All posts filed under: Reviews: Books & Film

Black Against Empire #2 Strategy

Huey Newton and Bobby Seale wanted to organize, locally, to resist police brutality in their Oakland communities. But they needed a method and means. They needed a strategy, something that would work in the Black ghettoes, something that would be effective to combat the all-out racist onslaught of police forces like in Watts where officers on the force called their nightsticks “nigger-knockers.” They needed to catalyze locals, particularly those who ran the streets, the “brothers on the block, the unemployed black men seen on every street of the ghetto, the black underclass. These were the people who faced the brutality of the expanding urban police departments.” It proved challenging. Meanwhile there was police brutality. And more police brutality. Their frustrations mounted. Then, after a riot, new possibilities began to emerge.

Black Against Empire by Bloom and Martin (2012)

I am just starting in on this fascinating text, a thoroughgoing academic analysis of the Black Panther Movement, situated in its cultural context. I’ll be posting quotes and thoughts as I go, and I welcome anyone else to read along with me. The Black Panther Party was formed in a cultural and political milieu in which the Civil Rights Movement had come up to its limits. Whites would only allow so much. And police brutality was relentless and cruel.

Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama, by David Garrow

1,460 pages. Audiobook length of over 56 hours. And all of that is just to cover the time leading up to the Presidency. “If I go into politics it should grow out of work I’ve done at the local level, not because I’m some media creation.” ~ The young Barack Obama “If I go into politics it should grow out of work I’ve done at the local level, not because I’m some media creation.” ~ The young Barack Obama

Watch “March 15 Sermon by James Finley, Ph.D.” on YouTube

I recently came across this little homily from one of my favorite spiritual teachers, James Finley. He’s been called the spiritual teacher that spiritual teachers listen to when they listen to spiritual teachers…or something like that… In any event, what makes him compelling has nothing to do with needing some kind of esoteric or highly specialized knowledge. It’s that he’s just had a mature presence, the picture of someone experienced, i.e. he has suffered, but he is also relaxed and calm, which always gives me a sense of reassurance, because when someone who is serene and light can talk about the deepest most difficult shit that we have to endure, then it means something. [Footnote: my auto-correct keeps changing “spiritual” to “Doritos.” I change it back, but I’m quite certain that there are Doritos teachers who are also fans of James Finley. There is no doubt in my mind.] In any event, if you have ten minutes to watch the homily, let me know what you think. [Note on photo: that’s early 2012, when I …

Live free or die trying

I recently finished that Ken Burns documentary that I’ve been watching (more on that in another post) and decided to re-read the Vietnam War chapter in Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of The United States (more on that in another post), as a follow-up. As can happen, one thing leads to another and before I knew it I was reading Zinn’s chapter/s on the Civil War, which is where I came across the words of Harriet Tubman. Here is the quote, in context:

David Foster Wallace

But, so, what do I read next?

If you’re an avid reader, you are doubtless acquainted with a familiar phenomenon, the thrilling but also potentially problematic process of choosing the next book. I usually have at least two or three going at a given time, but right now I’m working the tax season at a CPA firm, so there isn’t all that much time to read. But I have a 20 minute commute, plenty of time to enjoy an audiobook. Surprisingly, choosing a book for my daily commute took a while, as can be the case when I want to find just the right book, the right book for the right time, the book that excites me and makes me want to dig in, ASAP.

The Brilliance of My Brilliant Friend | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

I’m nearly at the end of watching HBO’s My Brilliant Friend, the recently aired adaptation of the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan Novels. I’ve now read all for novels, though I’ve only reviewed the first, My Brilliant Friend. The books were quite brilliant and the new HBO film series builds on that. I’ll gave more to say on that another day — because, my god, there is so much to say — but for now I wanted to pass along the thoughts of Rhiannon Cosslett, writing in The Guardian. Her analysis of females portrayed in film brings out the richness of the new HBO film series (and by extension the novels): what struck me most about the shifting of the story into a different medium is the time given to the two main – female – characters, and how revolutionary it still feels to see female friendship explored onscreen in this way. If the portrayal of this friendship was revelatory in the novel, with all that form’s facility for introspection, then on screen it is even more …

Westworld [Heart Shaped Box] | YouTube

I’ve just finished watching the second season if Westworld — and wow — but more on that wow at another time. For now I wanted to share this vid, since for me a major part of the pleasure of watching Westworld is the music, the symphonic sounds of Ramin Djawadi, the composer of the music of Westworld. There are beautiful recreations of old grunge tunes, like Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” or “Heart Shaped Box” by Nirvana. And perhaps that’s meant to be metaphorical, like Arnold and Ford’s recreation and re-imagination of humankind.

The Vietnam War: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick

I started watching Ken Burns’ 18 hour documentary on Vietnam, and after five episodes I’m hooked in, way more hooked, in fact, that I would have ever thought possible given that this is a war documentary. I’ve generally stayed away from watching or reading about war, whether it’s a novel or a blockbuster moview or a documentary, I’ve tended to find other subject matters. For some reason, though, this series has me intrigued and glued to the tube.

Binging on Westworld

I spent a pleasant New Year’s Day in my pajamas, binge-watching the first season of Westworld with one of my friends. Westworld is a beautiful show; it’s visually elegant, the pacing is deliberate but builds on itself, and the writing is fantastic, there’s nothing wasted. I’ve heard, in fact, that they interrupted the whole production process, putting the show on hold, all so that the writers could fine tune the show. It certainly paid off. It hooked me in, and I stopped only to satisfy the most basic of biological needs. It all made for a hellagood New Year’s Day.

The Menace of Eco-fascism | New York Review

In the States we are used to thinking of environmentalism as bring a “liberal” or “left-wing” issue. This isn’t true in other developed nations. Elsewhere, especially in Europe, the right-wing parties have ecological platforms, or at least have a sizable number of constituents who give a shit about environmental programs and ecological initiatives. It makes sense. If you really care about your country, you will want to make it a paradise, and the last thing you would want to do would be to pave paradise just to put up some parking lots. The right-wing in the U.S. has never really been very consistent or intellectually competent. They have been driven, in recent decades, primarily by rage against any and all things liberal or Clinton, but one of my biggest fears since Trump resurrected nationalism under the #MAGA tag has always been that the manic MAGA movement would take a page from other right-wing movements around the world and actually become somewhat intellectually consistent, paying attention to winning political issues, like giving a damn about the …

Noname and The 50 best albums of 2018

I came across an article in The Guardian ranking the best albums of 2018. In recent years I’ve drifted father and farther away from new artists and new music and new releases. What better way to remedy the situation than by utilizing the full power of the awesome music library that I have at my disposal (Spotify subscription) to begin updating myself.  Most of the albums on the list display a preference for identity pop or “a fine selection of albums that range from the socially conscious to the political, as well as pure slices of ecstatic rock and cutting rap.” And so it was that in listening through the list that I came across Chicago native Noname, a talented poet and rapper. I’m quite taken with her 2018 album Room 25. The album starts out with a bang. Here are the first two tracks, Self and Blaxploitation. Self Blaxploitation

The Sting of Winter

To take the sting out of winter, I turn to Sting. It’s kind of homeopathic, an approach to healing that prescribes a remedy to mirror the malady. If you’ve got a sour stomach, then eat something sour, that sort of thing. During the winter season, listening to Sting seems to be some sort of musical homeopathic treatement for the weirdness and wonder of the wide range of the winter mood. Winter is a season of contrasts, when things get dark and contemplative yet at the same time it’s paradoxically festive. One might as easily brood in a corner chair, nursing another glass of cognac, or one might just as easily find that a random group of smiling strangers is standing on the stoop, in the icy cold solely for the purpose of belting out, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

I watched Solo last night. I like these anthology films, these stand-alone, supplemental add-ons to the Star Wars universe. Solo is the second installment, Rogue One (2016) being the first. In many ways, I like them better than the continuing epic trilogies, now numbering eight in total. The filmakers for these big blockbuster trilogy films are putting a lot of effort into trying to finish playing out the George Lucas formula so as to pull themselves loose from the Lucas strings, but while they are busy trying to sort that out, there are the satisfying supplements.