MLK@UNH 2020

Happy MLK day, all! It's a good day to check out the celebratory events at the University Near Here, a (mostly) yearly tradition at Pun Salad. Someone (sort of) famous is coming, and if you'd like to skip down to that click here. But otherwise…

Right off the bat, our usual disclaimers: UNH doesn't have anything going on the actual holiday. Because it's a University holiday (duh) and the first day of Spring Semester classes is the following day. So no impressionable students to indoctrinate, and nobody around to indoctrinate them. Sad!

This year's theme:

OWN IT: Using Your Power for Change

"Power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose.  It is the strength required to bring about social, political, and economic change."  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  (from the "Where Do We Go From Here") address

I'm sure there are more inspiring MLK quotes out there; this is more like a dictionary definition. But as will become clear, there's only one acceptable direction for "social, political, and economic change" in this season: to the left, to the left, to the left.

Anyway, first up is a display, Human Topographies, from artist Dan Mills, at the University's art museum, running January 21 until April 4. The scoop:

Human Topographies presents a narrow slice of the artist’s wide-ranging and decades-long interest in history, exploration, and games and wordplay to investigate networks—networks of power, trade, and migration that underpin societies, nationally and globally. Mills makes luminous and layered paintings and collages about our shared human history utilizing maps and data to expose the legacies of imperialism: war, colonialism, and the forced displacement of people.

Dan's website is here, and you can make your own call on which is cruder: Dan's art, or his ideology.

Moving on to Carmen Bradford with the Seacoast Big Band on the evening of February 3:

Carmen Bradford is third generation of incredible musicians. Her grandfather Melvin Moore sang with Dizzy Gillespie's Big Band in the 1940's, and she is the daughter of coronetist/composer Bobby Bradford and jazz vocalist Melba Joyce.   Her albums include "Home With You", "A Very Swinging Basie Christmas", "Big Boss Band", "Finally Yours", and "With Respect".   Carmen Bradford has truly contributed to the preservation of this American art form called jazz.

No complaints here. Could be good, if you like jazz. It's apparently undisputed that MLK was a fan.

Then on February 5 (finally), the "MLK Opening":

Evening will be hosted by the Black Student Union and will feature spoken word, student group dance performances, slam poets, readings and other events to honor Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy.

Slam poetry is still a thing? Go figure. Best guess: tedium level yellow.

On February 6, a play at Johnson Theater ("NOTE: Doors open at 12:15 and close promptly at 12:40 at start of play. Play ends at 2:30pm"; I don't know what the deal is with that.):

The Niceties, brings a timely and important discussion between a student of color and a white professor who meet to discuss her paper on slavery and the American Revolution.  The play written by Eleanor Burgess, offers important insights on race, ageism, historical "facts", and the "why" that can often be left behind. 
Play will be performed by talented actresses from NH Theatre Project.

You have to appreciate the quotes around "facts". The play has its own website. You can google around for reviews (example) to get fell for the theme: it's a staged in-office debate between a old white liberal lady history prof and a black radical student. The student wants to promote the thesis that "the success of the American Revolution depended on the fact that slavery was never seriously challenged." The professor has "delusions of grandeur". Sounds like a fictionalized version of The 1619 Project, only more didactic.

Then on February 8, there's the "MLK Day of Action":

This is a great way to show those in need that you care. UNH Civic and Community Engagement office will have a list of service-related projects for you to choose from.

The key thing is showing people that you care. You don't have to actually care.

Next is an all-day event in the MUB on February 12: "Social Justice Educator Training".

A professional development opportunity for UNH faculty, staff, and graduate students to further their understanding of social justice and diversity issues. This session will explore social justice via personal and institutional lenses to analyze: power and privilege, discrimination and prejudice, inclusion and equity especially as it relates to one's racial identity .

From that description, my guess is that both indoctrination and tedium levels will be high.

The very next evening, February 13, we have "UNH A Capella Group Performances":

Several A Cappella groups have organized a special "Spring Inclusion" event with a wide variety of songs that will hopefully widen our circles and invite our minds to reflect on new ways to view our community and the people around us.

If you need your circle widened and your mind invited, go for it. (And if you widen your circles, don't they turn into ellipses?)(Sorry, that's a joke I've made before.)

I'm still trying to reflect on the difference between "our community" and "the people around us". (The writing on many of these descriptions is ludicrously inflated; never use one word where three or nine will do.)

Moving on, we have—of course—this year's religious event. Well it's at a church anyway: the "MLK Spiritual Program" on February 16 at the Durham Community Church.

An afternoon of spiritual celebration at the Community Church of Durham.  Program will include talks, a presentation by local artist Pamela Chatterton-Purdy, on her depiction of Black Civil Rights leaders, and music to recognize the strength and resilience of the Black community.  All are welcome to attend.

It almost goes without saying: the University doesn't do this sort of thing for actual religious holidays, like Christmas. That's OK: this is UNH's actual religion, complete with mythology and ritual.

Think I'm overstating things? Ms. Chatterton-Purdy's website is here.

And here's the sorta-famous invitee: David Hogg, on the evening of February 19. I know what you're wondering: either "What does this white kid have to do with MLK?" or "Aren't his fifteen minutes of fame up yet?"

Gun control advocate and March For Our Lives Co-Founder, David Hogg will speak about his story as survivor of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida school shooting, and his call to all students to find their voice, speak out and engage in change. 

Here's a bit of what Charles C. W. Cooke said about young David back in 2018:

Since the multiple murders at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Hogg has emerged as a sort of Schrödinger’s Pundit, whose status within the debate sits contingent upon his critics’ willingness to push back. The game being played with his testimony — by adults, not by Hogg — is as transparent as it is cynical. For ten days now, Hogg has been as permanent a fixture on the nation’s TV screens as anyone bar the president. In each appearance, he has been invited without reply to share his ideas on our public policy. This he has done, emphatically. Among the proposals that Hogg has advanced are that the most popular rifle in America be federally prohibited; that the NRA be regarded as a haven for “child murderers”; that Americans boycott Amazon, FedEx, and the state of Florida; and that Governor Rick Scott take responsibility for the failures of another elected official. In addition, Hogg has held a gun-control rally in New Jersey, slammed the president as a coward, criticized the federal response to the hurricane in Puerto Rico, made comments in support of funding for wind and solar power, taken a pre-emptive stand on Florida’s imminent senatorial election, and suggested that, as a matter of general policy, cops cannot be expected to protect the citizenry if they believe they might be outgunned.

Still true today, although I'm not sure at this point whether Hogg isn't a co-player in this cynical game by now.

In any case, the University passed up yet another chance to bring Mia Love to campus. I'd go see her.

There's a "Campus Conversation on Race" for … 80 minutes on February 20!

Hosted and designed by TREAT Fellows, join us for this cross-campus conversation with students, faculty and staff on the role power and privilege play here on campus and how we can all begin thinking of ways to leverage our power for change.

Okay… the current Treat (not TREAT) fellows are here. Fellow Brianne Morneau "still has three baby teeth" and Elana Zabar's favorite tree? It's the American Sycamore!

And finally, on February 21-23, it's the "MLK Summit".

The MLK Summit is a two and a half day social justice development institute that allows students to build cultural competencies and to expand their understanding of community activism.  The retreat is free and open to all full-time undergraduate students who are interested in gaining a better understanding of diversity and working toward social justice on the UNH campus and beyond. 

I would strongly suspect that any contrarian opinions on the intellectual coherency of "diversity" or "social justice" will be absent. And if not absent, cancelled.

[Past Pun Salad MLK@UNH coverage: 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019. We skipped reporting the 2008 and 2016 events, because they were boring.]


Last Modified 2020-01-21 5:01 AM EST

Johnny English Strikes Again

[2.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

This is the third entry in Rowan Atkinson's "Johnny English" series. Johnny is about halfway between James Bond and Mr. Bean.

As the movie opens, Johnny's been sidelined, off to a small school where he's ostensibly a geography teacher. But he actually spends most of his time teaching the kiddos spycraft: ninja techniques, disguise, weaponry.

Unfortunately, this is the best part of the movie.

An evil cyberhacker breaks into Britain's "MI7" computers, and outs all the current crop of spies. To investigate, the PM (Emma Thompson, pretty good) demands that an inactive agent be brought back to investigate. So Johnny's off to France to track down the hacker, when he runs into Ophelia Bhuletova (Olga Kurylenko, who was an actual Bond girl in Quantum of Solace). Friend or enemy?

So anyway, Johnny bumbles a lot, a considerable amount of physical comedy, some of the gags work better than others. Atkinson, it's revealed in a DVD interview, likes doing physical comedy. Fine, but know when to stop, OK?

Given the elements, you can write the script yourself.

Masterminds

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

This is a pretty good entry in the "Dumb People Committing Crimes" genre. At least I laughed all the way through. It is based on an actual $17 million heist, although considerable liberties were taken to make things funnier. Co-produced by Lorne Michaels, it's also a movie gig for a lot of ex-SNL cast members.

Zach Galifianakis (could equally well have been Will Forte) plays probably the dumbest guy, David Ghantt, a trusted employee of an armored car company. When slightly-smarter Steve (Owen Wilson) learns that David is smitten with his co-worker Kelly (Kristen Wiig), a plot is hatched. And it goes surprisingly well! David goes on the lam down to Mexico. Steve, with the lion's share of the loot, realizes that David is a loose end, and sends a hitman (Jason Sudekis) after him.

Also: Kate McKinnon as David's spacey fiancée; Leslie Jones as an FBI agent. Everybody's funny, and the movie is better than it probably deserves to be.