable nature of the information flow in the White House made him uneasy, several administration officials say. He lost his cool when other West Wing staffers knew things that he didn’t, and he would call people who had spoken to the president to ask them what Trump had told them. He would run from meeting to meeting trying not to miss anything. He would corner people who criticized him publicly and ask them to stop – but admit the criticisms were close to accurate.“He would rarely leave Trump's side and rush into the Oval Office when he saw others were in the room.”

Politico also reports how the idea developed that — somehow — Priebus was to blame for the debacle of the Trumpcare legislation that died serial deaths in the Senate. “Priebus’ failure to smooth passage of health care legislation through the GOP-led House in March infuriated the president, according to people close to him, and may have made his departure inevitable.”

◊ ◊ ◊

Multimillionaire businessman Anthony Scaramucci, scourge of Spicer and Priebus, was tapped as White House communications director, over Priebus’ especially vocal objections. Spicer resigned in protest. In short order, Scaramucci proceeded to create his own White House meme: Out with Priebus’ nebbish-accountant mien and Spicer’s angry-word-salad shtick, in with Scaramucci’s elegant swashbuckler at the podium.

In the White House press briefings room, in his maiden voyage, appeared to be everything that Priebus and Spicer were not: suave, glib, apparently capable of some self-deprecation, seemingly not afraid of interactions with reporters that didn’t involve gnashing of teeth for one or the other.

But then he had to go and spoil it all by saying what he said in a rambling, free-wheeling, strangely unhinged interview with Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker.

◊ ◊ ◊

WHAT I’M GOING to do is, I will eliminate everyone in the comms team and we’ll start over,” said Scaramucci, in the first movement of the Fandango. “They’ll all be fired by me. I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I’ll fire tomorrow. I’ll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus—if you want to leak something—he’ll be asked to resign very shortly.”

“Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” Scaramucci said. Pizza said he later channelled Priebus while he spoke: “ ‘Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the fucking thing and see if I can cock-block these people the way I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months.’ ”

You want a perfect example of how toxic the atmosphere in House Trump really is? Consider this: Within minutes of ending the July 26 interview with Lizza, minutes after telling Lizza that “I’ve gotta start tweeting some shit to make this guy crazy,” Scaramucci, the communications director in the White House, sent out a tweet that asserted Priebus, the chief of staff in the White House, had illegally leaked information on Scaramucci’s personal finances.

This alone distills the generally apparent down to something that couldn’t be more obvious, to anyone: House Trump is a White House in internal crisis, divided against itself.

◊ ◊ ◊

It was obvious again when Priebus resigned as chief of staff two days later, embarrassed, maybe even humiliated, a broken man walking, angry and bewildered across a tarmac in the rain. soaked to the skin by a narrative that painted him some time ago as a man out of his depth, Willy Loman in the West Wing.

Establishment Republicans, movement conservatives needed someone in the White House who could act as a check on Trump’s wild, reflexive machinations. To some degree, that’s what they had with Priebus for six precious months. Now, with Priebus gone— and with Trump acting as his own one-man, 140-character communications department — those mainstream, Pantone-red conservatives will likely be coming after Trump all over again. Scaramucci, Priebus’ implacable adversary, blindsided him. George R.R. Martin couldn’t have come up with what happened next.

Ten days after taking the comms job, Scaramucci was gone as Comms Chieftain, ushered out the door by the new sheriff in town, the closest thing to true adult supervision this administrationette has ever had. And that still may not be enough.

◊ ◊ ◊

A FORMER Marine and former Marine Corps liaison to Capitol Hill, John Kelly looks like a man who doesn’t suffer fools, gladly or otherwise. On that basis, how he got sucked into this tighter orbit of House Trump in the first place is a mystery. But Kelly, previously the director of homeland security, was named on July 31 to replace Priebus as chief of staff. And shortly after that, maybe even hours later, that afternoon, Kelly fired Scaramucci.

The Washington Post reported: “The chief of staff took his oath of office early Monday in an Oval Office ceremony thronged by senior staffers, including Scaramucci. But a short time later, Kelly told the communications director he was out, leading Scaramucci to offer his resignation instead, according to four White House staffers and outside advisers not authorized to speak publicly about personnel matters.

“In the brief, cold words of the White House announcement, Scaramucci was leaving because he ‘felt it was best to give Chief of Staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team.’ The three-sentence release concluded, ‘We wish him all the best.’ ” The Mooch, who announced his intention to “go dark,” was last seen scuttling down Pennsylvania Avenue carrying a Bankers Box and a ten-pound brick of Priebus Schadenfreude™ cheese.

◊ ◊ ◊

Kelly went further imposing his will in the playground. The New York Times reports: “Mr. Kelly cuts off rambling advisers midsentence. He listens in on conversations between cabinet secretaries and the president. He has booted lingering staff members out of high-level meetings, and ordered the doors of the Oval Office closed to discourage strays. He … has demanded that even Mr. Trump’s family, including his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, check with him if they want face time with the president.

“On Wednesday, his third day on the job, he delivered a message about respecting chains of command, backing the decision of Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser, to dismiss Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a Kushner ally and staff member on the National Security Council.”

It’s as if the camp counselor at TrumpCamp walked to the threshold of the door to a darkened room filled with noisy, raucous, pre-teen boys at summer camp … walked to the door while they were rioting in the dark … and turned on the lights

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Alt-American History (X)

The process to end slavery in the United States formally began with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863. The actual impact of slavery hasn’t observed such convenient finality; the debate over the “peculiar institution” — how and how much it affects our 21st century lives — rages today, and popular culture has hardly escaped.

The announcements of two ambitious television projects with American slavery at or near their core have jump-started the national outrage machine (masquerading these days as the Internet). ...

For Robert J. Thompson, a student of the Gordian knot of television’s impact on society and society’s impact on television, this fascination with alt-black American history is more than just TV chasing the shiny object of the moment.

“If we’re talking about African American identity as a broad thing, we’ve been seeing a lot more of that in the last decade partially because there are so many more places for it,” said Thompson, Trustee Professor of Television and Popular Culture at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. ...

Read the full story at The Omnibus

Image credit: From CSA: The Confederate States of America (The Weiunstein Company/IFC Films

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Goodbye to the Voice(s)
of Our American Childhood

If you're of a certain age today in America, and even if you’re not, you lost something special on July 26. It was some of that part of yourself that, over time, you may have tricked or reasoned your way out of believing in. Your childhood.

June Lucille Forer died that day at a hospital in Los Angeles, at the age of 99, 54 days before her 100th birthday. The world never really knew her by that name. You could say the world knew her by her professional name, June Foray, but that’s not even right.

The world really better knew her as Rocket J. Squirrel and Natasha Fatale, as Nell Fenwick and Witch Hazel, as Mother Magoo and Cindy-Lou Who, as Grandmother Fa and Jokey Smurf, as a talking Mattel doll and two of the boys in the water in a Steven Spielberg movie. Hers was the voice of a hundred faces, the animated faces and identities of our collective American childhood. ...

Read the full appreciation at Geeks

Image credit: Foray: Randy Leffingwell/Los Angeles Times. Geeks logo: © 2017 Jerrick Ventures LLC.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Six months and change:
The Trump presidency* and the nation

WE’RE ABOUT 12.5 PERCENT through the presidency* of Donald Trump, six months and change, and for a chief executive who famously distrusts the polls, there’s been a lot for him to disbelieve in lately. No fewer than five opinion polls in a row — released within days of July 20, the day of Trump’s six-month anniversary in The White House — show how politically and civically damaged Trump is.

If the polls are any indicator, there’s a lot to suggest that a ghost-ship narrative has taken hold of the subconscious of those in power at House Trump; what’s been more or less consistently communicated to the public is an administration bereft of any governing vision that extends beyond imposing the word No or asking How Much It Costs ... that and the ongoing parade of horrors and conundrum led by the tweeter-in-chief.

The first six months of his shambolic administration have been defined by two stories — the Russia hacking controversy, which dogs House Trump structurally and imagistically; and the prospects for Trumpcare, which faces a bruising legislative future — and by the Trump White House’s woefully ham-handed responses to dealing with both of them.

◊ ◊ ◊

Over that six months (and really before the administration began), House Trump has violated some basic laws of political physics: First, don’t vacate the high ground of a story you can’t escape. Like nature, the media abhors a vacuum, and the media, facing a relative absence of credible sourced information, will go with smart analysis, informed speculation and White House leaks — until the credible sourced information shows up (and it always does). At the very least, House Trump is learning that lesson from the immense fallout surrounding the Russia hacking scandal: Define the story early or the story will define you. Forever.

Second, don’t measure yourself against the actions and policies of your predecessor. To do so is to nullify your own identity. We’ve seen this time and again in the fury of conservatives’ attempt to overturn the Affordable Care Act, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell feverishly looking for every procedural trick in the book to topple the Obama White House’s greatest legislative achievement; and Trump himself calling for (or demanding) one more try — just one more repeat do-over.

In the bizzarro-world looking glass through which we view modern American politics, it’s clear: Thanks to a mountain range of insecurities, shady financial dealings with a sanctioned and adversarial foreign power; a perverse misapplication of congressional energy, and a squandering of already meager good will, Donald Trump has done the improbable: making much of the first six months of his administration more about the Obama presidency than about his own.

◊ ◊ ◊

THE DISCONNECT that’s existed between House Trump and the American people reveals itself in a wave of surveys that underscore the popular sense of an administration in free fall, and a chief executive increasingly unpopular and out of touch. One poll in particular tells a story Trump would just as soon forget: The media, a favored White House punching bag, has supporters who are punching back on its behalf.

According to a July 17 survey from Public Policy Polling, a majority of American voters trusts the networks, metropolitan daily newspapers and other big media outlets more than than they trust Trump. According to the PPP poll, 54 percent of Americans said they put stock in CNN, a major Trump bête noire from the campaign days into the White House, more than they trust the president*. Only 39 percent said they trust the Trump more than CNN. ABC and NBC got the same benefit of the doubt (each with 56 percent majorities). The New York Times and The Washington Post got similar respect.

There’s a growing call for The Donald’s impeachment. A Monmouth University poll released on July 17 showed that more people want to see Trump impeached today than was the case for then-incumbent Richard Nixon at the start of the Watergate scandal. “About 4-in-10 Americans currently support impeaching Trump six months into his term, which is significantly higher than the number who called for Richard Nixon's impeachment six months into that president's second term,” the poll says.

“The president's job rating currently stands at a net negative 39% approve and 52% disapprove. This is nearly identical to his 39%-53% rating in May.”

◊ ◊ ◊

ACCORDING TO GALLUP, Trump has registered the lowest favorable opinion results in decades. “President Donald Trump averaged 38.8% job approval during his second quarter in office, which spanned April 20 through July 19,” Gallup reported. “No other president has had a worse second-quarter average. Bill Clinton is the only other president who fell below the majority level of approval at a comparable point in his administration.”

“Trump's average approval rating for his second quarter in office, 38.8%, is more than five percentage points lower than the next closest president, Bill Clinton at 44%,” Gallup reported. “The two are the only presidents on the list whose average job approval does not rise above 50%.”

And Gallup finds that Trump isn’t growing the Republican church at all. On the contrary: “Trump maintains solid support among his fellow Republicans. However, with fewer than three in 10 Americans identifying as Republican he cannot rely on Republicans alone to have healthy job approval ratings.”

◊ ◊ ◊

By an admittedly slim margin, the Democrats are now preferred over Republicans to run Congress, as a check on Trump’s machinations, according to the Washington Post/ABC News poll. The survey found that voters are “clearly preferring Democrats in control of Congress to check President Trump even as Republicans appear more motivated to show up at the polls.

“A slight majority of registered voters — 52 percent — say they want Democrats to control the next Congress, while 38 percent favor Republican control to promote the president’s agenda, according to the poll.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Birth of a Commotion

It wasn’t exactly the shot heard ‘round the world, and it didn’t need to be; it was the press release sent and resent around the Twitterverse.

On July 19, HBO announced some of its post-Game of Thrones future with its greenlight of an original drama series that will revisit the American past, and provocatively revise it, in a time of real-life racial and ethnic turmoil that rivals any in our history.

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, showrunners, writers and developers of Game of Thrones (just starting its seventh season) will create and write Confederate, a series set to chronicle “the events leading to the Third American Civil War,” HBO announced.

From the press release: “It takes place in an alternate timeline, where the Southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution. The story follows a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone – freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists, the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate, and the families of people in their thrall.” ...

Read the full report at Geeks

Image credits: White Walker: Game of Thrones/HBO. Geeks logo: © 2017 Jerrick Ventures LLC.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Trumpcare Dies in the Senate.
Cause: Pre-Existing Conditions

In recent days and weeks, the debate over the future of Trumpcare in the media has generated a kind of Health Metaphor Full Employment Act. You’ve read the words: Trumpcare was On Life Support. It was in Critical Condition or Guarded Condition. It was hashtagged with #Emergency Room or it was Flatlining. Its declining fortunes dovetailed with the phrases available to describe it.

Finally, on July 18, the medical language ran out about the same time the bill did: Trumpcare, aka the American Health Care Act, was dead at the age of four months and 12 days. Time of death? Depends on who you asked. Some say it died that day, when Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia announced plans to vote against the legislation.

Others think it died the day before, when GOP senators Jerry Moran of Kansas and Mike Lee of Utah stated their opposition. ...

But there’s not much debate over the cause of death: Trumpcare died from complications of its own elitist history; an inability to improve on what it was meant to replace; and the passionate and ecumenical reaction to the Trumpcare bill in social media, editorials, petitions, months of sour polling data, phone calls and — especially — in angry, deeply personal reactions from citizens at town halls across America. ...

Read the full story at Swamp

Image creit: McConnell: Via Politico. Swamp logo: © 2017 Jerrick Ventures LLC.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Straight shooters I and II:
Mueller and Wray raise the bar, and the stakes

PRESIDENT* TRUMP does nothing by half measures, not even arrogance. The shambolic enterprise that his administration has been from the beginning has always been typified by the gale force of the Trump persona. But upon taking office, and for too long since then, he’s assumed the personage of the bloated amateur of a high diver with more nerve than skills, a man whose inescapable cannonball splash is followed by a climb from the water, and a fast but prideful undulating away from the scene, for all the world acting like a man on his way to the medal stand at the Olympics.

This was maybe never more obvious than when he fired then-FBI Director James Comey in a timed-release fit of pique that showed just how thin-skinned and reactionary this president* is. In a Trumpian bellyflop nobody saw coming, Comey was cashiered on May 9, two days before Comey was to testify in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. “In a letter informing Comey of his removal, Trump told him, 'It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.’”

“I don’t think this is rule of law. This is rule by Trump,” former FBI special agent Clint Watts told The Daily Beast on May 9. “[Trump] doesn’t like anybody who’s independent. I think it made him nervous that he couldn’t get Comey under his wing.”

◊ ◊ ◊

Benjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institution said Trump’s decision to fire Comey “removes the one person of stature (figurative as well as literal) in the government whom everyone knows will—even when he’s wrong—do what he thinks is the right thing and damn the torpedo[e]s,” Wittes wrote on his lawfare blog. “It removes, in other words, the essential person for a credible investigation.”

It was the power of the Trump brand, his style of decision-making that invited speculation by various seers in the punditburo who debated whether Robert S. Mueller III, the former FBI director appointed to investigate the role of Trump and his family and minions in the Russia hacking affair, was compromisable — either through the impact of the Trump persona and the force multiplier of the vast powers of the presidency ... or through some inner failing on the part of Mueller himself, as if the man could be bought and sold in the marketplace after all.

Many on the right apparently felt the same way, with a growing chorus calling for Mueller's head in a basket, too, just like Comey. “The idea that the investigation is illegitimate and politically motivated has been gaining currency on the political right for months,” The New York Times reported June 12. “Conservative writers, radio hosts and cable personalities — emboldened by the president himself, who has called it a witch hunt — have repeatedly sought to discredit the inquiry, its investigators, the mainstream news accounts of it, and the lawmakers on Capitol Hill who are demanding more answers.”

They needn’t have bothered. Mueller was appointed in mid-May, and tasked with a “full and thorough” investigation into the cyberscandal in which Russia tried to thumbscale the 2016 presidential election. A former prosecutor, ex-Marine and as celebrated a former director as any in the annals of the FBI, Mueller took the helm as Director one week before 9/11 — as crucible an event as you could ask for. In the current crisis, he’s presented himself as someone who intends to perform his brief, to fulfill the job he was brought on to do. He made that clear in a statement in a tweet after his appointment: “I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability.” Full stop.

◊ ◊ ◊

SO HOUSE TRUMP already faced the expected pushback from Mueller, whose mission is to aggressively investigate what Trump doesn’t want investigated at all — that’s why he fired Comey in the first place. That was bad enough. But then, of course, Trump needed to name Comey’s replacement at FBI; he tapped someone who, with his recent testimony as evidence, may be as much of a problem for him as Comey or Mueller.

FBI Director nominee Christopher A. Wray, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 12, set the terms of engagement for anyone at House Trump who’d try to interfere in any way with the Russia investigation:

There are no terms of engagement. There will be no engagement.

“I would consider an effort to tamper with Director Mueller’s investigation to be unacceptable and inappropriate,” Wray told a committee already predisposed to hosannahs for this former G-man and successful Atlanta litigator. In his comments, Wray praised Mueller as “the ultimate straight shooter.”

◊ ◊ ◊

This isn’t just a budding law enforcement bromance in the works. What we’re seeing — and Trump knows this — is a pre-emptive warning to House Trump: Tampering? A late-night phone call just to ask an innocent question? Don’t even contemplate. What Mueller and Wray have done, separately but together, is establish a united front on the Russia hacking investigation, to suggest, without actually saying so, that, while this investigation may have one objective, it's likely to develop through multiple channels.

Friday, July 14, 2017

No 'SoHa,' NowOrEver

WHEN I LIVED at 125th Street and Fifth Avenue in the borough of Manhattan, it was a hard-won badge of honor. I’d hopscotched around New York City for more than a few years, moving from Hell’s Kitchen (in what is now predominately known as Chelsea, in a victory of urban planners with no sense of urban poetry) to Greenwich Village, and even vacating the city altogether, spending a brief stint in Jersey City.

But when I took possession of my fourth-floor walkup up-uptown, I also took proud ownership of a relationship with an old neighbor, one that began when I crossed Central Park North and walked into the southernmost district of Harlem.

For generations, the history behind this celebrated 3.8-square mile swathe of upper Manhattan has been a source of pride to African Americans — indeed, to any and all Americans with a sense of history beyond the star-spangled pabulum we’ve been fed all our lives. ...

During the 20 years of the Harlem Renaissance, novelists, poets, artists and musicians made the area a vibrant, genially explosive hothouse for some of America’s most powerful and enduring artistic contributions. And the streets and parks of the area have kept the names of the secular saints of black history: Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard, Malcolm X Boulevard, Frederick Douglass Boulevard, Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard, Marcus Garvey Park, Jackie Robinson Park. ...

For years now, there’s been a kind of cultural détente at work there, a relationship that saw elements of upscale, privileged, entitled America co-existing with the earthier aspects of Harlem’s more indigenous identity. Even as Starbucks, Old Navy and American Apparel moved into the neighborhood, the older, legendary persona persisted. The lion, it seemed, could lie down with the lamb. Mocha Frappuccino went just fine with sweet potato pie.

Lately, however, there’s been a move afoot to obliterate the name of that iconic district. With one trial balloon or another, real-estate developers and some business owners have undertaken efforts to change the name of at least part of Harlem to “SoHa,” a too-hip-by-half compression of “South Harlem” that borrows the sadly frequent tendency to shorten established neighborhood names to something almost unintelligible (and certainly unintelligent).

The rationale is flimsy at best; the proposed name change is thought to attract more home buyers, or to make the neighborhood more appealing to young, upwardly mobile residents — those with no compunction about changing manifestations of history that don’t personally involve them.

But just because you can do something doesn’t always mean you should. ...

Read the full piece at Swamp

Image credits: Harlem Renaissance map: Ephemera Press. Harlem subway map excerpt: MTA. Swamp logo: © 2017 Jerrick Ventures LLC.
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