I first became familiar with these two novels, both by master writers, as novels proper. And both blew my mind in ways both stunning and lasting. Later I listened to the Audio Books. Audio Books, if you get the right reader, for the right work, can be rewarding experiences, even to lovers of the novel.
I love me some Walter Moseley EASY RAWLINS mysteries, I’ve read just about everyone of them, and I have to tell you the pairing of Moseley’s iconic words with a formidable actor such as Michael Boatman, is to have those works enriched, and nuances discovered that may have been skimmed over by even the most loving reader.
A great Adaptation, a great marriage of words and performance can do that, can alchemize into something more than the sum of its parts. Something magical. And an audio book avoids the constraints of time and budget and indeed visuals, that a film or TV show runs into. An audio book has the biggest theater of the world, and the biggest budget, in which to breathe life into the writers words,… the theater of the mind.
So Audio Books when they get that mixture right, become part of a sacred line of story and storytelling, going back to the cradle of not just Black History, but all history.
This 2 part post, honors two of the best, that should be loved and listened to and cherished by everyone.
Charles Johnson’s seminal and National Book Award winning novel, MIDDLE PASSAGE. It is an American epic, a rousing seafaring saga, blisteringly funny at times, deeply harrowing at others, both poetic, prosaic, and magical all at the same time. As someone who has read Melville, and Dickens, and Hemingway, and Crane and Poe and Bradbury and King and Baldwin, all the quintessential American masters, this is the novel I would save when everything else is burning.
I give the hardcover out as presents. I consider it, in an imperfect world, an arrow toward a more perfect union. So having it on a pedestal that high the audio book has to bring it. It was made into an audio book twice, the first was an abridged and hence flawed cassette version, but read by the author himself, I quite liked it. He brought something… wonderful to it.
The 2nd time was on CD, unabridged thankfully. The performer Dion Graham, gives a different performance than Charles Johnson, that I slowly warmed to. And as the story drew you deeper so did his voice. It’s a wonderful way to be introduced to this great novel.
I would say both audio book versions are indispensable. Start with the unabridged CD version, and then follow up by listening to the Abridged version. And have a copy of the paperback or hardcover, to read over especially loved passages.
In an America where folly holds sway, the words of men who both remember history and learn from it, is of the highest value.
Check them out at the links below:
If you like this blog please support it by using the links above and by leaving comments! And come back for the 2nd part where we discuss the 2nd, must own, Black History Month (and other months) Audio book!
Watching this classic 1959 chiller courtesy of VIEWSTER’s Roku Channel.
Considering the DVD of this is a pretty penny:
Catching it courtesy of VIEWSTER is this weekend’s recommended watch!
And wanted to thank the B-Movie Cast for putting it on my radar in this episode of theirs from a couple years ago.
Well worth a listen.
BULLET – A classic, and on everyone’s list for a reason.
BORDER COP – The first few minutes of this 36 year old movie had my mouth agape. As It sports an unexpected and insane car chase sequence by anyone’s definition. Whatever they were paying the stunt man/men was not enough. The only car chase sequence in the film, it’s good enough on its own to earn a place on any list. BORDER COP is so many different and warring things together, it jumps genres so unexpectedly from a jaw dropping car chase movie in the first few minutes, to a low key drama, to a harrowing expose of business and cruelty both of the animal and human variety on the bloody US/Mexican border. A nearly 40 year old movie that sadly, and disgracefully is as relevant today as the day it was made. A solid movie.
RAID 2 – Written, Edited and Directed by Gareth Evans there is much to recommend RAID 2. It’s a great Martial Arts movie, sporting some of the most brilliantly choreographed fight and knife scenes ever put to film, it is also an incredibly violent (and convoluted) crime/gangster movie. In addition it also showcases one of the most bad-ass car chase scenes. Starting at about the 1hour 50 minute mark, when most movies have already finished, RAID 2 is just warming up.
DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY– The quintessential 70s American Car Chase movie, this whole film is one long chase. A great car chase film, and a great film.
COTTON COMES TO HARLEM – Predating Friedkin’s FRENCH CONNECTION by a year, Director Ossie Davis’ 1970 Action/Comedy Adaptation of Chester Himes COTTON COMES TO HARLEM showcases a great car chase scene. The scene, that involves a van and a bail of cotton, originates some chase sequences that Friedkin would appropriate for his own film, and filmmakers have been using since. Age not withstanding the car chase scene in COTTON COMES TO HARLEM is better than its imitators… and a lot more fun,
THE HIRE– What do you get when one of the most respected car companies gets together with some of the most respected action directors to craft a series of ads/short films…. you get THE HIRE, iconic short films that revive and improve upon the heyday of the car chase film. Short Films that would inspire the feature length TRANSPORTER series. Arguably the short films are better.
THE SEVEN UPS – Philip D’ Antoni’s film, seen as something of an unofficial followup to FRENCH CONNECTION, sporting many of that film’s cast and crew and themes, is by far the superior film to the Academy Award winning FRENCH CONNECTION. The fact that the mediocre FRENCH CONNECTION has an Academy Award reiterates my thesis that the Academy has a tendency to reward films that reinforce or refresh for a new generation these racist mindsets and mentalities, often in heroic lights; From A BIRTH OF A NATION to THE JAZZ SINGER to GONE WITH THE WIND to MONSTERS BALL to FRENCH CONNECTION, the Academy is always happy to reward Minstrel Shows, films with Black Faces that are there to reinforce and present White Messages. THE SEVEN UPS Thankfully is not that type of film, and concerns itself strictly with telling a compelling crime film. Which it does in spades, complete with a car chase that starts around the 52 minute mark, and runs 12 minutes, that is easily the superior to the one in FRENCH CONNECTION; and THE SEVEN UP car chase can easily be ranked as one of the best of all time.
SABOTAGE – One of the latter day, post-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, SABOTAGE is surprisingly a home run. David Ayer, a director I tend to feel is too heavy handed, here finds a story and actors and a co-writer that tend to ameliorate his often too unlikable protagonists and world view. Here Schwarzenegger leads a DEA strike force, up against their deadliest enemy. Besides being a solid action thriller this film also sports an insane 10 minute car chase scene. The actors really sell this 10 minutes and make this a chase scene that holds up.
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE ROGUE NATION – As much as James Bond in its 50 years is known for car chases I couldn’t find one strong enough to surpass the car chases in the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE franchise. Notably this one from ROGUE NATION is the best MISSION IMPOSSIBLE car chase. From cars to bikes, just an astounding and fun 8 minute sequence.
BAD BOYS II – Michael Bay is often vilified, for reasons that seem to me to amount to people upset that his movies are populist entertainment. Of the 13 feature films he has done in the last 22 years, five are devoted to a toy franchise, and the majority of the rest standard summer action fare. But action fare done really, really well.
Michael Bay at the top of his game is a great filmmaker, and I think nothing highlights this as well as his first feature BAD BOYS and his last 13 HOURS.
BAD BOYS II however is neither of those films, being neither popular nor successful. It is definitely a misfire, it is too long and the comedy misses more often than it hits, leading to overlong cringeworthy scenes you want to fast forward past rather than laugh at. Trying to emulate the success of the first film, they get the mixture of comedy and action wrong. That said, even when the comedy fails, the action and visuals never do. I have always loved Michael Bay’s use of the camera, he uses a lovely panning, roving style that is simply exquisite. Michael Bay understands the essence of the Heroic and is able to convey that in the panning of a camera. And arguably it is in this flawed film that Michael Bay crafts some of the best and most beautiful action set-pieces of his career.
Woody Strode who spent a career in films directed by legends such as John Ford and Fernando Di Leo and Richard Brooks and Stanley Kubrick, always considered his favorite director and his favorite moment on screen, was his wordless, almost cameo appearance, in the opening of Sergio Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.
Michael Bay is that type of director, a painter of romanticized heroism, of images that galvanize and rouse, and unfortunately a lot of that talent was buried for the last decade filming CGI robots, BAD BOYS II is a great reminder of what Bay can do when filming captivating actors and captivating places.
BAD BOYS II is a flawed movie, but it has moments of greatness in it. And the 10 minute car scene alone is worth marveling at more than once and is Michael Bay at his blockbuster best. And more than than is one of cinema’s best car chase scenes.
Last year I became a huge fan of the BBC car show TOP GEAR. Thanks to catching episodes of past seasons on Netflix. It took a couple episodes for me to warm up to the show, but quite quickly the natural camaraderie of the hosts, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May made a believer out of me.
The shows were just plain fun. So when news came that one of the trinity was no longer going to be on the show, due to punching out one of the producers, and the other 2/3rds quitting to join him, I was dismayed. No more of the show that I had in quick order made a binge watch favorite.
And yes there was the American TOP GEAR, but the hosts there came off as annoying frat boys, making the show quite unwatchable. Nope it was clear that what made BBC’s TOP GEAR a long running hit, was the fun dynamic of the three hosts they had stupidly lost.
So when it was announced that AMAZON was giving the three ex-hosts a new car show, I couldn’t wait. Well tonight the waiting ended as the first episode of THE GRAND TOUR dropped. And it’s great. Different but great. There are minor quibbles, the biggest being the absolutely awful ‘THE AMERICAN’ driver.
Their take on the very popular “STIG’ driver of TOP GEAR, but a very poor take it is. Being something of a very unfunny send-up of Ugly American cliches. The ‘AMERICAN’ is very annoying, very unfunny, and is a bit that hopefully they will pull the plug on in short order.
That aside, the rest of the show and the skits and the cars and the banter of the hosts is great! And the opening sequence is quite frankly awesome. A welcome premiere and looking forward to the upcoming Friday release of new shows!
‘Its hard to find a good ” Django” film after Sergio Corbuccis original, even though, after its success, there were hundreds of films which boasted themselves with the title “Django”. Sadly most of these films used the name as a marketing strategy to boost ticket sales. The main characters often had nothing to do with the Django that Corbucci established, sometimes they didn’t even have his name attached to them.
“Django, Prepare a Coffin” is one of those rare films that use the existing character, with all its quirks, and is able to bring him to life in a new scenario with a new actor.’
—Nolden of LETTERBOXD
Really enjoyed this 1968 Spaghetti Western, ably directed by Ferdinando Baldi (TEXAS ADIOS, BLIND MAN). Originally written for Franco Nero (the star of the original DJANGO), when he was unavailable they offered the role to Terence Hill (born Mario Girotti) because of his striking resemblance to the popular Nero.
But Terence Hill proves himself in this movie a capable leading man of his own, with a more easy and affable screen presence than the talented but oft explosive and hyperbolic Franco Nero. Hill’s more subdued take is perfect for this imaginative story of double and triple crosses.
These are a few of my favorite things.
–Julie Andrews, THE SOUND OF MUSIC
As we get older, and see more revolutions of our world around our sun, hopefully we get wiser, and have from our experiences some wisdom to impart to those coming after us. Or wisdom that we wish someone had imparted to us.
Here is some of the wisdom I have gained, in terms of things you can actually purchase. Some our mundane and simplistic and frivolous, some in their simplicity were life changing and life improving.
I leave it for you to decide which is which.
Here then in the 31st Week, and Two Thousand and Sixteenth Year of a vaunted Lord, are a few of my favorite things:
Let’s start off with music….
SONS OF SERENDIP is the self titled first album by a 4 part band, that was one of the few reasons I actually sat through a season of AMERICA’S GOT TALENT (Season 9, for those of you playing at home). Their sound is nothing short of awe inspiring.
The CD goes in and out of print, I have multiple copies, and it has become one of my go to gifts to give friends and family and as stocking stuffers.
Speaking of music, this year my better half and I spent Valentine’s Day in New York. We were primarily there because I had gotten tickets to hear Grammy winning Gregory Porter play at the legendary and venerable TOWN HALL (built by Suffragites seeking the vote). His Grammy Winning album LIQUID SPIRIT is one of my favorite albums of all time, and I’m pleased to say in-person, backed by his fantastic band, and the energy of a fun crowd, he is even better. Fantastic performance and a fun experience.
Get the album here…
Now leaving the pleasures of hearing for a second, let’s discuss taste…
THE ZERO WATER 10 CUP PITCHER – I have found to be, after much searching, the ideal affordable water purification system to implement. Its design eliminates the ‘flow-around’ concern of traditional faucet mounted systems such as PUR or BRITA, in addition providing an easy built in test of the filters effectiveness that the consumer can easily periodically try. Also the size of this particular 10 cup pitcher makes it ideal for placement in the refrigerator, as opposed to the more space consuming 23 cup variety. However Amazon reviewer JLJ (his review is one of the first ones that will pop-up when you use my links below) offers excellent advice for using both pitchers in concert to extend the life of the filters by up to 5 times. A pretty cool idea I plan to try.
Chief complaints with this pitcher seem to be by people who leave it on their counter rather than refrigerating it. Room temperature water seems silly, so mine is always refrigerated. And every 2 months it is washed out with a water vinegar solution. I’ve had no issues.
Now this one, is not rated to remove fluoride, which is something I would like a filter to remove. But aside from a much more expensive distiller I haven’t yet found a pitcher variety that is proven to remove fluoride. Though I’m still on the hunt, and when I find one, I’ll use it as the prefilter stage, before going into the ZeroWater filter. In fact Invigorated Life has a pitcher that is rated to remove fluoride and is currently on-sale at Amazon (link below) so I plan to order that and try JLJ’s pre-filter idea using that and my Zero-Filter pitcher.
But for right now I’m quite happy with the quality of water I’ve been getting out of Zero-Water, as opposed to my forays with Pur, Brita, American Distillers, and Aquasana.
It’s affordable and makes it easy for the consumer to test.
Invigorated Living Alkaline Water Pitcher Ionizer, 2 Long-Life Filters Included, 118 Ounces, 3.5 litres, Alkaline Filtered Water Purifier Machine, High pH Natural Filtration System, Removes Toxins, Chlorine, Enhances Immunity & Optimizes Health (Blue)
I don’t have cable. Have not had cable bill for over a decade. I was a cord cutter before that term was even coined. Before streaming I was content with over the air TV and DVDs.
Now with streaming I’ve reduced my DVD forays a bit, as well as consuming shows via over the air TV (though my digital antennae remains an always ready and appreciated backup).
Roku, my Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu subscriptions, and my Digital Antennae… allow me to have TV… on my schedule, my way, while still combined being a fraction of a cable bill, while offering to my mind much more diverse and enjoyable content.
As far as Roku, I would recommend avoiding the Roku Stick as that uses WiFi Direct, to communicate with your remote. At least using Roku 3 you can disable WiFi Direct and use a simple IR remote. WiFi Direct creates a piggybacking, potentially insecure network, on top of your existing wi-fi network, which is a totally unnecessary use of bandwidth. I would also avoid using any of the remotes that come with a mic built in. It’s just a privacy nightmare waiting to happen.
Here’s a suitable, simple IR replacement remote:
And leaving the joys of viewing for a second to get back to taste…
Since eliminating sugar from my diet, to include fruit juices (yes that means no orange or cranberry or apple juice) and reducing my daily intake of carbs to under a 100 grams (cutting out most breads, rice, pastas, processed and sugary foods), I feel so much better.
Which I understand is an over-used refrain, but it happens to in my case be true.
And weight gain, or more specifically fat gain, which in a really simple fashion is unused carbohydrates/sugar metabolizing into fat, that process is hampered, as your body is weaned of the excesses that go to fat. In a couple months of a low carb diet, I have begun losing weight even without the benefit of an exercise routine. Once I get back into the gym routine I fully expect the changes to be even more impressive.
So yeah I wish I knew decades ago, what I know now, that excess sugar and carbs, are not your friend.
In addition to water, one of my main drinks these days is unsweetened tea. A concept that only a few short months ago I considered wholly unpalatable. But while most sugar substitutes (malitol, sorbitol, isomalt, even xylitol) are problematic in their own right, there are a couple substitutes whose benefits outweigh their potential drawbacks. Stevia, a plan based sweetener that is one of those that is firing on all cylinders and really changing the game for those who want to avoid sugars corroding effects while still getting sweetness with their drinks.
Since using it in conjunction with unsweetened tea 1/I’m spending a ton less on flavored drinks and 2/ sugary drinks are one of the main ways you overdo it on carbs, so it greatly helps me stay under my 100 carb a day limit.
So a win/win.
Try it for yourself here:
And I want to wrap up this installment with a few books that I was very happy to have, or add new copies of, in my collection in 2016:
Long before most people had heard the name Zdzislaw Beksinski, I was singing his praises. I still am. If you own only one artbook, make it this one.
Another artist that relatively no one has heard of is Phil Kutno. I discovered his stunning pencil work in 2015, and purchased four of his prints, and there hasn’t been a day in 2016 where I haven’t spent time admiring and soaking up those prints. Unfortunately he does not have an art book or any prints available via Amazon. (I’ve been trying to talk him into doing like a Director’s Commentary on one of his prints for the blog… still trying to make it happen :))
In the interim you can get prints direct from him here:
Another artist whose work had an astonishing and visceral effect on me was Graham Foster. In 2014 while in Bermuda I had the chance to see the mural he did for the Commissioner’s House (which is the house overlooking the beautiful port of Bermuda, a wonderful architectural structure, it is history in Masonry and beam and floor, the remnants of a colonial age, now dimmed) up close and in person. It is spread over multiple floors and is the history of Bermuda told in verdant hues.
Even while walking up and down the steps to view this mammoth under taking, I was thinking…. ‘this needs to be in a book’. There was no way to consume what took him years to paint, in a quick tour of that historic house. Thankfully the artist collaborated with a writer, and made this massive mural, into a massive and informative book. I think it is one of the most essential art and history books of its kind.
And for the longest time upon returning to the states the book was not available anywhere. So nowadays whenever I come across a copy I buy it, as I like to give them out as presents when available, as well as having multiples in my own collection.
You can grab it for yourself while supplies last… here:
There are of course more of my favorite things to present, but that’s enough for this installment. Thanks for looking, and I hope I’ve helped to introduce you to your next…. favorite thing! 🙂
–Julie Andrews, THE SOUND OF MUSIC