MUST LISTEN Audio Books for BLACK HISTORY Month and every other month! :) Part 1 of 2

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.

They are:

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.

 

middlepassge

 

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:

Middle Passage Cassette Audio Book read by the Author!

Middle Passage Audio CD Unabridged!

By Charles Richard Johnson Middle Passage (Reprint) [Mass Market Paperback]

 

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!

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WEDNESDAYS WORDS

WEDNESDAYS WORDS is a new weekly installment that ranks the most interesting, intriguing books of the week (old, new, reissues, digital, etc). Contributors represent a variety of genres and sources. Each book includes Title and publisher blurb.

Yul Brynner: A Photographic Journey
Book Description
Publication Date: October 15, 2010
Yul Brynners reputation as one of the twentieth centurys most charismatic and versatile actors is irrefutable. But his talent as a photographer has been relatively unknown and unacknowledged. YUL will change that, presenting Brynners photographic oeuvre for the first time in a comprehensive and lavish way in book form. Brynners subjects are some of the pivotal figures of cinematic and stage history, and his talent lies in capturing these people and particularly actors (those best at disguising their true selves) at ease, both on and off set: Charlton Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments, Audrey Hepburn in a gondola in Venice, Elizabeth Taylor relaxing poolside. YUL also contains candid shots of Brynners family. Comprising a selection made from 8,000 images and press cuttings edited by Brynners daughter Victoria Brynner, YUL is divided into four volumes: Lifestyle, Life on Set, 1956 (the pivotal year of The King and I, The Ten Commandments and Anastasia), and Man of Style which contains portraits of Brynner by photographers such as Richard Avedon, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Inge Morath. Published on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Brynners death, YUL is a celebration of Brynners photographic legacy and a complex portrait of the man himself.

Steve McQueen: The Actor and His Films

Book Description
Publication Date: December 15, 2011

Steve McQueen: The Actor and his Films, is the definitive account of every film that the iconic actor made. This lavishly illustrated book devotes nearly 500 pages to Steve McQueen’s career and tracks his journey from juvenile delinquent, to Marine, to an aspiring actor breaking into Hollywood, until he became a global superstar and the highest-paid actor of his era. Included are numerous behind the scenes tales of events that occurred leading up to and during filming, and fascinating insights into McQueen’s acting techniques and motivations.


The Oxford Encyclopedia of African Thought: Two-volume set
Book Description
Publication Date: April 27, 2010 | ISBN-10: 0195334736 | ISBN-13: 978-0195334739 | Edition: 1
From St. Augustine and early Ethiopian philosophers to the anti-colonialist movements of Pan-Africanism and Negritude, this encyclopedia offers a comprehensive view of African thought, covering the intellectual tradition both on the continent in its entirety and throughout the African Diaspora in the Americas and in Europe. The term “African thought” has been interpreted in the broadest sense to embrace all those forms of discourse – philosophy, political thought, religion, literature, important social movements – that contribute to the formulation of a distinctive vision of the world determined by or derived from the African experience. The Encyclopedia is a large-scale work of 350 entries covering major topics involved in the development of African Thought including historical figures and important social movements, producing a collection that is an essential resource for teaching, an invaluable companion to independent research, and a solid guide for further study.

Bals: Legendary Costume Balls of the Twentieth Century

BALS: Legendary Costume Balls of the Twentieth Century
BY Nicholas Foulkes
Hardcover in Luxury Slipcase / 11 x 14″
308 pages / 250+ Illustrations
Item Quote

From the twilight of the Romanov dynasty through les années folles of Art Deco Paris to the jet-set seventies, Bals explores the nine most exceptional private costume parties of the twentieth century. The most lavish, beautiful book ever produced on the subject, Bals features social commentary both by and about the colorful characters—Truman Capote, Cecil Beaton, and others—who immortalized these extraordinary events, as well as first-person narratives by Jacqueline de Ribes, Hélène David-Weill, and Marisa Berenson.


The WEDNESDAYS WORDS column is a new blog feature, appearing (you guessed it!) every Wednesday. Come back next week to see which books make the list!

If you’re a publisher, writer, or other creative representative looking to submit items for WEDNESDAYS WORDS, just leave a comment on this post with your email/contact info, comments don’t get posted they come right to me, and I’ll reach out to you with the snail mail details.

And as far as readers, if you see items on WEDNESDAYS WORDS you’re considering purchasing then, if you are able and would like to support this blog, please utilize the attached links.

Your helpful purchases through those links, generates much appreciated pennies to keep this blog running. Your feedback and support… just way cool, and way appreciated. Thanks!

Sponsored by Ebay Store: Deals of the Day!

Exclusionary TV: Whites Only Television? MADMEN, PAN-AM and REVENGE

Provocative title huh?

Well, it’s not quite as provocative as it seems. The premise of this article isn’t that shows such as MADMEN, PAN-AM, and REVENGE are in and of themselves bad or bigoted shows.

They may in and of themselves be good shows. But shows, dramas or scifi or action, that are predominantly White, when not off-set by any shows that are predominantly Black or colored, true to the definition of predominant… create an environment, a medium, that is about the ascendancy, importance, influence, authority of force of one group.

In such an environment it is impossible for me to buy into, relate, follow, view, or otherwise enjoy such shows. Now in an environment where a show such as PAN-AM is counter-pointed with a show on The forming of AIR JAMAICA or the Black Stuntmen’s Union or the Black Coyboys’ Union or any adventure or thrilling show with a predominant cast of color; then PAN-AM rather than being indicative of a color and ethnic bias in every show in tv, can be seen as one voice in a chorus, rather than the same voice, everywhere.

So that’s the problem I have with shows such as MADMEN and REVENGE they paint everything with the same trite and pale brush (take the series REVENGE, based on a book by the son of one of the most famous Black men, and the cast is all white. Explain that to me? Along with that it always rings false that we have yet to see a THREE MUSKETEERS that represents the ethnicity of the author Alexandre Dumas, or the ethnicity of the inspiration for all Dumas’ heroes, namely his father, France’s most famous and most feared soldier, the elder Alexandre Dumas, (inexplicably called Thomas-Alexandre in recent writings), the Black giant, the warrior Moor, Napolean’s most feared and brilliant General. The COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO is directly inspired by how his father was betrayed by Napolean, imprisoned, and killed. And rather than anyone ever tell that story, it becomes in REVENGE about a blond woman, mad about something. Forgive me if I have no interest in that retelling.)

So, What’s the solution?

We’ll get to it. First indulge me, with a brief trip to yesteryear.

In the late 50s, into the 60s and 70s television and cinema in the US, and indeed throughout the Western World, made great strides in becoming more representative of the class struggle going on throughout the world.

That’s a fact, it just is. So let’s begin there.

As countries from Congo to Cuba to Korea to the West Indies to Brazil all were dealing, at various stages, with the shattering of traditional Colonial ties. With populations of repressed people, embracing the concept, both with artistry and arms, of “not eating at another man’s table” but creating their own table.

It was a staggering period not just of revolution, but potentially evolution… for the world and the west.

Rather than mass media that explored and showcased only the fantasies and the fears of the white and the male you began getting shows that took place in a world reflective of the movements changing the landscape of our cultures and our time. Civil disobedience, and sit-ins, and Black power, and Native American rights, transcendentalism and free love, sexual and religious experimentation, and of course war and the search for peace and self identification.

And all these growing pains, all of this stew of change, could be seen in the entertainment of the age.

DANGER MAN, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, PROFESSIONALS, GOOD TIMES, SANFORD AND SON, the rise of Soul Cinema, and the rise of Hong Kong Cinema, and Neo-Realism in Italy, and the New Wave in France, and the didactic films out of Russia, and Brazil, and Cuba, and Senegal, all of this making its way to newly born film studies programs in the states that gave birth to a whole generation of entertainment makers excited and influenced and inspired by this time of change and challenge.

So suddenly you had Patrick McGoohan in the DANGER MAN TV show 50 years ago globe-trotting and going to different countries and different people, and exploring issues of colonialism, and civil war, and terrorism, and governmental oppression, and doing this with a changing ethnically diverse cast. Dealing with issues of Middle East tensions and modern slavery. And this kind of informed and humanistic film-making came from the creators down. And all the shows of that period, while not DANGER MAN ground breaking, to greater or lesser degrees were that informed and representative of a culturally diverse and changing world.

Move the clock forward 50 years, and suddenly you have no community owned or locally owned cinema, much less production companies. That’s not an accident, that’s a very pointed, and very considered monopolization and marginalization.

You have the end of virtually any locally or regionally owned newspaper, radio, or television station. So you get the end of people and community created movements, and art and music, and you get instead corporate construction of reality and ‘art’ in things like AMERICAN IDOL and its ilk.

You have cinema and television that is in retreat from ideas… like diversity and the rights of man, and instead seeks a return to the exclusionary, blinders on, cinema of the 50s. Not just in terms of content and cast in front of the camera, but talent and crew behind the camera.

As, in reality, the mad military war machine of billionaires undoes the local determinism of countries like Haiti and Liberia and Libya, so too is our entertainment,no less the tool of billionaires, undoing the strides made toward multiculturalism. A return to “Whites only” television from MADMEN to PAN-AM to REVENGE.

And those shows while they hold no interest for me, would be fine if they were counterpointed by an equal number of US made shows with a majority of Black or Brown or Asian or a combination thereof, of actors in front the camera, and talent behind the camera.

And the talent is there, as screenwriters such as John Ridley discuss in numerous interviews. Even more talent than was available in the 60s and 70s is available now, the difference is, the cinemas are bought up, the advertising is cost prohibitive, and quite frankly the doors are closed.

In the 60s and 70s, Hollywood saw the need for an influx of diversity to save them from the rise of Independent Cinema (an outgrowth of viable and healthy local cinemas, local determinism), and there were a good number of people in the studios who were happy and excited for that diversity. They were part of the changing times, and part of changing it.

Today Independent Cinema has no way into the theaters, because the locally owned theater circuit, and indeed the community controlled mass-media circuit that served America, particularly Black America from the 20s to the 70s, has been bought out, legalized away, and generally dismantled.

For what was gained, more was lost in the compromise of integration.

The problem with the doctrine of separate and equal, was the fact that is was NEVER separate and equal, it was always separate and UNEQUAL. The Black Power movement and Black Panther movement was about making it SEPARATE AND EQUAL. Was to make the lie into the truth. And that is the reason we have integration today. Because the idea of separate and equal, scared the powers to be to their very soul.

They saw in the more moderate integration model of Martin Luther and his ilk, a compromise that could become a massive victory. They retreated from Separate and (Un)equal and embraced Integration of a sort, “you can now use our Bathrooms, you can now to an extent come into our house, but… you have to lose your house. You have to lose your radio stations, your movie theaters, your stores, your farms, your wallstreets, your sports teams, your attempt at self determination”.

Of course it wasn’t presented like that, but a few decades later that’s absolutely what has happened. The thriving economic base of Black America that thrived even under the odiousness of Separate but unequal, wherein they could still provide for themselves and be self sufficient, has been completely gutted under the together but even more UNEQUAL system of integration. And that robbing of local determinism has extended to all America. Has shown itself to be the most significant volley in a class-war that has America trillions of dollars in debt, and slaved, to corporations gross and immoral.

And television and cinema is the clearest example of this wholesale pillaging of a peoples economic potential.

So that’s what I see when I see shows like MADMAN or PANAM or REVENGE or SMALLVILLE (past season 4) I see prejudice and bigotry and class warfare… codified.

So you have a television and a cinema environment that has turned back the clock, and is again solely about showcasing the fantasies and the fears of the white and the rich, to the exclusion of all else.

It bores me to go backwards. To learn from the past is a great thing, to repeat the past is not. And we have a whole generation of studio execs and heads, who think they are doing something new by embracing the old, and all they are doing… is wasting time.

In a multi-cultural society, an increasingly multi-cultural society, these dreams of exclusion cannot stand, they will become unsatisfying, they always do. And in the end we will have to waste years just getting back to the same point of diversity as the 1970s. Getting back to the starting point from which we should be… evolving.

So let’s cut out some of the time wasting. Contact these studios signing off on this exclusionary television, the creators and producers, twitter them, facebook em, call’em, even write em, let them know the show doesn’t represent you, and to create a show that does. And let the advertisers know, say “this show boycotts me and mine. Since you are asking me to support your product, I want you to produce a show that supports me.”

It’s economics people. For all their crushing of competition, ultimately the decision makers and gate-keepers still need to create a product you want to buy. Let them know they are failing at that mandate.

Let them know you want to see more shows, that are both smart and diverse.

Day Break – The Complete Series- Do not buy the 2disk version, get the 4 disk version

55 Degrees North – Series One & Two – 5-DVD Box Set ( Fifty Five Degrees North ) ( 55 Degrees North – Entire Series 1 & 2 ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2.4 Import – United Kingdom ]

Kidnapped – The Complete Series

Secret Agent AKA Danger Man: The Complete Collection (Slimline Packaging)

The Philanthropist: The Complete Series

Kings – The Complete Series

Blood & Bone

I Am Cuba: The Ultimate Edition

Let them know you want to see more DAY BREAK with Taye Diggs and Moon Bloodgood, more 55 DEGREES NORTH with Don Gilet, more KINGS with Eamonn Walker more BLOOD AND BONE with Michael Jai White, more James Purefoy and Jesse L. Martin in THE PHILANTHROPIST (the spiritual descendant of McGoohan’s DANGER MAN); more shows that look forward to solutions, rather than backward to evasions.

Challenge the creators, challenge the studios, challenge the advertisers, challenge the performers, and challenge yourself to go not marching backward, but to go forward… into the mystery. And ultimately we will as cities and a nation, have to eschew outside control, and embrace again local production of items and local determinism.

And it starts as simply as recognizing and calling out the prejudiced the exclusionary and the destructive when we see it.

Here endeth the lesson.

The Most Interesting Movies Spring 2012 April Update!

What strikes me, in looking at the upcoming movies for the rest of the Spring is there is a shocking lack of films that are not stupid mean-spirited comedies or stupid mean-spirited 'thrillers'. There is also a staggering lack of diversity, as with the exception of Samuel Jackson, and one Blair Underwood film, you can pretty much slap the label "All White" on every single film coming out this spring and be not far wrong.

Films or television shows that recall the 70s where you could have numerous characters of color in significant roles (that's key) both in front of and behind the camera are few and far between.

That said, movies with characters of Color in lead roles, not just as tokens or secondary characters, get made all the time, both domestic and foreign.

You can see them at the film festivals. Unfortunately they just don't get picked up for distribution.

Brilliant ones such as the Cuban made EL BENNY, which is one of my favorite films of the last ten years. And the fact that most of you have never even heard of it, much less seen it says volumes about everything that is wrong about America's monopolized and color conscious theatrical and DVD distribution system. "Oh this film has more than two people of color and it's not a comedy or a 'mama drama'? Nah, we're not distributing that movie."

Of course not. That would take away theater space from films such as the umpteenth AMERICAN PIE idiocy. 🙂

So if that's what I'm not looking forward to, you may ask "what, that is making it to theaters, looks interesting?"

Good question.

Answer: a few look intriguing. Not necessarily good, but perhaps because of Director or Star or in the case of KEYHOLE premise… at least interesting.

Here are the posters of ones I'll be keeping an eye out for this Spring:

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KEYHOLE- Genres: Drama Thriller Language: English, French
Synopsis: After a long absence, gangster and father Ulysses Pick (Jason Patric) arrives home to a house haunted with memories, towing the body of a teenaged girl and a bound and gagged young man. His gang waits inside his house, having shot their way past police. There is friction in the ranks. Ulysses, however, is focused on one thing: journeying through the house, room by room, and reaching his wife Hyacinth (Isabella Rossellini) in her bedroom upstairs. The equilibrium of the house has been disturbed and his odyssey eventually becomes an emotional tour, as the ghostly nooks and crannies of the house reveal more about the mysterious Pick family.
Haven’t seen a trailer yet, but the description/premise intrigues me. Seems a bit experimental and potentially original.

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS- Written and produced by Joss Whedon, this film looks to be a genre bending flick from what little I know of it. Count me interested enough to find out for myself.

SAMARITAN- This looks like a nice little crime thriller, but the trailer gives away pretty much the entire film. But that aside I’m still interested in seeing it. I would just urge people to avoid the trailer.

If you think I missed a film worth seeing this spring, feel free to put in your two cents. But I don’t think I missed any. :).

Urgent Request! Haiti Liberte

8_11_4
I want to forward this urgent update I just received from HURAH. I’ve spoken of them and the Haitian situation before. If you can give, please do.

It’s a complicated situation in Haiti.

I’m always inclined to side with the man willing to take up arms to protect his own. His hearth and his home.

Because I can understand the need for Militancy. Militancy in the face of oppression is what freed Haiti in the past. Demanding on their feet, not asking on their knees.

But there is a difference between Militancy, and anarchy.

And at the same time, if a non-violent approach can win the day, can save lives AND liberty, it should be, with all effort… pursued.

So, I choose my charities… with care.

You look at a lot of charities and 90% of what you give goes into “administrative fees” which is a fancy way of saying in the pocket of the people who don’t need it. I look for a charity that answers your questions, and actually uses the bulk of your donation for the people you’re trying to help. Also one that is communicative about how the funds are being used.

I like charities like that.

I like this one.

Check out the website, and when you’ve satisfied yourself you can say the same… give.

Give.

I know the battles are many, and the resources few.

But the winning is not won in our high days, but in our low. When you have nothing left to give, and nothing left to fight with, is when the fighting and the giving matters most.

Victory only promised, to those who will not, ever, ever, content themselves with defeat. Not their own. And not their brother’s.

To those who will never surrender.

Not even to themselves.

From LA to Philadelphia to Baltimore to Haiti.

To Haiti.

A country, one of the first to crack the shackles of the slave trade, that is owed a debt of gratitude by an entire hemisphere; and that debt has only been repaid with bloody horror by our governments.

But increasingly that’s all governments have to give. To give to others and their own.

Horror.

I ask more of myself.

And I ask more of you.

Now is the time to fight.

Now is the time to give.

Today you can give just money to help another’s problems, and perhaps avert a quickly descending tomorrow… where you must pay in blood to resolve your own.

The request is as follows:

LIVES ARE ON THE LINE: GRASSROOTS NON-VIOLENT DEFENDERS

Dear Reader,

While 15 of the members, children and wives, of the Grand Ravine Human Rights Council (CHRC-GR), are hidden away in safe housing because of death threats, other supporters of the CHRC-GR who want its mission to continue have come out to help. (Photos: temporary replacements for the leaders-in-hiding attend a special meeting Tuesday, 2.17.09.)

Those in hiding as well as these others who have stepped up to do the work need our help. Financial always. Back-up work like helping to raise money, write grants, to do the tasks that keep Hurah, Inc. viable (serving on the board, doing database management, website maintenance) more than ever. E-mail me to volunteer: president@hurah-inc.org

AUMOHD is a champion defender of the poor anonymous champions on the grassroots who want to promote a peaceful way of striving for their rights, all their community’s rights. They need help. They have worked without pay and with a small ($200 per week) grant from Hurah, Inc. to help out with communication, transportation, court expenses, etc.

NOW IT IS RENT TIME! THE RENT IS DUE ON MARCH 15 OTHERWISE AUMOHD LOSES A PRECIOUS RESOURCE, THE OFFICE. The office has served as a neutral place away from the battlegrounds of the inner city neighborhoods for victims to meet. It has a large meeting room, a reception area, a courtyard for large gatherings. The rent has been raised to $3000USD annual. Any gift you can give will be appreciated. Go to our website and click on DONATE (2008 has been a horrible disaster with multiple storms, famine. All Haitians have been majorly strapped on top of being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Later in the month in our regular bulletin we’ll publish a startling, ground-breaking report of negotiations, face-to-face meetings between AUMOHD/CHRC-GR and armed men who have given the death threats to the CHRC-GR. Because of Atty. Fanfan’s reputation for really working for the poor, these men have asked to meet with him instead of threatening him also. A brief dialog was entertained where each side laid their position on the table.

The nature of things in GR as in the past is that politically motivated turf battles are waged with guns, even massacres, to control voters. Sometimes the police are involved. Right now the police seem to be incapable of dealing with the murder of two policemen in the area.We are working on an inter national campaign to put the spotlight on the lawlessness in Grand Ravin and to get the State involved in constructive ways to re-establish order–instead of the violent campaigns waged in previous years.

The CHRC-GR was instituted by AUMOHD to pioneer a path to another approach, non-violent advocacy for justice. The armed men are objecting to Franzco and the CHRC-GR working with the police to control criminal behavior because they have been accused of crimes. They think that AUMOHD is tied to foreigners with lots of money. They think that Franzco and the CHRC-GR promoting non-violence is a disservice to the community. A very, very complicated and delicate state of affairs.

Please consider helping us support these non-violent champions of human rights!

Thank you,

Tom

Tom Luce, President
Hurah, Inc. – Human Rights Accompaniment In Haiti
In Partnership with AUMOHD, a Haitian Human Rights Advocacy Group 800 US Advocates – a Vermont 501(c)(3) 1515 Fairview St. Apt. 3
Berkeley, California 94703-2317
E-mail: president@hurah-inc.org
Web: http://www.hurah-inc.org
To donate (tax exempt org 501(c)(3))
Joan Rae, Treasurer
P.O. Box 418
Fayston, Vt. 05673