John L. Williams.
London: Constable, 457 pp., $32.99.
The Old Man was once quite young–almost permanently so. And vibrant, always ready for socialist revolution. But not for the overthrow of European civilization and culture. In a new biography, John L. Williams pulls back the curtain just enough to show why intellectuals, particularly culturally complex ones, need platforms and bases. What results is a non-judgemental tale about a 20th-century charismatic Caribbean intellectual destined for the classroom, the typewriter, the lecture hall and the cricket field. His cultlike, harem-based sexism will rile 21st-century readers but his stamina and constant optimism never fail to impress. Most of all, James–whose long speaking and writing life spans the birth, revolutionary work, danger and martyrdom of fellow Caribbean Leftist world travelers such as Walter Rodney and Maurice Bishop–shows that revolution requires a lot of work.
The magic word is….uneven
It’s unfortunate that the tension between 1990s superhero-film cheesiness and 2022 superhero-film coolness makes this effort implode. A post-COP27 viewing allowed more sensitivity to how Egyptians oppress themselves with the West’s help. Too bad the film quickly traded in that theme for a third-act battle with a Hellboy knockoff and some fake AMC Walkers. God bless his soul, Pierce Brosnan, 30 years distant from the start of his ’90s James Bond, elevated Black Adam when he could (with fine assists from Aldis Hodge) but couldn’t save it. It’s not hard to see why few wanted a piece of this Rock.
Power to the Person?
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow is a master storyteller, and Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra attempts to be an epic story for this moment. It succeeds in being hella entertaining.
My last Ultra post was about its historical emphasis, allowing this subsequent comment to be ideological in nature. And so, clad in my dashiki, a note to Maddow and MSNBC:
The best way to fight organized fascism is an organized radical united front, not just individual efforts because the latter depends on liberal democracy working on your behalf. Didn’t McCarthyism, instead of an American movement against fascism, flow from this history?
This kind of color-within-the-lines conclusion is why what Dave Chappelle said at the end of his Saturday Night Live monologue was so important: as Black people, we are no strangers to the system not working. Sadly but not surprisingly, Maddow doesn’t have a James Baldwin/I.F. Stone-type voice who would hit that target, expressing the idea that American democracy itself is a flawed concept at its core. Nope, me no trust paleface.
And, Rachel and MSNBC, um, you might want to, um, not take off the air anyone else who speaks plainly about the current rightwingers (*cough* Tiffany Cross *cough* 🙂 ).
Fighting The Power, for-real-for-real this time
Reginald Hudlin’s writing style remains blatant and strident by half. But as a former full-set Icon/Static/Hardware Milestone Comics collector (sadly, lost them in a move 😦 ), I must admit I much prefer his style to the comparatively accommodationist Milestone founder Dwayne McDuffie!
Six issues in and you win, Mr. Hudlin: the 19th-century enslaved Arnus as a Nat Turner (!) character and present-day free Augustus with a fine-ass sista amazon at his side and an assassin to hunt is much more appealing. And he had the assassin, an alien hired by the U.S. government to kill other aliens, kill a certain white infant recently adopted in 1939 by a white Kansas farm couple!
I doubt this version of Icon will be Clarence Thomas’ favorite! LMAO!!!! I’m in for the entire hardcover run! Thanks to DC/Milestone for bringing back my non-Wakandan superhero comic favorites!
A true drama about a deliberately-forgotten time
Tellingitlikeitis/keepingitreal/keepingithunnert, etc. I have never gotten the Rachel Maddow hype. Every night I tuned in to her MSNBC show she acted like she and her research/producing staff had broken Watergate or had the Pentagon Papers! LOL! I still don’t understand that RussiaGate stuff!
So, now, to her podcast narrative series Ultra. I’m now completely caught up and I’m excited about the forthcoming last episode.
Like the greatest middlebrow magazine writers of the last century, Maddow’s clearly a very talented reporter, narrator and dramatist. But she continues her television approach here. Clearly, the ultra-patriotic American nation was not shivering in collective fear before and during World War II because of the existence of small (but well-organized and armed) groups of American Nazis and their fellow travelers; their salutes dropped quickly after Pearl Harbor. And as someone who has also studied a little of the history of 20th-century radio, perhaps it’s debatable that the radio racist Father Charles Coughlin was as politically powerful as she is saying, the same way not everyone in the nation believed Martians were invading Grover’s Mill, New Jersey. 🙂 But she’s making the same point that Pulitizer Prize-winning historian David Blight made at the end of his recent Yale conference on teaching race and slavery: these politically-retrograde people have always been here, will always master any updates to the art and science of influence and are never leaving the collective, progressive us/US at peace.
Dr. Jared Ball is in rare and raw form here!
Please read this.
The nuclear family blows up
A memorial interrupted by a war film. Whether this is an epic will depend on how it fades into (Marvel) film history. If it’s not, it’s not because of a lack of trying by writer-director Ryan Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole. Marvel’s ability to acknowledge fans and critics simultaneously is quite extraordinary and remarkable. #BlackPantherWakandaForever