TV REVIEW : Netflix’s LUKE CAGE Season 1 Episode 1-13 by Cheo Hodari Coker

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Well I’ve just finished watching the 13th episode of Netflix/Marvel Studios LUKE CAGE, and I have to say… I loved it. Full stop. Show runner Cheo Hodari Coker manages to in many ways do the impossible, and take a character already spotlighted in the JESSICA JONES series, and whose origins are the milieu of the Black Action or Black Agency film of the late 60s and 70s (mislabeled under the derogatory misnomer of Blaxploitation) and with him tell a rich, evocative, exciting, deeply layered cultural and historical and prescient love letter, to a place, Harlem, New York, and to an idea of local determination, and local agency, and self love, and colored love, and Black love in the age of Ferguson.

 

 

Or you can just look at it as a great action/drama series, set in the wonderfully expansive universe of Marvel shared superhero universe. :).

 

 

But what has exemplified the Netflix/Marvel collaborations to date is how grounded they are in a world not so dissimilar from our own. The gritty street level nature of DAREDEVIL’s 1st season, and ground breaking fight choreography, and fantastic writing made for a justifiably lauded 13 hours of television. (lost a bit in its less cohesive and interesting 2nd season)

 

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LUKE CAGE takes that to another level, in being a show that is as much about cultural signposts and idioms that define us, as it is the ‘A’ story of conflict and resolution. The literary and historical and musical references are not just littered throughout the story, they help define the scope of the character and the scope of the neighborhood that this story takes place in. A man is the things he loves, the things he reads, the things he listens to, the heroes that inspired, the places that mattered, and immediately in one episode Coker defines LUKE CAGE the character and the series in broad strokes, that for me reverberate deeply.

 

 

The first two episodes floored me in how good and rich and beautiful, they are. Coker here hitting, for me, the conversations I have in my soul and my head, Chester Himes, Walter Mosley, Denis LeHane, George Pelecanos, Donald Goines??? Come’ on Son!!! Kenyatta??? Those few strokes and I knew this was a writer with a deep love and understanding of genre fiction, and those who make it.

 

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But it’s more than name dropping, our influences define us, and define our world, and define who we care for, so immediately they make us part and parcel of this story that Coker and his team of writers tell. It’s a beautifully structured 13 hours of television, in that the first 6 episodes are very much their own chapter. You could bundle those 6 episodes up and have a great season.

 

Episode 7 feels like a swerve, very much like a start over, so if you rush into it, not recognizing that peak at the end of 6, that culmination, it’s going to feel stretched out. One of the possible dangers of binge TV… you have to pace yourself.

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Take a break after episode 6, let that sink in. It is very much, in comic book terms, the end of the first trade paperback or story arc. Episode 7 begins the 2nd story arc, so you have to go into it not rushing to a conclusion, but gearing up for the start, because start it does. As everything from the first arc gets turned on its head, and new major players break on the scene. It’s a jarring ride, but once it hits episode 9 its has picked up steam and by 10 is on a full sprint to the finish. Episodes 11, 12 and 13 are Brilliant.

 

There is a saying out there that ‘it’s not how you begin, but how you end that matters’; that saying is wrong. All of it matters. It is about how you begin, how you endure, and how you end. Cheo Hodari Coker’s LUKE CAGE does the extremely unlikely, in doing all three exceptionally well.

 

 

I want a Blu-Ray of this show, complete with Director’s and cast commentary, like yesterday. It is that good, and replete with episodes you want to go back to and know more about.

 

 

And I have to say it’s wonderful to see here in 2016, that TV is making great strides to not be exploitative, and to have shows where you can have more than a token number of characters of color.

 

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One thing I love about LUKE CAGE, particularly about the 2nd half (I love the first half as well) is it is so wonderful to see 6 beautiful women of color in major speaking parts, taking center stage in moments of strength and weakness, and owning the stage. It’s so rare to see a three shot of powerful, beautiful Black women in uplifting, exciting, dramatic, heroic material. It’s non-existent in Hollywood but thankfully, through great show-runners of color, and the success of shows such as BEING MARY JANE and EMPIRE is becoming finally available on the small screen. And the same love extends to being able to see multiple men of color in powerful, uplifting, heroic roles.

 

 

And the appearance of Method Man, and that song… Amazing. This series in addition to a DVD/Blu-Ray, must release a sound track, because in addition to the songs, the score for some of the episodes… is stunning.

 

 

I’ve recently become addicted to listening and purchasing scores, and LUKE CAGE has a world class score.

 

 

Now, is the series perfect ? No. I thought episode 3, they had a real opportunity to do an action sequence as talked about as DAREDEVIL’s hallway fight, but the director/fight coordinator wasn’t up to it. You’ll know the scene when you see it, it’s perfectly fine, but never rises above fine, when it should have been spectacular. And it’s a different show from DAREDEVIL , so the action will be different, I get that, but you can still do different and STUNNING.

 

Also, my problem with a character like Luke Cage, is the same one I have with a character like Wolverine, just because you can stand there and take being shot by a hail of bullets, doesn’t mean you want to or have to.

 

 

Luke Cage’s character (minor spoiler ahead) is revealed as a former police officer, former Recon soldier, former Prison MMA Fighting champ, former Boxer, all this to say… HE CAN FIGHT. So speed the dude up! Rather than standing there and waiting for someone to unload a clip on you, he should be disarming them and wrapping the gun around their necks before they can get off a shot. Especially since ricochets can kill just as well as any other bullet. I understand visually it’s an exciting thing to depict, but it should be the exception for talented filmmakers, not the rule. When he is shielding people from gunfire, sure… let the bullets fly. But in combat mode he should be disarming these guys before they get a shot off. Particularly later in the season that attitude would have made for exciting sequences.

 

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So that was another issue I had. However, the sequences do improve as the series progresses. Plus it’s not a show that is about fisticuffs like DAREDEVIL, as much as it is about the fight for a soul of a neighborhood. And that tale it tells expertly.

 

 

It is a superlative 13 hours of television, and all involved should take a bow. Cheo Hodari Coker has made not just a great Netflix series, but a great television show, and the one to beat as my favorite show of 2016.

 

Marvel's Luke Cage

Marvel’s Luke Cage

And among the Netflix shows so far where do I rank it? It’s much better than DAREDEVIL Season 2, which was good, but not great, it edges out JESSICA JONES, which was great, and it battles it out with DAREDEVIL Season 1 for the top spot. DAREDEVIL Season 1 which was clearly the best show of 2015, outdoes it in terms of action, a definite A of a show.

 

 

However I have minor quibbles with it, like I didn’t like the loss of Ben Urich, I found the character of Karen page annoying through most of it, the character of Matt Murdock was a bit unlikable, and the last episode it failed to stick the landing with an unimpressive looking costume, and just a bit of a dour ending. So those nitpicks, are the reason LUKE CAGE edges it out, and gets a big A+ grade from me. It possesses a story and characters that I want to revisit… often.

 

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Final Verdict: Seminal, Must Watch TV! Will appeal to fans of mystery novels, especially fans of Chester Himes or Walter Mosley, or fans of movies such as TROUBLE MAN.

 

If you are not a fan or are made uncomfortable or nervous or have unexamined issues with women of color, you probably will have an issue with the later episodes.

 

‘The fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.’ Brother, it always does. :).

 

But for the rest of us who watch the series, LUKE CAGE is phenomenal television at its best.

 

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31st Week of 2016 : THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS

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….

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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.

Sons of Serendip

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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…

Liquid Spirit

Now leaving the pleasures of hearing for a second, let’s discuss taste…

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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.

ZeroWater ZP-010 10-Cup Pitcher

ZeroWater ZD-018 23-Cup Water Dispenser and Filtration System

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.

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Roku 3 Streaming Media Player (4230R) with Voice Search (2015 model)

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:

Gvirtue Replacement Lost Remote Control 1 Year Warranty Compatible with Roku Models Roku 1 (Lt, Hd); Roku 2 (Xd, Xs); Roku 3 (Do NOT Support Roku Streaming Stick, Hdmi Stick and Game)

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:

SweetDrops Liquid Stevia 4oz

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.

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The Fantastic Art of Beksinski

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 :))

The Flood -2011

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In the interim you can get prints direct from him here:

http://www.philkutnostudios.com/

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.

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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:

Hall of History Bermuda’s Story in Art

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! 🙂

Valentine’s Day Concert in New York with Gregory Porter!

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New York is one of these cities that I have a contentious relationship with. It’s summed up in a line from an old song I think “when there, I want to be away, and when away, I want to be there”.

At heart I’m a small town type, so New York can be too loud, too fast, too crowded, too everything. So not necessarily a place to live, at leaat for me, but to visit… well to visit New York is where the City that never sleep, earns its rep.

And Grammy winner Gregory Porter is the perfect attraction to get me and the wife to brave the brutal cold of New York this weekend. His LIQUID SPIRIT being one of the great albums of this still newly minted century.

Add to that the concert is at New York’s historic Town Hall, a building designed at the dawn of the previous century for Suffragites, and you have the elements for something special.

See more here.

These are a few of my favorite things : Amazon Prime DEALS OF THE DAY!

 

 

 

The Best of EC Artist Edition Vol 1 Hardcover – 2013

 

EC Comics is arguably the finest line of comics ever produced. Whether it was science fiction or war, crime or horror, their entire line stood head and shoulders above the rest of the comics on the newsstands. Now IDW Publishing is pleased to present an Artist’s Edition unlike any other, featuring the best stories by the brightest stars of EC Comics. Remember these classics? 50 Girls 50 by Al Williamson and Frank Frazetta, The Corpse on the Imjin by Harvey Kurtzman, The Flying Machine by Bernie Krigstein, Touch and Go by Johnny Craig, Judgment Day by Joe Orlando. All these plus more! And a stunning cover gallery crammed with glorious EC goodness! Brought to you by the same team responsible for the Eisner Award-winning Walter Simonson’s The Mighty Thor: Artist’s Edition and David Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil Born Again: Artist’s Edition.

The Best of EC Artist Edition Vol 1 – Price your copy here!

 

 

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New-York Historical Society New York City in 3D In The Gilded Age: A Book Plus Stereoscopic Viewer and 50 3D Photos from the Turn of the Century Paperback – June 3, 2014

Be transported to New York during the Gilded Age and experience daily life in one of the world’s most vibrant cities through mesmerizing, contemporary 3D photography and exciting tales of the time.

Black Dog & Leventhal has partnered with the New-York Historical Society to present New York in the Gilded Age as it’s never been viewed before. This innovative package includes a sturdy metal stereoscopic viewer and 50 stereoscopic photographs of turn-of-the-century New York. The package also includes a 128-page paperback that provides a brief history of the stereograph craze and an overview of the city’s evolution during that time.

New-York Historical Society New York City in 3D In The Gilded Age: A Book Plus Stereoscopic Viewer and 50 3D Photos from the Turn of the Century

 

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Paris in 3D in the Belle Époque: A Book Plus Steroeoscopic Viewer and 34 3D Photos Paperback – April 14, 2015

 

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LNTGO Ks Luxury Brand White Skeleton Alloy Dial Analog Hand Wind Mechanical Relogio Fob Copper Key Steampunk Pocket Watch Men- Ksp064

 

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LNTGO Ks Luxury Brand White Skeleton Alloy Dial Analog Hand Wind Mechanical Relogio Fob Copper Key Steampunk Pocket Watch Men- Ksp064 – Price this beautiful time peace here!

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Gustave Dore 1832-1883: Master of Imagination Hardcover – June 10, 2014

The diverse oeuvre of Gustave Doré—illustrations, paintings, sculpture—combines with biography and critical essays and attests to the artist’s enduring impact on contemporary culture. Proclaimed “the most illustrious of illustrators,” Gustave Doré is best known for his engravings, which appeared in editions of the Bible, Dante’s Inferno, Poe’s The Raven, The Adventures of Don Quixote, and even in Hollywood, from King Kong to Seven. Yet the extent of his genius remains largely unknown. Here, along with his renowned illustrations, his paintings and sculptures are also examined, bringing to light the rich diversity of his talent. Using watercolor, vivid oil paint, or sculpture, he demonstrated mastery in a vast scope of media, and in treatments ranging from monumental historical tableaux to landscapes to modest compositions. His work transcended techniques and eras, covering an inexhaustible range of subjects from Europe to the United States to Russia and revealing his insatiable curiosity. This comprehensive monograph accompanies an exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris from February 18–May 11 and at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa from June 12–September 14, 2014.

Gustave Dore 1832-1883: Master of Imagination – Price it Here!

Ferguson New York Baltimore – States of Emergency-

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I like the above poster.

It sums up my take on our seasons of discontent.

Your roving reporter on the ground here.

My take on ‘the State of Emergency’.

I think it has been blown out of proportion, by a media that sells advertising by blowing things out of proportion. I think the bad behavior of a few knuckle heads has also been blown out of proportion by a Law Enforcement public relations arm that is eager to obscure the fact that there are valid reasons for the peaceful protests; and reasons for community outrage. Namely a law enforcement that needs more oversight and control.

Instead the knuckle heads, who also lack oversight and control, ignorant of their own best interest, play into a policy of increased and ramped up policing and therefore more reckless, them and us, policing, which will lead to more injustices that caused the current state of unrest.

So what you have is a small minority of bad apples on both sides, that think they are above the law, And the majority suffer for their… hubris.

To weed out the bad apples, is not just a lesson and mandate for the protesters, it is a lesson for the police. If there is to be an end to unrest, the police can not be an occupying force, and they can not be above the law they have sworn to serve, nor deride the population they have sworn to protect.

Whether New York, Ferguson, or Baltimore the population protected, must be policed by those who are of the population, not those who are outside of, or anathema to, said population.

That process requires a family system, an educational system, a judicial system, and an economic system that prepares a population to be responsible for themselves… Take positions of responsibility, and control, and of respect, onto themselves.

I fear all those named cities have a way to go, but it has to begin with a step in the right direction. And making police crimes, no less punishable than anyone else’s crimes… is a start.

Justice for Mike Brown Leadership Coalition calls for boycott of Burger King!!


I don’t like platitudes, I don’t like slogans, I don’t like lip-service in place of real change.

I don’t like the simple answers to complex questions that the nightly news would feed us all.

I do not like the parts they would have us play, the lines they would have us draw, the sides they would have us choose.

“Black Lives Matter” what an inane slogan to march under.

It is the thought process of aging decrepit hippies, and misguided youths who have not died enough to live. Black Lives Matter? To who? Why? For what reason?

This is not about Black lives, it is about all lives.

That is the only sane slogan.

It is about the quality of the republic.

It is about justice.

There are vile human beings of the Black persuasion I would not cross the street to spit on. There are vile human beings of the White and Brown and Yellow persuasion who are likewise cancers and abominations on the healthy body of society.

The job is to protect society from those vile humans, and a huge part of that is insuring these vile people aren’t issued badges. And most of them aren’t, unfortunately a few of them are. And it only takes a few, to bring us here.

Not everyone is cut out for the responsibility of making life and death decisions, and when the recruiting methods are questionable, and there are no checks and balances, no culpability, no reprisals for bad behavior, you are just priming a powder-keg… to explode.

Civilization, the orderly world you take for granted and hope to wake and sleep to, depends on those tasked with holding the line between anarchy and order. And bad cops and the bad administration that supports them, make that already heavy responsibility an untenable one.

Bad cops ruin the only thing a good cop has of value, the line, and the holding of it.

The law either binds us all, Black and Brown and Yellow and White, or it binds none of us. Preserves none of us, and we can all fall afoul of monsters with badges masquerading as men. Criminals posing as cops.

NYPD Brutality pattern

These bad cops, and bad DAs, and bad judges, make the line untenable to hold, make even the good cops smeared with the offal of the bad, until we are no longer protecting and serving, but suddenly we’re nothing more than an unruly mob, with enemies everywhere we look.

It is a bad road that we have seen before, and god defend us from seeing it again.

The answer is not with marches, at least not just with marching. That’s a 20th century response, that organizations like the NAACP in their stupidity do not realize is inadequate for a 21st century world. You want change that protects civilians from monsters with badges, you have to make it cost. That means NAACP you may have to actually get off your fat assess and boycott some of those rich sponsors that line your pockets to look the other way.

It means you may have to sacrifice.

That we may all have to sacrifice.

And the one thing more powerful than the vote, is financial reprisals. Putting someone’s money… at risk.

Do you think Black people in Jim Crow America, got to ride in the front of the bus because of Rosa Parks? No. Black people got to ride in the front of the bus because, for over 365 days, people outraged and enraged and fed-up; decided to be inspired by Rosa Parks, and decided they would not spend money with the mass transit system.

They would sacrifice.

And suddenly, that loss of revenue, that sacrifice, these people walking for miles for over a year, rather than sit in the back of a bus… that willingness to speak in volumes in the only language that America truly understands… dollars… that sacrifice made bigots willing to concede that their bigotry (in that situation) was of less value than your dollars.

It made them realize a lesson that you have to (from time to time) teach bullies… that the cost of disrespect can be far more expensive than the cost of respect. That respect is more affordable.

And the same must occur in any region where police brutality is an unpunished pattern such as in New york City and Ferguson, Missouri; you must make in those regions the cost of disrespect more expensive than the cost of respect.

You get businesses to sign petitions calling for the removal of this bad cop, and this bad police captain, and this bad DA, and this bad judge, and if necessary the Mayor, the Governor, the Senator. You find the businesses in that region who respect your dollars, and the ones who do not.

In the case of Ferguson they are starting by calling for the Boycott of BURGER KING, a company headquartered in the state where Trayvon Martin was killed. A humble start to be sure, but from such beginnings (this nation itself is proof)… great things do rise.

A regional and nationwide boycott, in Ferguson, in New York, in Baltimore, in Cincinnati, in your homes, in your hearts, a boycott of businesses that do not side with the populations that enrich them, over the abusive thugs posing as cops and lawyers, who jointly undo everything that can make our nation better.

It is a battle that not only can you win, with education and commitment and sacrifice, it is a battle others before you have paid dearly to win great portions of. Today is just your turn.

Your day in the sun.

To either meanly lose or nobly win… your freedom.

You don’t like bad cops.

Neither do good cops.

You want to do something of value, stand the eff up like men and help us.

Help us all.

What are you prepared to do?

I would say start here:

http://mikebrowncoalition.org/

THEATER REVIEW: CSC’s Movable Shakespeare’s RICHARD III

“No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity. But I know none, and therefore am no beast.”
― William Shakespeare, Richard III

There is no shortage of villains in the oeuvre of the writer known as William Shakespeare. From the machinations of Hamlet’s Uncle-cum-Father who puts Hamlet ‘too much in the Sun’, to the deviousness of Othello’s ‘trusted’ Iago, to the bloody, eye-plucking Cornwall in King Lear, but none are so ever quotable, and perhaps as eminently watchable as Richard III, who is of such expanse in his villainy that he is the star of his own self-titled play, rather than just a player in another character’s tale.

And this comes to life in florid detail in the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s unique production of RICHARD III. Directed by Ian Gallanar, one of the CSC’s founders, RICHARD III is presented in a ‘movable’ style that puts the audience, truly in the heart of the action and makes them mute(and not so mute) chorus to this tale of treachery and tragedy.

Taking place in the ‘haunted’ ruins at the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park in Ellicott City, Maryland, beneath the stars and the eyes of God, it is truly a presentation to remember. Particularly on a good, clear fall night (which we were blessed to see it on) with the wind picking up just a little, and showering Richard III with leaves, almost on queue, as he woos a man’s widow over his corpse. Ay, it’s a great thing, when the heavens provide your special effects.

And the whole play went thus, as a crowd of over 100, moved from picturesque room or steps or courtyard, moved from scene to scene, and watched actors of talent and temper… a tale unfold.

And before getting into the actors, a bit more on the setting.

Ellicott City is a 30 square mile area, more loose community than incorporated sub-division, that traces its history back to its founding as a Flour Mill back in 1772 by Quaker Brothers named Ellicott. Nestled in the Baltimore-Washington bosom, the area is rumored to, like Rome, be built on seven hills.

So this is no concrete jungle or ‘great white way’ for your theatrical experience, it is a beautiful and languid tree-lined drive, followed by a pretty spooky uphill walk to make the (typically) 8pm showing, that takes place in the Grecian tinged ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute.

So that is the stage, not New York, or Charlotte, or DC or LA, but the woodlands of Ellicott City; and the PFI Historic Park is a stage worth traveling to see.

Now for those who prance upon that stage.

While there are many strengths to an outdoor production, there are also obvious weaknesses. There are minor moments of congestion and confusion inherent in herding a hundred people to and fro, and that very act of going in and out of the ‘reality’ of the play, perhaps can limit how engrossed the viewer can get into the play.

However I think the immediacy of being ‘in’ the play, and viewing that closely the actors and interacting in their space, compensates for any loss of concentrated immersion in the piece.

However one other weakness of an outdoor production, is the sound. Without the acoustics and sound system of a real theater the actors have to project to be heard, particularly should the weather pick up. Some actors were better at doing this than others. Some actors needed to project better. And some actors were stellar.

The word stellar has to be kept close to the name Vince Eisenson who stars as the titular Richard the IIIrd. He has, as expected, to carry much of the play, much of the language, much of the energy. It is a ponderous role to undertake, and Eisenson manages not just to suffer the weight of the role, but to carry it as if he was born to it.

Part of this may have to do with his youth, but more than that Eisenson’s Richard is a far more vibrant and lively Richard, no less tortured than other actors who have portrayed the character, but there is a sophistication there, a deft touch to his portrayal, that eschews mustache twirling, that makes the character’s ability to charm and deceive, more believable here.

Also of note is the performance of Associate Director Scott Allan Small, as he makes the role of Buckingham, that I think can often come off as no more than a yes man, into one of the formidable figures of the play. He particularly just shines in the scene where he mixes with the audience as he ‘attempts’ to get Richard to accept the crown.

Also the scene where Buckingham draws the line at the slaying of children, and demands his due of Richard, I thought was just played beautifully between the two actors of Eisenson and Small. The physicality of how they played that role, with Buckingham played as the brick wall in that scene (like Marvel Comics’ Kingpin transplanted to Shakespeare), against Richard’s flowing water, that seeps into the brick… and breaks it all to pieces.

And the CSC performance is filled with such capable actors, among them Dave Gamble, Greg Burgess, and Jamie Jager in a passionate performance as Richmond. Another highlight scene is with Ron Heneghan delivering a very captivating performance as the imprisoned Clarence; it takes place in a fireplace dominated prison opposite equally entertaining performances by Bart Debicki as Brackenbury (the lieutenant of the tower) and the actors playing his assassins (Rebecca Dreyfuss and Jared Murray).

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable and recommended production, by a theater company I do not think you would be wrong, in calling world class. And this is typified by the fact that the last few performances of their RICHARD III (ending the weekend of this writing) are all sold out.

But don’t mourn too much, if moved by this review to sample the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company in the future and will be visiting the East Coast, 2013 brings new CSC productions of Shakespeare’s classic plays, among them ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA and THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.

And If RICHARD III is a gauge, both shows will be much labored over in their construction, and much loved in their delivery.

Accolades go out to communications Director Sandra Maddox Barton for all her assistance, in making this review possible.