Thursday, February 1, 2018

"Taboo" - TV Review

Riveting and original TV: Taboo on FX.
What happens when a man with mystical training from far away lands returns to Regency London, tries to establish a trading port monopoly across lands that he inherited but are also being fought for by the British, the East India Tea Company and the Americans and with just as must gusto tries to reinstate his incestuous relationship with his sister? Taboo has GOT- level intrigue set against a not-so-clean-and Poppins-ish time period of England. It's desperate, monstrous, mystical and compelling. Not for the faint of heart. 
Highly, highly recommended, but bloody.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Lady Audley’s Secret - Book Review

A Wonderful and Groundbreaking  Mystery by a Prolific Woman Writer With One of the Earliest Regular Guy Turned Reluctant Detectives Has Been Lost to Time 

This book is the reason I say that if a book has survived in print for scores of years there is a very good reason! Somehow this author of 80 novels and literary prowess has, for the masses, been lost to history. 
This novel features a country house story as well as an unusual game of cat and mouse. It’s somewhat like a 19th Century Columbo where you kind of know who did it but not why. What is also fascinating is how the author brings the reader along with the detective. We follow over his shoulder but less into his mind such that we see what he sees but still don’t quite understand how he knows what he knows - or how the alleged killer knows he knows. (Remember this is well before Agatha Christie.) I mention this because throughout the read I was keenly aware of Braddon’s writing skill. If she were alive today she most certainly would be a TV writer because she knows when to leave a scene hanging. Despite being written in the mid 19th Century, the story moves in a very modern fashion. Also, this is a first look at the pleasing sociopathic character. Ahead of its time. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Visiting the Museum as 55 Year Old Black Girl, Ivy League Graduate and Possible Vandal

“Visiting the Art Museum as a 55 Year-Old Black Girl, Ivy League Graduate and Possible Vandal”

As I age I’m taking time to explore the galaxy and put my Ivy League education to better use than reading contracts. I’m attending concerts and fairs, reading outside of my comfort zone, travelling and taking complete advantage of that older person privilege of sometimes speaking withut a filter. In this “now or never” stage of life I often go alone.
So yesterday I visited the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles on my own. It was the usual art space, white, light filled galleries with an open air courtyard and the necessary café. The current exhibits are challenging, requiring you to understand the theatrical meanings of patterned floor coverings and painted benches and their relationship to an up-close video of skin. It also was on-trend with a display of garments. And this being LA, there was the requisite film related exhibit.

In Gallery II the art was arranged around the walls with a series of smaller exhibits in a row down the center. There were 8 to 12 non-black visitors. I noticed the security guard looking at me. I made a bee line towards her, passing her just a bit to her right side, as if she were merely a camera stand.  Once passing her, I stood a distance behind her, out of her eye sight and considered a painting in the corner. A few beats later she pivoted, keeping me in her periphery. I’m a playful sort. I kept edging behind her back, staying just out of her sight. She kept pivoting. I continued to look at the painting. Then I surprised her by turning my head quickly in her direction. I saw that she had turned full frontal to look at me and only me in the corner. Our eyes met across the room. Not in that romantic coincidental way, but still in that destiny sort of way. We looked at each other for 5 or 6 seconds. I smiled. She smiled. I knew she knew. She knew I knew. 
I moved onto other galleries and found more pivoting guards. 

Guess that is a thing, for me.  

In the courtyard I played with the purple chairs that spun like tops and enjoyed the view from the top floor windows. 

I left with my pockets empty and the artwork intact. It turned out that there was nothing that I liked enough to steal and nothing that I hated enough to vandalize.

Dumb luck, I suppose. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Trump’s Immigrants: Why Norway?

Trump’s Nordicism is not a new thing. It was prevalent amongst eugenicists in the early 20th century. It is this theory to which F. Scott Fitzgerald adhered and which underlies the argument that Jay Gatsby is a mixed-race character through which Fitzgerald expressed the nation’s racial anxieties. It is in America’s social fabric and thus in the fabric of one of its greatest novels.
“Jay Gatsby: A Black Man in Whiteface”
I really would like you to read it. It matters.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

"Jay Gatsby: A Black Man in Whiteface" - A Synopsis

The Great Gatsby was written against the backdrop of 1920s America, a period that saw heightened racial strife, sensitivity and conflict as a result of the post-war movement of peoples around the globe and the improving effect that new technology had on middle and lower class life. During this period the fact and fear of racial passing was a hot topic in America. It was also a key topic in F. Scott Fitzgerald's own life. Having what he saw as a mixed racial heritage, and growing up as the Catholic son of immigrants and the poorest boy amidst the wealthy, Fitzgerald saw America from the middle and the outside. He knew what it was like to be at the top of society and was keenly aware of how one inconvenient biographical fact could keep you out. This book unveils how Fitzgerald included race as well as class as a pitfall in the doomed pursuit of the American Dream. He did so by making his striving but flawed main character both poor and mixed race.
Through an understanding of Fitzgerald's life, and contemporary America, and a close read of the drafts of The Great Gatsby and related correspondence, this book shows how America's troubled conscience about race and Fitzgerald's own inside/outside status laces through the novel.
Everyone says the novel has not a spare word. So, ask yourself why Nick Carraway thinks Jay Gatsby could have come from the swamps of New Orleans? Why does he have jazz music at his parties? Why is yellow a frequently used color and why are his fine suits referred to as rags? Why does the novel open and close with discussion about miscegenation? Why did Fitzgerald use the name of a freed slave in his favorite title for the novel? This interpretation of Gatsby makes the best use of all of the words - and it fits in very well with those famous last lines.
Maxwell Perkins said the novel went over people's heads. Other reviewers said that it relies on implication and ellipsis. It bears noting that Fitzgerald himself said that even the most enthusiastic supporters of the book failed to understand what it was about. Jay Gatsby: A Black Man in Whiteface provides an answer in 80 easy-to-read pages plus a full bibliography with sources that readers can easily find and consider themselves.
This book will turn your view of The Great Gatsby sideways. But then you'll see that it looks better that way.

“I, Tonya” - Film Review

“I, Tonya”
This film is spectacular and spectacularly American. It explores with exquisite precision American media, the American insistence upon a framework of good and evil, female competition, public vs private shame,  the contours of forgiveness in our “Christian” society, and more. This is not a biopic. I really encourage you to see it - ESPECIALLY if you lived through it.
P.S The USA Today article about Tonya Harding not deserving sympathy completely misses the point.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

"Magpie Murders" - A mystery wrapped in... a mystery! - Review

"Magpie Murders" - A mystery wrapped in... a mystery!

If Agatha Christie were to write a novel in 2017 she would have written this one. This delightful mystery hits all the marks - the idiosyncratic and somewhat tragic detective, multiple motives, a love story, a well-defined and limited locale, red herrings and intriguing side plots. The clues are laid out before our eyes, but the connections are not - which is the hallmark of a good mystery: the  author does not "cheat" by withholding information.  The main events unfold against the unique backdrop of the rough and tumble world of literary creation and publication which is expertly woven into the plot - or I should say "plots". Some important characters are a bit underdeveloped, but overall the picture of an English village in the 1950's where everyone has a secret and someone has been murdered is finely drawn. "Magpie Murders" is  balanced fun, familiar and fresh as a daisy.   

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