rasx() Screenshots: Shots out at Slavery

When you shoot out at slavery, will you ever have enough bullets? This film-prose “screenshots” series in the rasx() context can go on forever like yet another incarnation of the egocentrism of Alexander—you know? Alexander? The Greek? Macedonian? What? Anyway… these shots are aimed at unexpected places. It’s not hard to hit something as long as Western Patriarchal Man of all colors continues to make cinema.

Lawrence Ashen or Ashy Larry

Ashy Larry The left shows Lawrence Ashen, known to the world as Ashy Larry played by Donnel Rawlings on Chappelle’s Show. This character is a work of genius. It is an entertaining caricature of mental slavery that captivates young people (like my 14 year-old son) and allows an older guy like me pontificate presently:

From jump, he has a nickname with meaning. He is called Ashy Larry. The accuracy and precision of his nickname means he probably was called that name since he was child. It also implies that he did not name himself with a degree of egocentric inaccuracy—like many rappers and Afro-centrists do (so his nickname is not Ladies Love Larry or Cool Larry or Sexy Larry or Hotep Ra Larry God X).

In my fictional account of Ashy Larry (that Dave is free to ‘steal’ from me), the African-descended children of Ashy Larry’s childhood used lotion. However, Ashy Larry’s family immigrated from a humid climate like one of the islands in the Caribbean—where using lotion is unnecessary. Moreover, Ashy’s family thought of themselves superior to their fellow neighbors in those housing projects in the urban, eastern region of the United States and refused to adapt to the local customs including using lotion—to anoint the body with oil (an ancient African practice, by the way, dating back before Biblical times).

Ashy Larry So it is incorrect to assume that Ashy Larry is covered with ash. More culturally educated people know that Ashy Larry is covered with flakes of his own dried skin! It’s full-body dandruff in the house! He does not understand what his body needs and abuses it out of ignorance. He is no longer living in a climate that takes care of his skin. He needs to take special steps to protect himself because he is transplanted in a strange land. Instead, he is literally gambling his life away in The World Series of Dice. My people perish for lack of knowledge. Know lotion! Start somewhere… Ashy Larry is mentality conditioned not to listen to you when you try to tell him to pick up a bottle of lotion. Even as plumes of his skin, whitened by stupidity, cascading like talcum powder, fills the air.

This is yet another wonderful opportunity to bring some reality according to the laws of nature in this silly-ass discussion: When I see Ashy Larry, I think of the Pima People of Arizona. When you see an obese Pima, you may feel that somehow this person just needs to eat less the next time they go to the fast food restaurant. You may feel that this person is “just like everybody else” and all these people need to do is moderate a little. When you come to this conclusion, you may feel like a responsible, liberal, tolerant, loving person but your monkey-ass would be profoundly and scientifically incorrect. The Pima People are the “chosen people” of region we now call Arizona. Their bodies and minds were naturally selected for that natural environment. Scientific research shows that their bodies are not designed for civilian fast food restaurants and associated corporate officer/shareholder revenues. So they should not eat at fast restaurants at all—not the ones as we know them now.

However, I am sure we can find a Pima “Indian” sitting in a fast food restaurant on any given day. And just like Ashy Larry, there is nothing you can tell him to get him out of that restaurant. To him, such efforts come from a fantasy world of dreaming of an Arizona past never to return. To him, he is keeping it real—thinking that he is a part of larger world that is literally killing him with morbid obesity and adult-onset diabetes. That is not funny. But Ashy Larry: that shit is funny.

The Written Woman

The Written Woman? The image at right is one of the most powerful representations of an African-descended woman I have ever seen on film. However, this representation is in the rasx() context of slavery screenshots because of the details I gather from the representation. This shot is from the surrealistic film The Holy Mountain (a.k.a. The Sacred Mountain and La Montañasagrada), directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky. This film was so effective that I had to shut it off. I stopped watching this film after two psychological blows to the testicles. I don’t care how “unenlightened” Jodorowsky fans and supporters would regard me. When the main character, who I believe is called “The Thief” in the script, defecates into a big-ass glass jar—that was my cue to shut this motherfucker off.

And excuse my French but ‘this motherfucker’ refers indirectly to “The Alchmist,” Mr. Jodorowsky himself, a Chilean descendant of Ashkenazi Jews. You see, kind friends, before the take-a-dump-in-the-jar scene, our African-descended woman, who I assume is called “The Written Woman” in the script (assuming there is a script for this film), was involved in the wash-the-white-guy’s ass scene. The Written Woman ran a sponge between the buttocks of The Thief. This shot lasted for a few seconds—and it was quite a blow—and I tried to hang in there until the Christmas pooh.

The Written Woman? I was trying to hang in there because Jodorowsky created what we, looking back from our post-hippie cultural context, might call an ‘acid-trip’ maintaining for at least ten minutes a sustained attack on Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. But it was a case of trading one slave master for another—and I am curious to know what was going through the mind of this actress as Master Jodorowsky directed her through the ass-washing scene.

Ancestral information, what Rasta people would call True Guidance, informs me that so-called “artistic works,” sculptures, photography, painting, etc. are forms of communication. Regardless of what the “artist” says to me about how they have no message, I will always make a message out of their work. The “artist” has no control over what my mind does in response to their efforts—unless, of course, their art form is mind control—and even then, they better have great Jedi mind tricks to get over on me.

The Written Woman? The details that my mind gathers about The Written Woman is that she is a servant to The Alchemist. She wears a metal skullcap of an alloy and color that is foreign African metallurgic traditions known to me. In fact, the skullcap appears to me as steel—a European type recast from the swords of conquistadores. These bands hold her head, neck, her left arm, her right thigh—and there is a bolt of steel covering her clitoris. All of these symbols are strong enough to drive away any African away from her. Moreover, there are steel bands over her ears. They are shaped in what appears to be symbols from people of wisdom but again they appear as modern forgeries in the rasx() context.

She is called The Written Woman evidently because of the Hebraic inscriptions and other symbols—some of which look like Akan forgeries—tattooed on her body. The mind here details that this is the second layer of her captivity—after the patriarchal steel. When the raw material cannot hold her, then the foreign words will keep her in her place. The ancientness of the Hebraic forms is no match for the ancientness of her skin. In the rasx() context, she is a ‘modern’ woman in the guise of something ancient and esoteric. She is bound by the steel of the conqueror to wash much ass at his bidding.

The unverified argument here is that even when confined to ancient African cultures, we may find—somehow—that writing directly on the skin is relatively late development. Traditional Africans, what many of our scholars might call “basic” Africans, decorated their skin with scarification and/or coloring to create more symbols than words or inscriptions—and we can at least postulate that Master Jodorowsky was unable to convince this exquisite woman to allow herself to be permanently scarred for the sake of art and film.

The Seu Jorge Character

Seu Jorge under Glass Wes Anderson is a bright, intelligent young man with a refreshing do-it-yourself sense of humor. His film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou made me laugh. But it was the kind of laughter I had to work for—and, since “we” Americans have a rich and detailed history of slavery, working for things is often frowned upon in favor of the fantasy of getting shit “for free.” When Wes shows you the scene of Jeff Goldblum’s character sitting on a yellow sofa on the deck of Bill Murray’s character’s ship, The Belafonte, you have to work a little bit to get your laugh. You have to think about why Jeff’s character went through all the trouble to lower a sofa on someone else’s ship. And you can tell by the art direction that the sofa is a special shade of yellow and a particular style. You have to imagine him handing out detailed instructions about the sofa to his crew and what must have gone through the minds of new crew members hearing about this ‘sofa protocol’ for the first time. This is not stupid shit that Wes is making up just to fuck around… What I see is a small homage to Howard Hughes and other real-life eccentrics… In the meantime, the film goes on and you may come to realize that there is this man with strong African features in the background singing and strumming his guitar, this is Seu Jorge, his character. And you may come to understand that he may be singing this in Portuguese:

I’m closer to the Golden Dawn
Immersed in Crowley’s uniform
Of imagery
I’m living in a silent film
Himmler’s sacred realm
Of dream reality
I’m frightened by the total goal
Drawing to the ragged hole
And I ain’t got the power anymore
No I ain’t got the power anymore

He is strumming the chords of “Quicksand” by David Bowie from his album Hunky Dory. The chorus of the song is, “Don’t believe in yourself! Don’t believe in belief! Knowledge comes with death’s release!” But “we” Americans can’t see this right away. It is hidden like the “secrets” of the pyramids. The superficial laugh for the bright sophomores in the audience is that we have an African man by way of Brazil or Portugal—or Angola—playing David Bowie songs with lyrics in Portuguese. This is a world traveler with a lot of time on his hands. This deserves a laugh. But there’s more…

Seu Jorge under Glass First, Wes states quite clearly on the commentaries and documentaries on the Criterion DVD that he was making a film with European-style characters. What immediately comes to the rasx() context is the ‘traditional’ way characters with strong African features are portrayed in European film—especially the films of the 1960s and 70s. They have been used mostly as decorative, non-verbal elements—and this is what we have in Wes’ treatment of Seu Jorge’s character. The character is used as a decorative, background element literally adding color.

The image at right places the African guitarist under glass. A specimen of his music is being captured and catalogued by a fellow admirer and crew member (who is still, by the way, armed with his coveted GLOCK strapped to his thigh). This African man is singing in the language of the earliest of European slave traders in Africa. And the fact that he is on a ship immediately makes me think of the stereotype of the Slave Ship Cabin Boy and its exotic-pedophilic overtones—this may be a delicious subtly for Wes Anderson or “of course” this has never crossed his conscious mind. Bill Murray’s character is ‘of course’ not a slave trader, he is in a more subtle, abstract, humorous business of exploitation/deception and the postmodern cabin boy goes along for the abstract ride—more lyrics from “Quicksand”:

I’m not a prophet
or a stone age man
Just a mortal
with the potential of a superman
I’m living on
I’m tethered to the logic
of Homo Sapien
Can’t take my eyes
from the great salvation
Of bullshit faith
If I don’t explain what you ought to know
You can tell me all about it
On, the next Bardo
I’m sinking in the quicksand
of my thought
And I ain’t got the power anymore

In order to understand the depth of this ‘decorative’ character you have to travel through the Portuguese and then the English to reach finally the edge of what it means to incarnate Greco-Roman Imperial consciousness in the 20th century as interpreted by the mind of 70s pop-star David Bowie. Funny, huh? There is no way you can lower this in as 16-ton exposition with a big, American, Hollywood film crane such that “everyone gets it.” You have to work for it. You have to think about why this man decided to learn David Bowie songs. Was it to ingratiate himself with people who would otherwise have nothing in common with him? Was it because he loved “all kinds” of music and refused to be limited to what was “socially expected” of him? You have to think about why he decided to sing these particular songs. Ah! Here’s a slightly racist question for you: Does this Black guy really know what it means to be “immersed” in Aleister Crowley or is he just parroting Bowie’s English words that he somehow obtained in Portuguese? All of this speculation is held captive under layers and layers of do-it-yourself humor. Experience tells me that it is not impossible that there exists a complex character underneath the decor. Experience goes further to suggest that not only is this Black character profoundly brilliant, he is probably deeply troubled and his instability keeps him firmly “tethered” to The Belafonte. He is sinking in the quicksand of his thought and he ain’t got the power anymore.

It may be fair to mention way down in this paragraph that the “real” Seu Jorge—as in not the character from the film—was not singing the David Bowie lyrics. According to the lusolife Blog, Seu Jorge creates his own Portuguese lyrics for his Bowie cover songs as shown in “Life on Mars? Seu Jorge Translation.” There are no Portuguese translations for names like Himmler or Crowley. When you listen closely to “Quicksand” on the Criterion extras disk, you do not hear these family names in a heavy Portuguese accent. Whether this makes the Seu Jorge character more shallow or more deep remains to be seen… and heard.

This article was originally serialized over several days in the rasx() context, the kintespace.com Blog.