All posts filed under: Reviews: Books & Film

Yuval Noah Harari: Brexit will not halt drive to ‘human unification’ 

I’m looking forward to Yuval Harari’s new book, set to be released this August. I’m a big fan of Sapiens, and I thought that this quote (from Harari’s forthcoming book) was worth passing along: “We have a global ecology, a global economy and a global science – but we are still stuck with only national politics,” he adds. “To have effective politics we must either deglobalise the ecology, the economy or the march of science – or we must globalise our politics.” In other words, the nation-state is out of date. Is nationalism one of the last (desperate) gasp of tribal politics in the modern era? Of capitalism? For me, Harari always raises very relevant and speculative questions. Source: Yuval Noah Harari: Brexit will not halt drive to ‘human unification’ | Culture | The Guardian

Happy Belated Tax Day! “We Absolutely Blew It!”

John Oliver had a fantastic bit on taxes, and I meant to post it on April 15th. I forgot, somehow, but then resolved to post it anyway, albeit a few days late. Now we are well into May, and I realize that I completely spaced this post. So even though this post may not have the same punch as it does on tax day, when we lament the amount of money that we have to pay to fund Trump’s increased security needs or Jeff Sessions’ quixotic renewal of the absurd “war on drugs,” it’s still worth taking a look.

Audre Lorde: no such thing as a single-issue struggle

Wisdom on unity and diversity, in the struggle for civil rights, by Audre Lorde, Learning from the 60s February 1982: The 60s were characterized by a heady belief in instantaneous solutions.  They were vital years of awakening, of pride, and of error. The civil rights and Black power movements rekindled possibilities for disenfranchised groups within this nation.  Even though we fought common enemies, at times the lure of individual solutions made us careless of each other. Sometimes we could not bear the face of each other’s differences because of what we feared those differences might say about ourselves. As if everybody can’t eventually be too Black, too white, too man, too woman.  But any future vision which can encompass all of us, by definition, must be complex and expanding, not easy to achieve. The answer to cold is heat, the answer to hunger is food. But there is no simple monolithic solution to racism, to sexism, to homophobia.  There is only the conscious focusing within each of my days to move against them, wherever I …

Myths of the old gods

Pretty much the entire Make America Great Again narrative is driven by the “American Way,” by a sense of exceptionalism and entitlement: We’re Americans, dammit and if we don’t have the highest standard of living in the world then heads are gonna roll!  [Enter stage right, the orange billionaire, intent on “taking our country back” armed with his Tweets of Fire & Fury]

Clayton Bigsby and the artificial construct of race

In his book, Invisible Man Got the Whole World Watching (2016), Mychal Denzel Smith discusses one of the skits from the classic Chapelle Show. In his Clayton Bigsby skit, Dave Chapelle brilliantly illustrates how race is a cultural construct, a fiction, a story, a mythology that creates a certain form of life. Developed circa 2007, Clayton Bigsby was one of Dave Chapelle’s most controversial skits: A Frontline investigation goes undercover seeking to come face to face with Clayton Bigsby, an author who has galvanized white supremacists everywhere with his fierce and uncompromising books on white power. Much to the shock of the Frontline journalist and the TV audience, it is discovered that Clayton Bigsby is actually black. He’s just blind and doesn’t know it.

The Eichmann Show (2015)

The Eichmann Show is a BBC production currently airing on Netflix. It’s 1961 and Israeli agents have captured Adolf Eichmann, one of the organizers of the Holocaust, while in hiding in Argentina. Eichmann is brought back for trial in Jerusalem. The Eichmann Show, however, does not center on the trial or on Eichmann himself, rather the film dramatizes the action on the other side of the camera, the quest of the American director Leo Hurwitz to capture Eichmann’s humanity. Hurwitz believes that doing so will show the world that fascism and genocide are not a uniquely NAZI phenomenon, it’s part of the human condition. The great evil in the world, Hurwitz believes, is not the domain of monsters, of devils and of demons. Under the right circumstances, we are all capable of monstrosities, and Hurwitz can capture Eichmann’s humanity, even just one authentic moment of real human emotion, then Hurwitz believes that he will have done something profound.  

David Foster Wallace

Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace (2012)

I recently finished Every Loves Story is A Ghost Story, a biography of David Foster Wallace. It was one of the best biographies I’ve read in quite a while, which is perhaps a bit surprising when you think about it, because a writer’s life doesn’t really tend to be the stuff of compelling story telling. Wallace himself joked about this. The writer’s life is not necessarily the stuff that makes for a tense, action-packed thriller. Even so, I was hooked. Maybe it’s just that I’m a writer and reading about the neurotic life of another writer is appealing, therapeutic even, but I think D. T. Max in truth just knocked it out of the park. It was easy to empathize with Wallace, in his struggle to write something in a form that both resonated with and challenged his contemporaries, all the while dealing with very intense periods of depression and self-doubt.