Vincent Valdez’s recently debuted painting The City I is tucked away on the second floor of the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin, perhaps to shield certain visitors from its controversial nature, but also to make a metaphoric point: racism doesn’t need to be front and center for it to be alive and well. In the case of Valdez’s artwork, a large format four-panel painting depicting 14 fully garbed Klansmen—including a baby cradled in the arms of its hooded mother—his piece dominates the space in a semi-hidden room, away from the main art exhibit taking place on the ground floor. If you’re willing to turn a few corners, you will be met with the defiant stares of larger-than-life hatred glaring back at you, which could also be said for our country’s ever-present racial tension and discord. On the one-year anniversary of Charlottesville’s Unite the Right rally, how far have we come as a democracy, a nation of immigrants, a post-slavery society, and where exactly are we going, especially if we choose not to admit that there is an enemy among us, and possibly within us?
Every now and then, an Asian-American student asks me, “Should I write about race? It’s important to me and I want to, but I’m afraid I’ll be pigeonholed.”
I always think it through on the spot, to make sure I still agree with myself. Among my answers: “Poetry is such an obscure genre, it’s not worth doing anything but what means the most to you.” Or: “Robert Frost said a poem begins as a lump in the throat. Without that, your poems will lack urgency, so write about what’s eating at you.” Or: “Look at what’s happening politically, all over the Western world. Open racism is back. Your story needs to be told.”
Since having written this in graduate school several years ago, I have been lucky enough to see some quite extraordinary photography exhibitions in my new home, New York City. I went to see the Speed of Life retrospective honoring Peter Hujar’s work at the Morgan Library and Museum recently along with William Eggleston’s Los Alamos series at the Met. Before that I was amazed by Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photographs of India at the Rubin Museum. I have also been incredibly impressed by Emma Elizabeth Tillman’s work and, most notably, her recently published collection of photographs entitled Disco Ball Soul. All of these photographers have inspired me to take a look back at this piece I wrote where I discuss some of the artists who made an impact on me as a college student.
After a six-year hiatus, the much-anticipated release of Nas’s album, Nasir, left fans and critics with mixed reactions. The album arrived as part of the “Wyoming Sessions,” a series of albums executively produced by Kanye West as part of a grand experiment of rapid-fire studio production. The other albums include Pusha T’s Daytona, West’s collaboration with Kid Cudi eponymously entitled Kids See Ghosts, Teyana Taylor’s K.T.S.E. (Keep That Same Energy), and West’s own album, Ye. Each album is limited to seven tracks, and West has hinted at a loose thematic relationship to the seven deadly sins.
Most of us have experienced that nauseating awkwardness - the physically agonizing discomfort - of sitting through a comedy show that’s just not going right. That shifting in the seat when a joke falls flat. That cacophonous cough when a pun doesn’t receive the laughing track that was anticipated. Nobody characterizes that experience better than David Grossman in his most recent novel, A Horse Walks Into A Bar. Translated from Hebrew, this novel recounts the sometimes-magical-sometimes-excruciatingly-unsuccessful final standup of Dov Greenstein, an Israeli comic at a dive bar in Netanya, north of Tel Aviv. Over the course of his two-hour act, sprinkled with Holocaust jokes and ‘humorous’ stabs at the audience, Dov relates the battered tale of his life — what’s led him to his disturbed state, as a comedian today.
I remember, vividly, my first performance at the Ridgewood Coffee Company Open Mic. A summer evening, about six or seven years ago. I remember pacing outside, along the faded, orange brick of the cafe’s exterior; fingers tingling with the nerves of a performer on deck; replaying the track of Billy Gillman’s “Oklahoma” I was prepping myself to cover. The music from my IPhone mingled in the air with the humming and guitar-strumming from musicians around me, sounds native to a coffee shop like this: pulsating with artistic energy.
Let's be perfectly clear. Carol Wierzbicki's Welcome Distractions: Accessible Poems for Time-Strapped Humans is a terrific book of poems of/for our time. A book, dare I say it, of terrific female-take poems of and for our time, that will last, that should be required reading for all. And fun. And you will gasp: Yes! she nailed it.
Some film introduce you to characters that stay with you hours afterwards or are so profound you only find more genius in it with every viewing. Ocean’s 8 does neither but it knows what it is and that’s pure unadulterated, a fun, breezy comedic break from the heavy cloud of a chaotic political climate, and viewed at the movie theater, escape from the blistering sun. Ocean’s 8 is the playful younger, street kid to it’s heavier three big brothers. In the theater someone joked that it was called Ocean’s 8 because they couldn’t find 14 actresses as this not a pre-quel ,but takes place after Ocean’s 13.
I’ve been wearing the same necklace for five years — a dove, wings stretched, perched inside a silver triangle; its wings, beak, and the points of the triangle outlining a Magen David, a Jewish star. Five years ago, I bought this necklace from an artist on Nachalat Binyamin, a bustling artisan market at the heart of Tel Aviv, Israel. Adjacent to the famed and always-hectic fish market, Shuk haCarmel; a ten minute walk from one of Israel’s hippest beaches; and polka-dotted with restaurants selling a wide range of authentic cuisines, Nachalat Binyamin is an Eden for artists, as well as for the admirers who patron their work.
All little stories when they grow up want to be Ishmael Reed novels. They know that the nonpareil knowledge, freedom, and fun will be exhilarating. It’s the only place where in one paragraph you can bump into James Baldwin, John Waters, Chester Himes, Frank Zappa, Murphy Brown, Mary Richards, Beyoncé, Stephen King, Amiri Baraka, Edward Albee, Andy Warhol, and Snoop Dogg (11-12). You are privy to grappling with European and Indian mythology. You also get to visit art galleries and museums because plentiful graphic images are often part of the package. As Loop, a character in Reed’s 1969 Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down, expresses it, “No one says a novel has to be one thing. It can be anything it wants to be (36).” In Conjuring Hindi, Reed’s eleventh offering, the author reinforces this statement and buckles everyone in for a wild ride.
It's been said before and will probably be said for many more years to come - we are in the golden age of television. All of which began like a trickle with a few A-list dwelling actors taking on roles in shows where the storylines had a cinematic prowess and solid direction. At the time television was starved for depth amidst the extremely popular reality show boom of the 2000s - but scales were tipped by the presence of dramas like Mad Men (a career defining moment for actor Jon Hamm), Weeds (starring Mary Louise Parker), Damages (starring Glenn Close but including many guest stars by actors like Ted Danson and John Goodman), and House of Cards (starring Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey). Television no longer belonged to sitcoms and sketch comedy and by 2018 the aforementioned ‘trickle’ caused a dam to break and networks clamoring to present equally worthy TV to their viewers. A necessary move to ensure their place in the market especially in the face of mega producer - the streaming service Netflix, that produces shows around the clock, thus keeping viewers constantly engaged, interested and subscribed to the service and killing network competition.
A Disturbed Vigilante Children’s Librarian in Pursuit of a Violent Sexual Predator. A small town librarian with a dark side, Afton, twenty-six, has suppressed violent impulses her entire adult life. Impulses that demand she commit murder. Go Home, Afton is the first of four parts in a new serial thriller by author Brent Jones. Packed with grit and action, The Afton Morrison Series delves into a world of moral ambiguity, delivering audiences an unlikely heroine in the form of a disturbed vigilante murderess.
The first time I revealed in a public place that I was Native (American) I was in 4th grade. It was part of the usual Elementary multicultural day celebration and I was asked to stand in front of the class and present my culture. I spoke simply and stated “I am an American Indian” and presented corn bread as my potluck contribution (as if corn bread is some national identifying Native food.) Before I could sit back down in my seat I was heckled at from a child across the room “INDIANS ARE EXTINCT -- LIKE THE DINOSAURS! You’re a liar!” It was the first time I questioned my identity, am I a liar? Am I not Native? What does it mean to be an American Indian?
Wade in the Waters is Tracy K. Smith’s fourth collection of poetry, and it follows her 2011 Pulitzer Prize winning Life on Mars. In Life on Mars, Smith travels away from earth and its troubles to mourn, meditate and maybe to reconcile the loss of anchor. In this collection, she floats back only to find that the troubles and trespass she has left behind remain waiting for her reckoning.
As science continues to move humanity forward at a break-neck pace, a question from philosophers remains – just because we can, does it mean we should? What implications does man face as we continue to adopt new, and often questionable, technologies?
Debut author K.K. Edin seeks to address these questions, and many more, in his debut science fiction epic, The Measurements of Decay, a riveting and profound tale that upends how we think about time, space, and humanity’s place in the universe.
I must praised Feast for his depiction of me or, at least a character modeled on that wayward waif, Steve Dalachinsky. At that time, I had not fully acquainted myself with the book and find that the Steve character doesn’t have much of a role in the story.
Most vacuums in political conversation seem to work in a similar way; there is a perspective that waiting to be addressed. Frequently the vacuum exists because that perspective doesn’t actually have a voice yet.
Simply put, even if punks had an acute awareness of “the poverty of artists’ lives”( to adapt a phrase from Situationism), they were lacking in a forceful historical understanding on which to base their reading of the present.
Birds of Wonder, the debut novel by Cynthia Robinson, opens with Detective Jes Ashton’s early morning scramble, in the front seat of her car, for dry shampoo, a toothbrush, and her uniform pants, after an assignation with a one-night-stand whose name she can’t remember.
Lynn Crawford has what might be considered a quirky, oddball approach, which makes it seem the author is swimming far from the mainstream. However, at second glance, it turns out this approach leads straight to an unsurpassed understanding of American reality.
An astronaut launches into space on a solo mission: to penetrate a mysterious purple cloud (Chopra) that has mysteriously arrived in our part of the universe and is casting a strange purple pall over Earth’s night skies.
Steve Biko, in an article titled “Black Consciousness and the Quest for a True Humanity” that was published in the newsletter of the South African Student Association, spoke of the economic origins of his country’s racial caste system
Guess and Check is not an ordinary memoir; instead, it is a creative look at the life of a biracial boy—later seen as a young man—who adjusts with difficulty to lessons learned from the behavior of his parents and the people around him.