Two great, new blues songs: “It’s On My List to Quit” and “Three Forks.” Take my word: they are fabulous

Both are by the “Altered Five” and I’ve posted one of them before.

But “On My List to Quit” is so damned good, and so catchy, that I want to make sure you see it. Frankly, it is caught in my head, happily repeating.

The second one, “Take me back to Three Forks, 1938,” refers to the location of the juke joint where Robert Johnson was poisoned that year. Another great song.

Btw, if you look at the image on “ZipDialog Presents the Blues,” you will see the signs for Mississippi Highways 49 and 61. They are the great blues highways in the Delta, both named in countless songs.

They meet in Clarksdale and that town claims them as the  “crossroads” as the one where the devil taught Robert Johnson how to play. (Those of us from around there know it as the place where the devil taught Abe Davis how to make great BBQ.) In the “Three Forks” song, you’ll hear highway 49 in the lyrics.


A fascinating–and very fair–documentary on Mississippi Delta’s Chinese families

Had a wonderful afternoon in Chinatown, the highlight of which was a 90-minute document film on the Chinese-American families of the Mississippi Delta.

For an overview of the film and a trailer, click here. The film is non-political and mostly features interviews with Chinese-Americans from across the region, hundreds of photographs, plus a few comments by blacks and whites who knew the Delta Chinese all their lives.

If you grew up in the Delta, as I did, you’ll know all the places and some of the people interviewed–and still learn a lot.

I didn’t know, for example, that Jonestown and Sledge had the first two Chinese-American mayors in the United States. I didn’t know that Chinese-Americans were generally not allowed to attend “white high schools” in Mississippi until WWII. Before then, they built their own school in Cleveland, MS, to educate their kids.  I didn’t know that, until the Communists took control of China in 1949, many men from the Delta still visited their ancestral villages to find a bride and bring her back to the U.S.

The film has three segments:

  • Part One 1870 to 1940
    How Chinese first came to Mississippi told in the context of the period. The what, where and why’s they came and stayed.
  • Part Two 1941-1945
    Chinese WWII veterans and their families share stories of the war and its impact on their lives in the Mississippi Delta.
  • Part Three 1946 to Present
    How Chinese have influenced the social and economic fabric, custom and culture of Mississippi.

It was great to see interviews with friends like Cedric Chinn and Pap Pang and several others I know well.

It was great to hear Bill Luckett, Ed Kossman, and Sparky Reardon.  talk about their experiences. Sparky, now-retired Dean of Students at Ole Miss, talked about working with Chinese-American students 30 years ago to create a social organization. He spoke of how wonderful it was to see them return for a reunion with children who followed in their footsteps at Ole Miss.

The film was made by an experienced New York journalist, E. Samantha Cheng, and is skilfully put together. (It is available as a DVD on this link.)

It ends with the photo I blogged about recently: Pap Pang being honored at Vaught-Hemingway stadium at halftime for his 100th birthday.



ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, August 7

Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
Linked articles in bold purple

China tells North Korea to “be smart” and stop testing its missiles and nuclear devices (Washington Post)

US Sec. of State Rex Tillerson held out the possibility of direct talks with North Korea “when conditions are right.”

China delivered frank advice to North Korea, its outcast neighbor, telling Pyongyang to make a “smart decision” and stop conducting missile launches and nuclear tests.

The statement by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi came on the heels of a U.N. Security Council decision to impose additional sanctions on North Korea and its exports, and it suggested that the American push to further isolate the regime of Kim Jong Un is reaping some dividends. But Wang also called on the United States to dial back the tension. –Washington Post

Comment: If North Korea continues to test after China’s open statement, Xi and his government will lose face and be forced to react. Still, my guess is that China won’t put harsh pressure on North Korea because it fears the regime’s collapse. The only calculation that will change that? If Beijing thinks Japan could go nuclear or that the US will take military action.

Baltimore’s community leaders proposed a “weekend without killing.” The city made it til Saturday night (Hot Air)

Baltimore is on-track for another near-record number of killings this year.

Unfortunately, the group organizing the ceasefire took to their social media pages to decry the violence but somehow couldn’t resist the temptation to spread the blame around a bit too far.

“There is a war going on in Baltimore right now. We are experiencing genocide among our African-American males, both by the hands of the Police Department and from one another.” –quoted in Hot Air

Baltimore’s City Paper reports 205 murders (as of August 2, 2017), about one per day.

Hot Air’s reporter found only one involved a police shooting.

And that guy was holding a foot-long knife to the throats of a one year old and a four year old when negotiations finally broke down and the cops took him out. –Hot Air

Comment:  So, does the statement about a “genocide” by the police look accurate–or like blame-shifting or even incitement? Not a difficult call.

University of Southern California in midst of a nasty scandal (Los Angeles Times)

The case [involves] former medical school dean Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito. The [LA] Times reported last month that Puliafito, while leading USC’s Keck School of Medicine, partied with a circle of addicts, prostitutes and other criminals who said he used drugs with them, including on campus.

The problem is compounded by the fact Puliafito’s behavior had been a subject of controversy for some time, as this headline indicates:

Complaints of Drinking, Abusive Behavior Dogged USC Medical School Dean for Years–KTLA

USC had reappointed Puliafito after those complaints five years ago, raising questions about the school’s administrative oversight.

Entrenched poverty tough to shake in the Mississippi Delta (ABC News)

Otibehia Allen is a single mother who lives in a rented mobile home in the same isolated, poor community where she grew up among the cotton and soybean fields of the Mississippi Delta.

During a summer that feels like a sauna, the trailer’s air conditioner has conked out. Some nights, Allen and her five children find cooler accommodations with friends and relatives.

Comment: The story is about Jonestown, Mississippi, about 15 miles from my hometown of Marks. The poverty in these small towns is grinding, and lives are hard. Otibehia Allen’s life, as it is described in the story, sounds like a modern version of Dickensian poverty.

But there is something missing from the story, which focuses entirely on poverty, the Great Society programs, and the promises of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

There is no interest at all in three “elephants in the room.”

  1. Why on earth would a 32-year-old single woman have five children? How can even the best-hearted parent hope to give them the guidance and support they need?
    • Who could manage that, even with lots of money? With hardly any money, how can even the most loving mother give these children the attention and direction they need?
    • Yet having five kids–and beginning to have them as a teenager–is simply taken as a “given” in this article. Nobody seems to be responsible for it. People are just victims.
  2. Why are things in our poorest communities is such bad shape all over the country after five decades of big-government programs designed in Washington to deal specifically with poverty, crime, unemployment, and poor education? The article doesn’t bother asking.
    • That question needs asking because these problems are as pervasive in Detroit as in the Delta. (See the article on Baltimore above).
  3. As heart-wrenching as stories about the Delta or Appalachia are, shouldn’t we be focused on getting people to adapt to a changing environment, to move to where jobs are growing, and to get the skills they need for those jobs?
    • Of course, it would be great if the jobs came to where people already lived. But that’s magical thinking. Gary, Indiana, was built when steel was produced in giant mills. The Mississippi Delta was populated when small farms needed lots of agricultural workers, and they needed to live near the farms because transportation was so bad. If cities can transform their economic base, as Pittsburgh and Chicago have, that’s great. But our focus needs to be on people, not places.
    • Unfortunately, nobody with five kids can move easily. Nobody who starts having multiple kids as a teenager is going to gain many job skills after that. It’s hard to even imagine solutions for people in these terrible situations.

Please don’t mistake these tough questions for a hard heart. That poor mother and her five children deserve our sympathy. The kids, in particular, deserve our support, all the more so because it is hard to see how they can avoid being trapped themselves.

But a sympathetic heart doesn’t mean a soft head. It doesn’t imply that well-intentioned policies lead to good results. They might. They might not.

In America’s poorest areas, things will not get better by repeating the same failed policies, by refusing to confront the cycle of generation-after-generation remaining poor and uneducated, and then well-meaning people strutting with pride over how much we care.