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December 04, 1995 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-12-04

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Page 8A
December 4, 1995
IBurden worth bearing

By Prasbant Tamaskar
Daily Arts Writer
Jmagine aworid in which the middle
and upper classes are made up of
African Americans, while the ghet-
toes of the inner city are filled with
Caucasians. Imagine if nearly every
television program featured an all-
black cast, and every newscast fea-
tured black anchor people. Imagine a
society in which whites are denied
promotions, or unnecessarily stopped
by police because of the color of their
In Desmond Nakano's daring, but
overexaggerated "White Man's Bur-
den," this view of society becomes a
reality; the racial roles that currently

White Man's
Directed by Desmond
Nakano; with John
Travolta and Harry
At State and Showcase
characterize the United States are re-
versed in an attempt to address an old
problem from an unusual perspec-
The movie begins with a dedicated,
but overlooked factory worker, Louis
Pinnock (John Travolta), making a
delivery to the house of his boss,
Thaddeus Thomas (Harry Belafonte).
As Pinnock arrives at the estate he is
asked to deliver the package to the
side of the house, where he acciden-
tally sees Thomas' wife changing in
front of a window. A few days later
Pinnock is fired because the company
does not want to have a "peeping
Tom" as an employee.
After Thomas refuses to listen to
Pinnock's case, the worker and his
family cannot afford to pay rent and
are evicted. Unable to find a new
job, Pinnock decides to take mat-
ters into his own hands and kidnaps
Thomas in hopes of receiving the

money that he deserves. The rest of
the film deals with the resolution of
the conflict between these two men
from entirely different worlds.
First and foremost, everyone in-
volved with "White Man's Burden"
should be applauded for their will-
ingness to be a part of a rather con-
troversial film. It is not every day
that a movie like this one is made,
and regardless of the final outcome,
the producers should be given credit
for being brave enough to complete
the project. Moreover, writer/direc-
tor Nakano went all out, refusing to
sugar coat scenes that easily could
have been made more pleasing to
the audience.
However, it is possible that Nakano
pushes some of the material too far, to
the point of absurdity. Although the
film does require exaggeration in order
to emphasize its main points, by over-
doing it, Nakano may have sacrificed
part ofthe film'spotential power. View-
ers may see some of the scenarios as so
far-fetched that they could never hap-
pen in real life, nor could they possibly
parallel anything that is currently tak-
ing place.
Regardless, "White Man's Burden"
does contain several entertaining and
effective scenes that can be described
as pure genius. There is a fashion show
that features the help of 30 underprivi-
leged white children who are exploited
for their "need" to be helped. In another

John Travolta takes Harry Belafonte hostage in "White Man's Burden."

instance, Thomas' upper-class son,
much to his parents' disgust, introduces
his date for the evening, a white girl
named Cheryl.
A large portion of the film focuses
on the relationship between the
wealthy and prestigious Thomas and
the unfortunate working stiff Pinnock.
The wonderful chemistry between
Travolta and Belafonte prevents this
aspect of the movie from failing.
Travolta masterfully plays the de-
cent and likable Pinnock, who is sim-

ply wronged one too many times.
Even when he resorts to criminal
activity, the viewer completely sym-
pathizes with Pinnock; he realizes
that he is only after what he deserves
and what he needs to survive.
Belafonte's Thomas is by no
means a bad guy. Rather, his main
problem is that he has too much
power to be able to relate with the
common man. N evertheless, when
brought together, both men are able
to interact in a genuine, natural

Although "White Man's Burden" is
not necessarily a great movie, and al-
though it may offend some people, it is
very refreshing to see that occasion-
ally filmmakers are willing to take
risks and present relevant issues in a
unique manner. Moreover, it will prob-
ably cause the viewer to think about
the race and society a little more than
they would like to. If the film is ableto
do this, it will be more successful than
its box office receipts indicate.

Kelly Lynch In "White Man's Burden."

Hammond's blues are
old, borrowed and new

John Hammond
The Ark
December 1, 1995

By James Miller
-Daily Arts Writer
"You got me chained to my head-
phones / white boy lost in the blues."
Sonny Terry
With tears in my eyes, I inform
you that the old-fashioned country
blues is dying a slow death. The
sounds of Robert Johnson, Sonny
Boy Williamson and Gary Davis
are all but absent in what passes for
the blues these days. It's enough to
make a true believer question his
faith. If you find that you have lost
your way, brothers and sisters, pick
up a John Hammond record. Or the
next time he comes to town, grab a
Hammond has been a stalwart sup-
porter of roots music of the blues
for decades. His sound still retains
that brash, impolite spirit of the
Delta and Piedmont styles. First he
plays guitar and harp in a mouth
clamp, a feat hardly seen since
Jimmy Reed died. Rather than play-

ing simple chords on the guitar to
back up his harp playing, he at-
tacked the guitar with complex sup-
porting figures and vamps so intri-
cate, the line between solos and
comps blurred. His enthusiasm was
not confined to the guitar either.
Mirroring his guitar chops,
Hammond's harp playing was exu-
berant and downright athletic. On
tunes like "Don't You Want To
Ride" he played with such arrhyth-
mic fury it sounded as if John Lee
Hooker had picked up the harp.
Hammond reminds
blues fans that the
blues is not static
and irrelevant, but
a living, growing
And when the show couldn't pos-
sibly have gotten any more old
school, he broke out the dobro for
such blues standards as "Dreamy
Eyed Woman" and "Walkin' the
Blues." If nothing else, this gave
him an opportunity to show off more

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of his slide skills. Playing the com-
plex figures with one less finger
was impressive enough, but he kept
shooting his hand up the neck of the
guitar for a few quick high notes
that he added for emphasis without
losing a beat.
At some points, Hammond may
have been a little too enthusiastic.
His harp phrasing made little use of
bar lines, resulting in a sound that
wasn't wrong, but was away from
the pulse quite a bit. This disregard
for technique and theory was ex-
treme, even for a Delta performer.
On top of that, he spent much of the
evening chasing a dobro intonation
problem that wasn't serious enough
to warrant the time he spent on it.
He even went far enough to whip
out an electronic tuner, a serious
breach of etiquette for any profes-
sional performer.
His second set came back with a
vengeance. Opening with "Ride Till
I Die," Hammond continued the

proud Delta tradition of singing re-
ally dirty songs with enough double
entendre to make them palatable to
a wider audience (Blind Lemon
Jefferson's "Drill, Daddy, Drill" for
example). To the crowd's surprise
and joy, Ann Arbor boogie pianist
stud Mr. B joined Hammond for a
few tunes. Most notable of these
was the Sonny Boy Williamson clas-
sic "Fattenin' Frogs for Snakes." It
was interesting to hear the lyrical 4/
4 style of Mr. B compressed into
Hammond's fractured Delta play-
ing; an interesting marriage.
It was a show so good, I seem to
have run out of superlatives.
Hammond reminds blues fans that
even though few people play the
music that spawned the blues, it is
still a beautiful and commercially
viable form. In playing both old
tunes and his own compositions in
the same vein, he shows that the
blues is not static and irrelevant,
but a living, growing creature.

Larry King
How To Talk to Anyone, Any-
time, Anywhere: The Secrets of
Good Communication
Crown Trade Paperback Books
"Would you rather: 1. Jump out
of an airplane without a parachute;
or 2. Sit next to someone you've
never met before at a party?" asks
Larry King in the introduction to
his latest book. He says that many
people would pick No. 1.
If you've ever had a problem talk-
ing in public, at a party or in class,
this book could help you. In his
seventh publication, the "king of
talkers" has divulged some secrets
and shared his most famous stories
of interviews with celebrities,
based on his award-winning talk
show, "Larry King Live" on CNN.
This man has interviewed every-
one from President Clinton to Frank
Sinatra to Marlon Brando and all
those in between. Hosting a show
with a call-in viewer format, news-
worthy moments have included
Ross Perot announcing his Presi-
dential bid for the first time and
Vice President Dan Quayle admit-
ting he'd support his daughter if
she had an abortion.
King reveals the greatest ques-
tion ever asked, how to deal with
boring conversations and what
makes people speak openly about
themselves. He gives simple tech-
niques for communicating effec-
tively in a job interview or busi-
ness meeting, and how to rescue
oneself from a blooper.
Making it an easy-to-read for-
mat, the paperback version is small,
short and in large print. King shares
interesting and funny anecdotes
about his guests, showing how oth-
ers can use humor to liven up any
speech or social talk. Hitting home
some common sense ideas, King's
suggestions actually work.
"Regardless of your ability as a
talker, remember this:" King
closes. "If you feel you're not good
at it, you can be. And if you feel
you are good at it, you can be bet-
- Elan A. Stavros
Alan Bennett
Writing Home
Random House
This is an autobiography. Actu-
ally, English playwright Alan
Bennett ("The Madness of George
III") intended it to be an autobiog-
raphy, but it feels more like a pot-
pourri of writings, reviews and
criticisms that Bennett threw at his
publisher, saying, "I don't feel like
doing the real thing, try this in-

stead." A good portion of the book is
spent discussing other writers like
Kafka and Auden and English actors
and the very weird Miss Shepherd
(who camped out in Bennett's yard
for over 15 years in her smelly van
until she died there). Bennett rarely
turns toward his own life, spends
very little time on his childhood,
and avoids mention of the future as
he laments middle-age life.
Blame it on my being nurtured on
supermarket tabloids, but I was
starved for some insight into this
writer's life. Why did he become a
writer? What are his hobbies? Rela-
tionships, family, secrets - these
are all pointedly ignored. Okay, it's
his autobiography and he can put
what he wants in it, but why call it an
autobiography if he's not going to
discuss himself and his albeit boring
I can't help but forgive him,
though: He's English, and he's a
writer. Bennett has an admirable way
of observing a thing and putting it
down on paper just as it is to point
out its ridiculousness, sadness or
humor. And, in the humor depart-
ment, it helps that he has been ac-
quainted with some eccentrics of En-
glish theater. Unfortunately, for all
my fascination with the English and
their culture and style, I wasn't able
to recognize many of the names or
places inherent to the book. A best
seller in England, this book recounts
the many plays and television pro-
grams to which Bennett has contrib-
uted. While these subjects aren't
crucial, familiarity with English en-
tertainment creates a recognizable
plane for a more comfortable and
lucid read.
Of course, there is that. charming
oddness of the English that I've al-
ways found so attractive, the indi-
viduality that, unfortunately,
Bennett rarely applies to himself,
instead reserving it for his friends
and acquaintances. Bennett allows
these people to assume their own
roles and write their own stories,
never admitting to too much contact
with them, just observing and writ-
ing, struggling in that never-ending
quest to squash the belief that we're
all a little odd, like it or not, in our
own unimportant way.
- Kristina Curkovic


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