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Posts Tagged ‘Sidney Poitier

“No other continent has endured such an unspeakably bizarre combination of foreign thievery and foreign goodwill”*…


What if the Black Plague had killed off almost all Europeans? Then the Reconquista never happens. Spain and Portugal don’t kickstart Europe’s colonization of other continents. And this is what Africa might have looked like.

The map – upside down, to skew our traditional Eurocentric point of view – shows an Africa dominated by Islamic states, and native kingdoms and federations. All have at least some basis in history, linguistics or ethnography. None of their borders is concurrent with any of the straight lines imposed on the continent by European powers, during the 1884-85 Berlin Conference and in the subsequent Scramble for Africa. By 1914, Europeans controlled 90% of Africa’s land mass. Only the Abyssinian Empire (modern-day Ethiopia) and Liberia (founded in 1847 as a haven for freed African-American slaves) remained independent…

More alternative– but instructive– history at “Africa, Uncolonized: A Detailed Look at an Alternate Continent.”

* Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible


As we explore, we might send an elegantly-filmed birthday greeting to Sidney Poitier; he was born on this date in 1927 (to Bahamian parents visiting Miami).  An acclaimed actor, he became the first Bahamian and first African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor (in 1964, for his role in Lilies of the Field). Then in 1967, he starred in three successful films, To Sir, with Love, In the Heat of the Night, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, making him the top box-office star of that year.  Poitier went on to direct a number of films, and in 2010 was awarded another Oscar, the Academy Honorary Award, in recognition of his “remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being.”  Poitier led a active life off-stage as well: he served as Bahamian ambassador to both Japan and UNESCO, and served as a director of the Walt Disney Company.  He was knighted in 1974, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, in 2009.



Written by LW

February 21, 2016 at 1:01 am

In re: the stomach on which an army marches…


Best if eaten before January, 2014

Readers may recall the announcement of caffeinated beef jerky as a battlefield snack for peckish soldiers.  Now the Pentagon’s developmental chefs are adding another staple: a sandwich that can be served fresh after sitting on the shelf for two years.

Why not? The “freeze-dried dreck” that constitutes most MREs has to last years at a time while supplying hurried soldiers with the energy they need, says Clay Dillow at Popular Science. And most of these air-sealed meals, typically little more than “gummy paste,” are in dire need of an upgrade. Enter “the world’s most cutting edge sandwich.”

“For food to rot, you usually need oxygen and water” to invite in bacteria, says Will Shanklin at Geek.com. “MREs that eliminate water have great shelf life, but horrible taste.” In order to keep these high tech sandwiches flavorful, scientists enlisted the preservation properties of a familiar condiment: jam.

Unlike freeze-dried food, preservatives like jam have high water content, says Shanklin. The high-tech sandwich’s jam-like filling — whether it tastes like PB&J or an Italian-style hoagie — “locks in the moisture,” creating a barrier around the water molecules that bacteria need to survive. A special “packet of iron fillings” is also inserted into the package, which “draws in excess moisture, converts it into rust, and traps it.” As for oxygen? The sandwich is packed tightly and vacuum sealed, like most other MREs.

“I’m a big fan. I love the bread,” one soldier tells BBC News in a TV interview. Another echoes his sentiments: “It’s definitely the best two-year-old sandwich I’ve ever had,” he says, smiling. “Better than a lot of new ones I’ve had, too.”

Read the full story in The Week.


As we reconsider discarding those week-old left-overs in the refrigerator, we might recall that it was on this date in 1967 that a young white woman brought her fiancee, an African-American doctor, home to meet her parents: Stanley Kramer’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner opened in theaters across the U.S.  The film was groundbreaking in its positive treatment of interracial marriage– which had been illegal in most of the United States, and was still illegal in 17 states, mostly Southern states, up until June 12 of the year of the film’s release, when anti-miscegenation laws were struck down by the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia.

The film is also notable its pairing of Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn as the parents.  It was their ninth– and last– turn as co-stars.  Tracy died 17 days after shooting wrapped; Hapburn never saw the finished film, explaining that the memories of Tracy were “just too painful.”  The doctor was played by Sidney Poitier; his fiance, by Katharine Houghton, Hepburn’s niece.



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